Competition: Major League Soccer – Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United
Venue: CenturyLink Field – Friday, April 31 – 22:00 ET (03:00 BST)
Match Odds: Seattle 8/13 – Draw 11/4 – Atlanta 4/1
Seattle Sounders welcome Atlanta United to CenturyLink Field for their first ever MLS meeting on Friday night as the league springs back into action following the international break.
Both of these sides have had two weeks to prepare for this match and both will be targeting three points to keep momentum going.
The Sounders got their first win of the season two weeks ago, beating the Red Bulls in their home opener and will be looking for their fans to help them over the line in what could be a tricky test against a lethal attacking unit.
Atlanta are the league’s leading second-highest scorers through the first four weeks of the campaign as they’ve fired in 11 goals in just three matches. They haven’t looked like an expansion side trying to feel their way into proceedings and have instead gone straight for the jugular against each opponent.
Their only away game so far saw them demolish Minnesota 6-1, although they aren’t the only side to have put the Loons to the sword this term. Tata Martino knows he has a talented squad of players, with the South American quartet up top causing all sorts of problems for opposition defences so far, and he will hope they can continue to do so even without the injured Josef Martinez here.
Friday’s game is the first of four-straight away fixtures for Atlanta as they prepare for a tough month ahead, with trips to Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Real Salt Lake coming up.
Atlanta could go to the top of the East with a win on Friday night as they are currently just one point behind Columbus Crew and the Red Bulls, who both have played one game more. Seattle can move up as high as second place in the West but the standings will fluctuate over the course of the weekend with a full slate of games coming up.
These two sides did meet during preseason, with Atlanta running out 4-2 winners against a second-string Seattle side during the Carolina Challenge Cup in February.
Seattle will be hoping Jordan Morris can recover from an ankle problem in time for Friday’s game. He missed both USA games over the past week and travelled home early to receive treatment. His official status is ‘day-to-day’ so is remains unclear as to how likely a starting role in for the pacey forward. Brad Evans remains out, along with Oniel Fisher and Aaron Kovar. Roman Torres is available again after serving a one-match suspension. Brian Schmetzer has said he will give his international players a rest if they need it, with Clint Dempsey and Torres both playing 90 minutes on Tuesday night, but Lodeiro didn’t play a minute over the international break and should be set to start regardless.
Atlanta are going to have to try and cope without the league’s leading scorer Josef Martinez. He picked up an injury an hour into Venezuela’s draw with Peru last week and missed the defeat to Chile on Tuesday night as a result. He is expected to be out for around a month and so Tata Martino could give Kenwyne Jones a first start of the season. Yamil Asad is an alternative option up front if he is pushed in centrally from his usual position out wide. Zach Loyd remains sidelined once again with a groin problem. Miguel Almiron and Carlos Carmona are doubts as a result of their international commitments on Tuesday but could still start here.
Seattle Sounders’ form: L/D/W
Atlanta United’s form: L/W/W
Key Stat: Seattle Sounders have won nine of their last ten MLS games at CenturyLink Field, conceding just five goals in that time.
Key Player: Nicolas Lodeiro – The Sounders playmaker should be raring to go for Friday’s game after sitting on the bench for both of Uruguay’s recent World Cup qualifying games. Lodeiro has one assist and one goal so far this season, with the lone strike coming from the penalty spot at Montreal in Week 2. He will be looking to pull the strings to help orchestrate a second successive victory for the home side here.
Seattle Sounders 2-1 Atlanta United – Both sides could be without key attackers in Jordan Morris and Josef Martinez and that might mean there are less goals than many would have expected prior to the international break. Both will still expect to get on the scoresheet, but we see Seattle edging this one by the odd goal in what should be an entertaining contest as Martinez’s absence could prove very costly to the expansion franchise.