Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United FC
2017 MLS Regular Season
CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash.
Friday, March 31 – 10:00 pm ET
WATCH: FS1 and FOX Deportes in USA, TSN2 in Canada
One of the marquee matchups of the young season is shaping up to be a bit of a battle of attrition, as both the Seattle Sounders and Atlanta United FC could be dealing with significant absences for their match on Friday at CenturyLink Field.
In Seattle, striker Jordan Morris is “day-to-day” with an ankle injury that forced him into an early departure from US national team camp. Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro, Joevin Jones and Roman Torres could also be in doubt, as they won’t return to the Pacific Northwest until after they participate in qualifiers on Tuesday.
Atlanta are dealing with similar issues. Star striker and MLS leading scorer Josef Martinez will miss Friday’s match after suffering an injury in Venezuela’s qualifier against Peru last week, while fellow Designated Player Miguel Almiron, midfielder Carlos Carmona and potential Martinez replacement Kenwyne Jones won’t re-join the club until after their qualifiers on Tuesday.
Fresh off of their first win of the season, the Sounders will likely have to test their depth on Friday with so many key players facing a quick turnaround – and a good deal of travel – following Tuesday’s qualifiers.
The good news for head coach Brian Schmetzer? Seattle have plenty of solid options in reserve. Will Bruin is a proven option at striker if Morris or Dempsey are unavailable, Alvaro Fernandez could slot into the midfield if Lodeiro can’t go, and Gustav Svensson is a stout option on the backline should Torres or Jones be unavailable.
They also have a hearty home field advantage in CenturyLink Field. Atlanta United FC have faced a tough road environment this year, but their opponent in their lone away match of the season – Minnesota – isn’t exactly at the same level of the defending champion Sounders, who are 6-0-2 in eight regular season home matches since Schmetzer took over last summer.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – D Brad Evans (calf strain), M Aaron Kovar (groin surgery); QUESTIONABLE – Oniel Fisher (hamstring), Jordan Morris (ankle sprain)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Stefan Frei – Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Gustav Svensson – Cristian Roldan, Ozzie Alonso – Harry Shipp, Nicolas Lodeiro, Alvaro Fernandez – Will Bruin
Notes: Dating back to last season, Seattle are unbeaten in their last 12 games at CenturyLink Field, including the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs (10-0-2). They’ve kept six clean sheets during that run, not allowing multiple goals once in the 12 game stretch.
Atlanta United FC
For the first time in his MLS career, Atlanta United FC head coach Tata Martino will face some real selection issues this week. As mentioned above, Martinez is out for Friday’s match, Almiron and Jones will likely both be coming off a pair of big-minute performances and Carmona is staring down a seriously long flight back to the States from Chile.
Unlike most expansion sides, however, Martino has plenty of depth – and plenty of options – on his roster. If none of his internationals are available on Friday, he could make like-for-like swaps, starting Brandon Vazquez in the striker spot that would normally be occupied by Martinez or Jones and bringing in Jeff Larentowicz and Chris McCann into the midfield for Carmona and moving starter Julian Gressel into Almiron’s playmaking role. He could also tweak his setup a bit, perhaps even playing with a false No. 9 formation he used occasionally during his days leading Barcelona and Argentina.
Regardless of how he lines his squad up, Martino and Atlanta will face the toughest match of their new MLS existence on Friday. Their hype train is moving pretty fast already – a result in Seattle would only increase the expansion club’s momentum.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – D Zach Loyd (groin injury), F Josef Martinez (leg injury)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Alec Kann – Tyrone Mears, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza – Chris McCann, Jeff Larentowicz – Hector Villalba, Julian Gressel, Yamil Asad – Brandon Vazquez
Notes: Atlanta are averaging a staggering 3.7 goals per game in their first three games in MLS. Only one other team in the league – Portland, who have 12 goals in four matches – is averaging more than 2.3.
This is the first meeting between these two teams in MLS play.
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referees: CJ Morgante, Apolinar Mariscal
Fourth Official: Drew Fischer