ATLANTA – Some opponents seem a little intimidated and overwhelmed on their first visit to Atlanta United’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Not the Seattle Sounders.
“This is a difficult team to play against in their stadium, difficult environment,” said Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei after the 1-1 draw. “Not a lot of teams find joy here, so for us to go down a man and still fight and hang on and get a point, mentally that's going to go a long way.”
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Before Atlanta entered the league, Seattle were once the MLS team setting the bar in terms of crowd size. Going into the 2017 season, the Sounders held three of the top five spots on the list of record single-game attendances.
“[The Sounders are] probably the first team in this league to consistently pay in front of big crowds, so it was something that they were used to,” said Atlanta United’s Jeff Larentowicz. “I think that they came in with intensity.”
ATLUTD set another single-game MLS attendance record on Sunday with 72,243, beating the previous record they’d set in March against D.C. United. The Five Stripes now hold the top five spots in the single-game MLS crowd size rankings. But both Atlanta and Seattle are far and away the top two MLS clubs in terms of average attendance.
“The crowd in CenturyLink [Field] and the crowd [in Atlanta], these are the hallmark franchises as far as getting people in buildings and having good atmospheres,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer. “There’s other places that certainly bring a lot of noise, a lot of atmosphere. But certainly, you have to look tonight and at our crowd, as far as sheer numbers are concerned, numbers don’t lie.”
Noted Frei: “You see LAFC, Atlanta and the new stadium now in D.C., these are big stadiums. Hopefully the crowds can sustain and keep coming out even when the honeymoon phase wears off, because I think it's special.”
The Switzerland native added that playing in front of crowds like this in the U.S. make him “very excited for the sport in this country.”
Sounders fans may not like their team’s place in the standings, but can be happy with their team’s solid road form of late. The team has earned points in their last three away contests, and of their five wins this season, three have come on the road.
“I like the mentality of the group, yes, but, we need to collect three points, three points, three points,” said Schmetzer. “Our road form has been good, so now, we are going to work on getting points at home.”
His team will have the opportunity to do so as they return home for the rest of July, beginning with a match at C-Link against Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (4 pm ET | TSN – Full TV and streaming info).