by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)
Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. High flying new boys, Atlanta United make the transcontinental sojourn to the Pacific Northwest to face Seattle Sounders FC in a Friday night showdown. That’s right – FRIDAY! FRIDAY! FRIDAY! – IF YOU’VE GOT TO WORK! – QUIT YOUR JOB! – IF YOU’RE IN JAIL! – BREAK OUUUUUUT! It’s been a crazy old FIFA break featuring hats for Dempsey in the Yanks’ historic victory over Los Catrachos, as his teammate Torres helps to grind out a draw against those very same Yanks for Los Canaleros only four days later utilising the magical powers of gamesmanship and exploiting slack marking on a throw-in. It’s a crazy world for this matchup where fatigue from World Cup qualifiers may generate squad attrition in addition to injuries. Newly minted expansion side, Atlanta United have never played Seattle in a league match, so statistics and metrics are impossible to build as there is almost no data with which to make educated guesses from.
The Good News
Although you never wish anyone injury, the Sounders can be thankful that Atlanta United and Venezuela striker Josef Martinez (leads AUFC with five goals of his team’s 11 total goals) will miss this match with a quadriceps injury. Dempsey is in outstanding form as mentioned above. If it carries over into the match, Atlanta United’s defence will be quite busy, indeed. Sounders are unbeaten in their last two matches. We generally play very well within the friendly confines of Royal Brougham Park. We are conceding a bit under two goals a match, and scoring goals at an average of two goals a match. Sounders were able to beat a New York RB team that defeated Atlanta United in the first week of league fixtures. Kenwyne Jones, Carmona, and Almirón may also miss the match as tonight’s MLS league fixture takes place only three (or in the cases of Carmona and Almirón two) nights after they had all played for their countries in the World Cup. Some of the Sounders reserves looked good against a competitive Necaxa side in their friendly last Saturday. Hopefully, this is an indication that the Sounders didn’t squander as much depth as we may have thought they had over the winter.
The Bad News
Atlanta United currently sit 5th in the league table, finding themselves in excellent form having won four of their last five matches (including pre-season). United lead the league in goal scoring average averaging roughly 3.7 goals a match, with their defence only conceding one goal per match. That is a metric that would generally produce a winning result. It’s possible that the Sounders will be without the services of Dempsey, Joevin Jones, Torres, and Lodeiro as they all played for their national teams in the World Cup this week. Dempsey and Torres flying back from Panama three nights ago, Jones Flying back from Trinidad three nights ago, and Lodeiro returning from Uruguay two nights ago. Atlanta United are well equipped to go without some of their stars as they have a lot of young talent that have been battle-tested in very tough leagues before making their move to Georgia. This gives credence to the argument that perhaps Atlanta United’s substitutes and reserves are just as dangerous as their first team regulars.
Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper – Kann played for AUFC in their last match, a 4:0 trouncing of Chicago at Grant Field. His backup is Tabakis, who was produced by Panathinaikos. Together they combine for less than 80 matches of experience. Seattle have a definite edge with Frei here.
Defence – Mears, and Parkhurst have over 600 matches of experience between them. Much of this experience was accrued in Europe. The only mark against them is that they are getting a bit long in the tooth at 34 and 33 respectively. The other half of the back four are two 25-year-olds, with less that 200 matches between them, but Garza with nearly 70 matches for Tijuana and Pirez with nearly 40 for River Plate are more than capable and beginning to reach the peak years of their respective careers. With Torres and Joevin Jones in for the Sounders, I’d rate this even. With them both out, and Fisher and Evans ailing, I’d give a slight edge to AUFC here.
Midfield – Here’s where it gets a bit sticky for AUFC. If Carmona and Almirón are rested after their South American World Cup matches, the Atlantian midfield will be short two starters. You take a look at the players that might replace them though and it’s a list of both age and experience and youth and skill. Sounders minus Lodeiro equals slight edge to AUFC. Look for old man Larentowicz to be holding in the middle, and then look for some kid in his early teens or twenties (this describes at least six midfield players in the AU side) that you never heard of to make a stamp on the match.
Forward – With Martinez surely injured this week in Peru, and Kenwyne Jones likely resting from his match in Trinidad, there is still plenty of skill. Argentinians, Villalba, and Asad were both produced by big clubs from the Argentinian league. Honduran national Róchez can score plenty, and teenaged Vasquez is currently auditioning for a place in the USA U-20 squad. Peterson becomes the old man of the bunch at 31 with over 200 matches in MLS. Other than Peterson the options are all youthful with high levels of technical skill. With Dempsey likely to be rested and Morris nursing a day to day knock on his ankle I’d give a slight edge to the AUFC forward line.
AUFC defender, Tyrone Mears played 65 times for Sounders FC and started at right back in the MLS Cup Final that eventful December night in Ontario.
Selections For Last Match (in the league)
Sounders FC: Frei, Fisher, Svensson, Marshall, Joevin Jones, Alonso, Roldan, Lodeiro, Dempsey, Shipp, Morris.
Bench: Miller (gk), Fernández, Alfaro, Mathers, Wingo, Bruin, Adekoya.
Atlanta United FC: Kann, Mears, Parkhurst, Pirez, Garza, Carmona, Gressel, Villalba, Almirón, Asad.
Bench: Tabakis (gk), Bloom, Robinson, McCann, Larentowicz, Peterson, Kenwyne Jones.
OUT: Evans (calf), Kovar (surgical recovery).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Fisher (hamstring), Morris (ankle).
OUT: Loyd (groin), Martinez (quad).
MATCHDAY DECISION: none.
The Current Sounders squad features four Seattle Sounders Academy graduates. Morris, Adekoya, Wingo, and Kovar. Good to see that the club’s investment in player development is paying such rich dividends.