Atlanta United needed a massive performance to become the first road team to win in Seattle this year. They fought hard but fell just short in a combative 2-1 road loss at CenturyLink Field.
With Ezequiel Barco, Tito Villalba, George Bello and Kevin Kratz sidelined with injury, and Jeff Larentowicz serving a red-card suspension, head coach Frank de Boer went with a largely unchanged lineup from the one that advanced through the U.S. Open Cup this week. Julian Gressel’s return to the starting lineup was the only change, coming in for Emerson Hyndman. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Brek Shea (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Eric Remedi (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Julian Gressel (CM), Justin Meram (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Pity Martínez (RW).
Atlanta United had to deal with a curveball just minutes into the match, with Brek Shea forced off the field just 7 minutes into the match due to injury. Michael Parkhurst came on for his second early substitute appearance for the week. And despite the setback, Atlanta United stayed strong through much of the first half. Raul Ruidíaz nearly opened for the hosts off an early cross, while Julian Gressel’s curler over the bar was the most dangerous chance of the opening period for the Five Stripes. But despite jabs from both sides, neither team was able to land a haymaker and the match went into the half scoreless.
It seemed Atlanta United had taken the lead just minutes into the second half. Leandro González Pirez’s long pass from the back broke Pity Martínez free behind the back line. He planted the ball into the corner, but the flag was raised for offside, nullifying what would’ve been a huge opening goal. The Sounders responded by getting on the board first with a fine individual effort from Raul Ruidíaz, and the Five Stripes would have to fight back from a one-goal deficit.
They did that just minutes later, and it was Josef Martinez that found the back of the net yet again. It came from a tantalizing corner from Pity Martínez, whose outswinger found the head of the reigning MVP levitating above the defense, his ninth goal in six matches and his 13th on the season.
The Sounders had an answer of their own though, pouncing on a giveaway in the back and heading home the match-winner on a counterattack. Brandon Vazquez and Emerson Hyndman brought fresh legs onto the field as the Five Stripes searched for a late equalizer. But it wasn’t to be, with the Five Stripes falling to a final score of 2-1.
Atlanta United still sits in third place in the Eastern Conference at the time of the final whistle, six points back from the lead with two matches in hand. They now return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in hopes of getting back to winning ways as they host the Houston Dynamo on their home pitch. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’ve reserved yours here.