Atlanta United is back on the pitch on Sunday following the Leagues Cup break and the 5-Stripes are making the long trip to Seattle to take on the Sounders. Sunday’s match marks the first time Gonzalo Pineda has returned to Seattle since taking over the head coach position at Atlanta United. Last year, Atlanta hosted Seattle and earned a dramatic stoppage time winner. Now it’s time to make a push for the playoffs in the final 10 matches of the regular season for Atlanta. Seattle sits in fourth place in the Western Conference and is looking to improve its playoff standing with a victory. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Seattle Sounders.
Regain form from beginning of season
With the summer transfer window closed, Atlanta made several moves to bolster the squad for the final 10 matches of this season and beyond. While we won’t know which of the new players are available for selection in Seattle, the group has trained hard for the past several weeks during the Leagues Cup break. Atlanta is hoping to regain the form that it had earlier in the season, when the 5-Stripes went 4-1-1 (W-L-T) to start the season.
One of the keys to the early success was the play of midfield maestro Thiago Almada. The Argentine had four goals in the first four matches this season and has continued to play at a level that has put him in the MVP conversation. His 18 goal contributions (eight goals & 10 assists) rank in the top-five in MLS as we begin the stretch run. If Almada can continue to play at an MVP caliber level, and if the attack scores in bunches like it did earlier in the year, Atlanta has a good chance to bring home three points on Sunday and make a push up the standings in these final 10 regular season matches.
Find a way to slow down Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro
If history is any indication, Atlanta’s defense will need to keep a close eye on striker Raul Ruidiaz. The Peruvian striker has scored against Atlanta in each of the team’s last two visits to Seattle. He’s a striker that doesn’t need a lot of service to impact the game. Most of that service comes from Lodeiro, one of the best attacking midfielders in the league. The Uruguayan continues to create opportunities for his teammates. Another Sounder who is having a breakout type of season is Leo Chu. The left-sided winger is tied with Lodeiro for the team lead in assists with eight. He had four assists in his career prior to this season. Atlanta’s defense, which will be boosted by the return of Miles Robinson, will have to be mindful of where Chu and Lodeiro are.
Create clear chances for Giorgos Giakoumakis
Atlanta’s leading goal scorer has proven to be one of the most efficient strikers in his first season in MLS. The Greek international is converting big chances at a 75.0% clip this season, the second-highest mark in the league trailing only FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira. Giakoumakis still ranks tied for fifth in MLS with 10 goals despite playing at least 550 minutes less than the players around him in the Golden Boot chase. If Giakoumakis can stay healthy and play at the level he did early in the season when he scored at a very high clip, Atlanta will have a great opportunity to bring home three points from the Pacific Northwest this weekend.
Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app on Sunday night at 10:30pm ET when the action kicks off at Lumen Field. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game or Sirius XM FC 157 (English) or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).