The Seattle Sounders are hosting Atlanta United on Sunday in their first matchup against an Eastern Conference opponent in 2021. Here is everything you need to know.
WHEN AND WHERE: Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. PT at Lumen Field (TICKETS).
WHERE TO WATCH: The match will be televised on FOX.
WHERE TO LISTEN: The match will air on 950 KJR AM and El Rey 1360 AM.
2021 RECORDS AND STANDINGS (W-D-L): Seattle: 5-1-0 (16 points, 1st West), Atlanta 2-2-1 (8 points, 4th East)
FORM GUIDE (Most recent first): Sounders: WWWWD, Atlanta: WDLWD
PREVIOUS MEETING: The Sounders and Atlanta United did not meet in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so this will be their first meeting since July 14, 2019 in Seattle. The Sounders defeated the Five Stripes 2-1 behind goals from Harry Shipp and Raúl Ruidíaz, who pulled off this piece of magic.
TOP OF THE CLASS: The Sounders enter Week 6 atop the Supporters’ Shield standings with a four-point cushion over the LA Galaxy. Seattle just capped a nine-point week with an emphatic 2-0 win over LAFC on Sunday.
WINGBACK BRILLIANCE: Losing winger Jordan Morris to an ACL injury for what could likely be the entire season is an objectively massive blow for the Sounders, but they have adapted wonderfully in their new 3-5-2 formation, which allows Brad Smith and Alex Roldan to exploit the wider areas of the pitch. Smith has three goals in six matches, while Roldan has chipped in with two assists.
DEFENSE CONTINUES TO SHINE: In what has become a common theme through the first month of the season, the Sounders are incredibly difficult to break down, let alone score on. Seattle has allowed just two goals in six matches and has still yet to concede from open play. The three center back system employed by Head Coach Brian Schmetzer has been outstanding so far, highlighted by some excellent individual play from Nouhou, Yeimar, Xavier Arreaga and Shane O’Neill.
CLEVELAND ROCKS: With veteran goalkeeper Stefan Frei sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a sprained knee, Stefan Cleveland replaced him on Sunday in his club debut. The 26-year-old made three saves and earned his first clean sheet in his first MLS minutes since 2018 with the Chicago Fire.
CLUB RECORD ON THE LINE: If the Sounders earn at least a draw on Sunday, they will set a club record for the best start to a season in their MLS history. Seattle took 16 points from the opening seven matches in 2019.
THE RETURN OF JOSEF: The biggest news for Atlanta United this season has been the return of forward Josef Martínez, who tore his ACL in their first match in 2020 and missed the entire season. The Venezuelan is one of the best pure goals scorers in MLS history — he has 78 goals in 89 career matches — and is a nightmare matchup at his fittest. He’s still working his way back to full health, but he played his first 90 minutes last weekend in a 1-0 win over CF Montreal.
NEW MAN IN CHARGE: Atlanta United has a new manager at the helm for the third time in their five-year history in Gabriel Heinze. The former Argentine international had an illustrious career, featuring for some of Europe’s biggest clubs in Paris Saint-German, Manchester United and Real Madrid, while also earning more than 70 international caps. He takes over in Atlanta after three years managing Velez Sarsfield in Argentina’s Primera División.
KEY ADDITIONS: In addition to getting Martínez back, Atlanta United brought in two high-profile signings this past offseason in Designated Player defender Alan Franco and defensive midfielder Santiago Sosa. The two Argentines joined from Independiente and River Plate, respectively, and are expected to be impactful additions to Heinze’s side.