The Seattle Sounders host Atlanta United on Sunday (12:55 p.m. PT; ESPN, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM, TICKETS) in Week 19 MLS action. Here are three matchups to watch, presented by Toyota.
Gustav Svensson vs. Pity Martínez
Martínez, the reigning South America Player of the Year, has struggled to acclimate to MLS midway through the season. His talent is undeniable — despite not setting the league on fire as predicted, he’s still managed two goals and four assists — but he hasn’t showcased an ability to break teams down with ease or contribute on the defensive end.
This is a dream matchup for Svensson, as Martínez hasn’t quite adapted to the physicality of the league. With the Atlanta playmaker’s inability to contribute defensively, Svensson will be able to utilize his full passing range, setting the tempo from the base of midfield. As he’s shown throughout the season, he can strike a beautiful diagonal ball to switch the point of the attack. Look for Svensson to pull the strings in transition on Sunday.
Nicolás Lodeiro vs. Eric Remedi
As demonstrated by his match-winning display against the Columbus Crew, Lodeiro will always be a key player to watch, regardless of the opponent. When the Sounders host Atlanta United this weekend, he’ll square off for control of the center of the pitch with Remedi. While his defensive statistics don’t pop off the page, Remedi relies on intelligent positioning to shut down passing lanes and restrict space. Enter Lodeiro, whose nonstop off-the-ball movement drags opponents all around the pitch. Whichever player wins the battle over key pockets of space in Atlanta’s defensive third will determine the result of the match.
Raúl Ruidíaz vs. Miles Robinson
Robinson has emerged as one of the elite young defenders in MLS this season. After failing to earn any minutes as a rookie in 2017 and only a handful of spot starts last year, the towering center back has arguably been Atlanta United’s top defensive performer in the current campaign. Sunday will be a serious test for Robinson, as he has the unenviable task of containing Ruidíaz.
Ruidíaz returns to the Sounders after completing a run to the Copa América final with Peru. A cerebral striker with ruthless efficiency, he’ll be able to exploit Robinson’s relative inexperience with his clever movement inside the final third.