The Seattle Sounders welcomed reigning MLS Cup champions Atlanta United to CenturyLink Field on Sunday, and boasting a near-full complement of players for the first time since May, the Rave Green pulled out a 2-1 victory, spearheaded in large part by the team’s recently returned host of international players.
For Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, selecting a Starting XI from a roster full of talented players presents a favorable problem.
“When it comes to game decisions as to who starts, then it becomes challenging,” Schmetzer said. “It’s always going to be tough with a team like the Seattle Sounders. We always strive to have a high-quality team.”
After a scoreless first half in which the Sounders carved out several quality chances but failed to capitalize, a moment of individual brilliance in the 58th minute from striker Raúl Ruidíaz, who missed nearly six weeks while he was with Peru for Copa América, broke the deadlock.
“[Ruidíaz is] an instinctive goalscorer,” said midfielder Harry Shipp, who scored the game-winning goal. “No matter what, if he’s got the ball at his feet in the box, you always think there’s a chance he’s going to score a goal, which is a rare characteristic for guys in any league in the world. It’s nice to have him back.”
Atlanta equalized seven minutes later off a corner kick, but Shipp’s goal in the 71st minute was keyed by three players who were making their first home starts since May 15.
Mercer Island native Jordan Morris, who helped guide the United States to the Concacaf Gold Cup Final, deflected an Atlanta pass directly to Nicolás Lodeiro. The Uruguayan playmaker then played a through-ball to Morris, who clipped a ball to the back post for Shipp to head home.
Shipp found himself in acres of space because Ruidíaz’s sharp, quick run toward the near post dragged both Atlanta center backs out of position.
“Even though it’s at home, it’s a big win for us,” added Shipp. “We’ve been talking [about] springboarding the second half of the year. This was the first game with a lot of guys back. For us, we’re establishing that winning culture, winning mentality with everyone back.”
Morris performed admirably in a similar wide role with the USMNT while he was away at the Gold Cup, providing a threat in behind and creating chances for others. After missing the entire 2018 season with an ACL injury, the Homegrown attacker is beginning to show the dangerous movement and productivity that earned him the 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year award.
“We’re going to try and make sure that [Morris] can springboard that experience [with the USMNT] coming back with us into a productive second half of the year,” said Schmetzer. “I believe the kid is going to be great. I think he’s a tough kid. He’s overcome a lot of adversity. I’m smiling because I love having him on the field.”
The Sounders will host Bundesliga powerhouse Borussia Dortmund in an international friendly on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. PT; JOEtv, YouTube TV, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS) before hosting their Cascadia rival, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1, YouTube TV, Sports Radio KJR, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS).