Gonzalo Pineda faces off against his old team. Can he lead the Five Stripes to victory?
Atlanta United will face Seattle Sounders at home on Saturday in an MLS game. This will be one of the six remaining home games that Atlanta has this season and represents an important three points that could see the Five Stripes spring into eighth in the East, just one point off of a playoff spot.
Seattle (10-11-2) is sixth in the West with 32 points in 23 games. Of course, their main achievement is winning the latest edition of the Concacaf Champions League, becoming the first MLS to do so. Despite this accomplishment, their MLS regular season has been... less glamorous. They only just sprang into a playoff spot after defeating FC Dallas on Tuesday and are missing a vital midfielder in João Paulo. In most offensive areas, Atlanta is statistically superior to them including shot-creating actions per 90 (25.23 to 18.57), shots per 90 (15.41 to 12.04), and even total expected goals (32.7 to 32.3). However, it's in the defensive areas that Seattle's advantage comes into play. This season, the Sounders have applied more pressure overall when not in possession (3077) than Atlanta (2843; fourth worst in the league). Furthermore, when tackles and interceptions are added together, Seattle's total of 793 surpasses Atlanta's 703. The main threats in Seattle's attack are Jordan Morris (6 goals, 1 assist), Nicolas Lodeiro (5 goals, 4 assists), Cristian Roldan (3 goals, 4 assists), and Raul Ruidiaz (5 goals).
The Five Stripes have played the Sounders four times in MLS, but Atlanta has never managed to beat them. However, the pair have only faced off once in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, that game resulting in a 1-1 draw. Atlanta's all-time MLS record against Seattle is 0-3-1.
Atlanta United Predicted XI
Seattle Sounders Predicted XI
How does Atlanta win?
Atlanta absolutely needs to take the chances it creates. They may get into some good spots to score, but they've been shockingly unable to get that final product right. The players need to take their shots when they have a window and try to pick their heads to pick out passing options. The team would greatly benefit from improving their movement off the ball and making forward runs after a pass to create more opportunities. Picking up the pace in transition to counterattack more clinically also wouldn't hurt.
With some players coming back from injuries, the Five Stripes will have some good depth that could make an impact in the second half. Fans may even get a chance to see new signing Edwin Mosquera play his first minutes in MLS. The young Colombian winger could bring some much-needed spark to the attack and maybe help jump-start it again.