SEATTLE – In the past three seasons, the Sounders haven’t beaten Atlanta United.
Then again, Atlanta United, the defending MLS Cup champion, has yet to defeat the Sounders.
On Sunday, the two will meet for the first and only time this season as one looks to secure a win in their 0-0-2 series record. The match will kick off at 12:55 p.m. at CenturyLink Field and will put the Sounders’ clean home record on the line – which is one of just three teams in the league undefeated at home.
“It’s a big game for us,” Sounders defender Kelvin Leerdam said. “Everybody wants to beat the champions and in this moment that’s them.”
Both teams are ranked third in their respective conferences and will have near-full rosters for the first time since players left as early as May for international commitments participating in Copa América and the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“It’s very important when we have our full team complete,” said Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, who returned to Seattle after representing Uruguay in Copa America in Brazil. “Now in the second part of the year, it’s the most important because now we need key points home and away. We are 100 percent and having our whole team is very important because we need all of them.”
The Sounders (9-5-5), which returned 10 players including Lodeiro, will be without forward Will Bruin for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery this week to repair an ACL tear in his right knee that occurred during training in June. As of Wednesday, left-wing Victor Rodríguez is questionable for the match as he’s been battling a hamstring injury and was listed as “day-to-day.”
Atlanta returns three players from international call-ups, including star forward Josef Martinez, who set the MLS single-season record with 34 goals last year.
“In the beginning of the season, he couldn’t find the back of the net, but the last few weeks I think he’s already scored like 12 or 13 goals,” Leerdam said. “That makes a big difference because at the beginning of the season they’re losing a lot of games, but if now they win all their games, they’ll be first place in the East. So, when players are in good shape and in good health it can make a big difference for any team. It can make a good team even better.”
After its MLS Cup victory, United (9-7-3) went through an upheaval of roster changes, including selling star forward Miguel Almiron to Newcastle United. Sunday marks the first trip to Seattle for first-year United coach Frank De Boer, who took over the position in December after former coach Tata Martino left for the Mexico men’s national team.
“They’re a dangerous squad,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “They’ve transitioned a little bit in their game plan. Last year, (they were) a very counterattacking team and this year, they’re maybe starting to sprinkle in some possession, and some build up. (It’s) difficult because that’s how they want to play, but they have another system to fall back onto and one that has obviously worked out quite well for them in the past. They are good and we have to be ready for them.”
Sunday’s contest marks the first of a three-match homestand for the Sounders, who have only played three games at home since the start of May.
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