Survival mode was apparent from a simple glance at the Sounders players. No matter how it looks, they were determined to get a positive result.
The problem Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was Atlanta United was playing with the same desperation. Frantically looking for a game-winner, Atlanta defender Andrew Gutman sent a long-distance wish at goal that was granted in the waning minute of second-half stoppage time.
Atlanta collected its first win against Seattle, 2-1. The victory before an announced crowd of 68,586 people was also former Sounders coach Gonzo Pineda’s first in the inaugural meeting against mentor Brian Schmetzer. Saturday’s result moved ATLUTD (7-9-7) within one point of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Sounders (10-12-2) remain above the line in the Western Conference but now are tied with the 2013 roster for third-most losses in a season.
As the second half began, it didn’t look like Seattle would find itself returning home with a fourth consecutive road loss. Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan found the ball at his foot in the box and didn’t stop playing it until he powered a shot into goal for the equalizer in the 68th minute.
Sounders midfielder Nico Lodeiro helped organize the play with a soft through-ball to Nouhou. The defender looked to feed it to Raul Ruidiaz, who subbed on in the 55th minute, but it was blocked. Roldan’s first attempt was blocked by Atlanta midfielder Franco Ibarra. Roldan shuffled to regain possession and landed a right-footed shot in the net.
Pineda’s first full season with Atlanta has been marred by player injuries and included another Saturday. ATLUTD midfielder Matheus Rossetto was taken off the field on a stretcher in first-half stoppage time after suffering an apparent ankle injury. Pineda had to make a starting lineup change due to an injury, replacing defender George Campbell with defender Aiden McFadden.
Atlanta’s circumstances didn’t stop them from piecing together a sequence to get an early goal. Forward Luiz Araujo chased a long through-ball from defender Caleb Wiley, luring Sounders center back Yeimar Gomez Andrade out of bounds at the endline. Araujo cut the ball through a crowded box back to forward Ronaldo Cisneros.
Unmarked, Cisneros sliced a low, left-footed shot through the legs of Nouhou and keeper Stefan Frei for the goal in the 23rd minute. With Atlanta striker Josef Martínez wedged between the Sounders players in the keeper’s box, many thought the play would be ruled offside but it wasn’t even flagged by VAR to be reviewed.
Atlanta midfielder Marcelino Moreno subbed on for Rossetto and nearly had a goal of his own in stoppage time to close out the half. Moreno had the assist on Gutman’s goal.
In seeking consistency, Schmetzer only made one starting lineup change from the rotation that pulled off a 1-0 win against FC Dallas at Lumen Field on Tuesday. But it wasn’t to slot in Ruidiaz up top. Instead, veteran Will Bruin received the nod over Fredy Montero.
Schmetzer did shift the roles in putting forward Leo Chu on the left wing and Jordan Morris on the right. Chu had a good outing against Dallas but Schmetzer is still searching for how to use the young Brazilian’s talents.
Ruidiaz returned Tuesday from a second hamstring injury that kept him out of the rotation since the loss against Portland on July 9.
There’s a week off from league play to showcase the MLS All-Star Game against Liga MX All-Stars on Wednesday in Minneapolis. Ruidiaz and Morris will represent the Sounders. The Peruvian was voted in while Morris, a Mercer Island native, was selected by coaches.