The Gold Cup? Over.
2019 Copa America? Finished.
The international break/international tournament period for soccer has come to an end which means the Seattle Sounders are returning to full strength.
Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan are back from representing the United States in the Gold Cup. And Raul Ruidaiz (Peru) and Nico Loderio (Uruguay) have returned from the 2019 Copa America just in time to help the Sounders begin a three games in seven days stretch that starts on Sunday against the defending MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer doesn’t have to remind his team the importance of Sunday’s match.
“I don’t need to motivate my guys; they’re the defending champs,” Schmetzer said.
Atlanta United enters the contest at 9-7-3 and in third place in the Eastern Conference but have begun to find their form after a cold start. They earned one win in their first six games but have gone 8-4-1 in a 13-match stretch since April 27. They’ve also recently advanced in the U.S. Open Cup after defeating St. Louis FC 2-0.
Atlanta has not been able to match the blistering pace of last season where it scored 70 goals but it is still one of the more dynamic offenses in the league. They are among the top 10 leaders in shots (267), shots on goal (91), and penalty kick goals (five).
Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei will be tested by Atlanta United’s most potent players, midfielder Pity Martinez and striker Josef Martinez, who last season broke the MLS record for most goals scored in a season with 31 goals in 34 matches.
Jozef Martinez has maintained that form with 12 goals scored this season. For the first time since LAFC on April 28, the Sounders will get a stiff test at home, they have yet to drop a game at CenturyLink Field in 2019 holding a 7-0-2 record.
“They’re a dangerous squad,” Frei said. “I think they’ve transitioned a bit in their game plan, last year they were a counter-attacking team and this year they’re starting to sprinkle in some possession and some buildup.
“It’s difficult because that’s how they wanna play but they have a system to fall back on and has obviously worked out quite well for them in the past and they have the players for that. It’s going to be difficult, they’re a good side and we have to be ready for them.”
After Sunday, the Sounders welcome German Club Borussia Dortmund to Seattle for a 7:30 p.m. game on Wednesday. Then it’s back to MLS play on July 21 with a game at rival Portland Timbers.
It helps to have the international players back for these games, and for Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, it marks the first game back to the club since playing against Dallas on June 1.
“The stadium’s gonna be green still, right?” said Roldan. “We’re gonna face a tough Atlanta side, a side that has a lot of talent and we have to be prepared. They’re doing pretty well right now, obviously ... we’ll be facing a really talented side.”