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Seattle adds key players for game against Atlanta
Atlanta United and its high-octane attack host a Seattle Sounders team on Sunday that might be finding its footing.
Seattle (4-9-4, 16 points) is 10th in the Western Conference after reaching the MLS Cup in 2017 (losing to Toronto FC) and winning the MLS championship the previous season.
But the Sounders collected four points in their past two matches, both on the road, and may be getting some reinforcements entering the game vs. Atlanta (12-4-4, 40) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium before an expected crowd of more than 70,000.
Peruvian striker Raul Ruidiaz, the Sounders' latest designated player, could make his MLS debut if his visa is obtained in time.
"As long as unforeseen things don't come to grips, we'll probably see him in Atlanta," Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.
Also, Swedish defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson is back from the World Cup, and the Sounders coach is weighing whether he needs time off, although it sounds like Seattle will be at full strength.
"I'm expecting that everybody on this squad is going to be available and wanting to play," Schmetzer said. "It's a big game, national TV, everybody is going to want to play."
Seattle will need all the help it can get against the Eastern Conference leaders because the Sounders have scored a league-low 15 goals.
Remarkably, that's three fewer than Atlanta's Josef Martinez has scored by himself to top MLS. He has scored in three consecutive games and has a seven-goal lead over his nearest pursuers.
"The way that we play, he is a goal scorer through and through," Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst said of his teammate. "He is so good in front of the net, every game he creates chances, or we create chances for him and he is there to finish them off. We are lucky to have him on the team right now because he is a handful to play against."
Atlanta leads MLS with 42 goals and has a variety of options, including midfielder Miguel Almiron, who has eight goals and nine assists.
Schmetzer knows Atlanta presents challenges but believes his team is up to the task.
"You've got to be able to defend well," he said. "You've got to be able to establish possession in their part of the field, watch counters. You've got to be able to score goals.
"It's the offense-defense. How do you get your team to perform up to their standards, then maybe snag set pieces here or there. It's doable. It's MLS."
The teams are meeting for the second time in history. They played to a 0-0 tie at Seattle on March 31, 2017.
Updated July 13, 2018