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Expansion Atlanta missing Martinez in visit to Seattle

The expansion Atlanta United will open a difficult four-game stretch of road tests without their best player.

United will be without star forward Josef Martinez when they take on the Seattle Sounders on Friday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Martinez, who leads MLS with five goals, will miss four to six weeks with an injured left quad. He injured his left quadriceps while competing with the Venezuelan national team again Peru in a FIFA World Cup qualifier on March 24.

"It's really unfortunate, Josef's injury," Atlanta coach Tata Martino told the team's website earlier in the week. "But we just have to think about our team moving forward and how were going to replace him and overcome his very important absence. We wish him a very speedy recovery."

The Sounders may be short-handed as well, as striker Jordan Morris is day-to-day with an ankle injury. Morris was injured during the first half of a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on March 19.

Morris played 81 minutes and scored the game-winner. He left after the game against New York to join the United States national team for its World Cup qualifying match against Honduras on March 24. He didn't play, and then he was removed from the U.S. squad that played Tuesday at Panama.

Seattle's Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro, Joevin Jones and Roman Torres were each on international duty last week, but will be available for coach's selection on Friday. Dempsey scored a hat trick for Team USA against Honduras, then scored again vs. Panama.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said Thursday that Dempsey, Torres, Jones and Lodeiro are in various states of recovery.

Loderio, a 28-year-old midfielder from Uruguay, has yet to see the pitch this season, but Schmetzer says he expects that to change Friday.

"He's chomping at the bit to play," Schmetzer said. "He traveled all that way (to Uruguay) and didn't play. He's ready to play."

Short-handed or not, Seattle is always tough at home. The defending champions went 10-0-2 home last season, recording six shutouts and not allowing multiple goals in a game during that stretch.

Seattle unquestionably will be the toughest road environment United have faced.

Atlanta opened the season at fellow expansion franchise Minnesota but won that match handily. Martinez had a hat trick in the 6-1 win over Minnesota and followed that breakout performance with two goals in a 4-0 rout of the Chicago Fire on March 18.

Seattle is expected to be a much tougher test, especially with a weary United squad that had Miguel Almiron, Carlos Carmona and Kenwyne Jones on international duty. Jones is a potential replacement for Martinez.

This will be the first ever meeting between the Sounders and Atlanta, which is averaging 3.7 goals per game early in its inaugural MLS season.

Updated March 31, 2017

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