Few would have predicted Atlanta United’s 16th-all time meeting against Orlando City to turn out the way it did. No Josef? No Robinson? No problem for a red-hot Gonzalo Pineda side. The Five Stripes roared to a 3-0 win against a sorry Orlando, and are now very much in the mix for the playoffs. But Friday night’s memorable win won’t matter if Atlanta can’t take care of business in games it should. And FC Cincinnati’s visit to the Benz this Wednesday offers the good guys a golden opportunity for three points that would bump it above the red line for the first time since March.
By Cincy standards, the 2021 season hasn’t been awful for the boys in blue and orange. After “winning” the Wooden Spoon in both of its first two seasons in MLS, Cincinnati is 25th out of 27 this time around. Jaap Stam’s side is 13th in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of last placed Toronto FC. It’s won four games this season, the last two of which against TFC. In fact, Cincinnati’s 2-0 win over the Canadian side this weekend was its first victory in 13 games and first home win of the year. Similar to years past, the entire pitch is a weakness for Cincinnati. It has the second-worst defense in the East, with 38 goals conceded. The entire backline is full of new faces from last season, including centerbacks Geoff Cameron and Gustavo Vallecilla, left back Ronald Matarrita, and keeper Kenneth Vermeer. Cincy’s spending has been to no avail, however, and Atlanta could have a field day in the final third.
The blue and orange spent even more in attack, bringing in Brazilian striker Brenner for over $10 million and Luciano Acosta for a not-insignificant fee either. The duo has been met with mild success so far but haven’t keep Cincy from boasting the worst attack in the East with only 23 goals scored in 22 games. Brenner has six goals to his name while Acosta leads Cincy with 5 assists, along with four goals of his own. Alvaro Barreal (3g, 3a) can also cause problems down the right flank but Cincy’s attack is a collection of individuals at best, and doesn’t have the chemistry or talent to break down quality backlines.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Atlanta United 2-0 FC Cincinnati
Though Pineda will have both Josef and Robinson at his disposal, Santiago Sosa is out on yellow card accumulation. The absence of the Argentine midfielder won’t cause too many problems, however, and goals from Marcelino Moreno and Luiz Araujo will send the three points Atlanta’s way.