Atlanta United tied 0-0 against FC Cincinnati, in an at home match packed full of action. Between two players making their debut on the starting line up to a couple of players returning to the stadium they once called home, the matchup between Atlanta United vs FC Cincinnati was memorable.
Big Lineup Changes
When speaking to media Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda always teases the line up with one phrase, “we’ll see.” Pineda has the philosophy that the best man will play the match leaving everyone wondering who the starting XI will be. Today’s matched proved to be no different when Pineda had 17-year-old Caleb Wiley and the team’s newest teammate, Ronaldo Cisneros, on the starting lineup.
Wiley played in a similar position as the 3-1 win against Sporting Kansas City, a lot higher up than the defense is used to, but Wiley proved to be a force to be reckoned with. The Atlanta homegrown could be seen running up and down the pitch, fighting for the ball and sending crosses to the attacking line. Wiley’s efforts shined and both Pineda and his teammates noticed.
“He was great tonight,” Pineda shared. “He impacted the game exactly as I designed. He did everything I asked him to do. I think he was good in the final third, his crosses and also having a hand in creating the penalty kick. I think he’s someone with a very bright future.”
Ronaldo Cisneros made his Atlanta debut in the 1-0 loss against Charlotte FC, just a couple days after arriving in the club, but what Cisneros did in that match was enough to score him a starting position in this match. After 10 days with the team Cisneros seems to be connecting well his teammates finding passes from Brooks Lennon, Marcelino Moreno, Thiago Almada and Wiley. Cisneros had several attempts at goal but was unable to get the ball to the back of the net.
Unfortunately, not all went as planned to the 5-Stripes. In a month plagued with injuries, Atlanta suffered another one during this game. Brad Guzan fell around the 74th minute and had to be subbed out. Bobby Shuttleworth came in, making his team debut and the captain’s armband went to Miles Robinson. When speaking with the media in the post-game presser, Robinson admitted that losing Guzan was a hard hit as the goalkeeper is a vocal leader on the pitch who helps move the game with his instructions and guidance.
“Its definitely devastating.” Robinson said. “He means so much to this team. He is a true leader. His energy is contagious. So, it’s definitely tough for us. Especially me, you know, he’s been a leader in my career so far. So definitely tough to take in, but it’s something you got to process with time.”
By the Numbers
When looking at this match up, Atlanta was the more attacking team. With 66 percent possession, 490 passes and 22 shots, Atlanta was creating the opportunities for goal. Up until the final whistle Atlanta kept attacking and getting close to the goal, but the final touch was missing.
“I thought it was a dominating performance,” Defender Andrew Gutman said. “We were keeping the pressure on all game. They didn’t really have too many chances. We had a lot of chances just that final ball, final touch wasn’t there tonight. But it’s a long season and it’s encouraging signs to see how we were able to move a team around and create pockets of space and chances and we just have to be a little sharper to create that final pass to score the goal.”
Cincinnati created a lot of pressure for Atlanta, pressing the midfield and making Atlanta change up their plays early on. Cincinnati’s defense was their greatest weapon, with former Atlanta United player, Alec Kann, proving to be the team’s most valuable player. Kann stopped six shots on target including the penalty kick awarded in the 63rd minute.
While Atlanta’s defense did not allow Cincinnati to score, Brandon Vázquez continued to show why he’s leading as the top goal scorer in the league. Vázquez was a tough player to mark, somehow always finding his way around defenders to try and score. This was most notable in the dive header Vázquez attempted in the 20 minute.
This game was much more than just 90+ minutes of play, this game marked the return of two very valuable members of the 5-Stripe family. After playing the first match of the season against Sporting Kansas City, Luiz Araújo left the game with a hamstring injury that had him off for several weeks. Wednesday, Araújo made his return to practice with the team and came in as a substitution for Caleb Wiley in the 74 minute.
Araújo showed his strengths in the 24 minutes of play. In his time on the pitch Araújo reminded supporters of his speed, attack and ability to create dangerous plays. This was reflected in the second to last play of the game where Araújo sent a cross to Gutman, almost giving the home team the win.
“You saw today Luiz (Araujo) and Emerson (Hyndman) were very good.” Coach Pineda said. “The way we created chances in our Primary Assists Zones was very high, and obviously players with the quality of Luiz they will impact the score line”
The second moment that left everyone in Mercedes-Benz Stadium full of excitement was the return of midfielder, Emerson Hyndman. Hyndman suffered and ACL injury early last season and had not seen the pitch in a long while. The midfielder got subbed in minute 80 and played his first 18 minutes back with the team. In that time supporters cheered on his return and got to see glimpses of what’s to come from the midfielder.
Atlanta will play two matched next week. On Wednesday the team face Chattanooga FC in the first Open Cup match and then the team travels to Ft. Lauderdale to face up against
Inter Miami on Apr. 24.