Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United goes on the road and picks up points at FC Cincinnati 


Atlanta United hits the road this week as the team travels to FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night for the first of back-to-back road matches . Coming off a loss this past weekend against D.C. United, Atlanta is looking to return to winning ways on the road. Sitting in 10th spot in the Eastern Conference standings, a victory would help the team move up the standings. Cincinnati has been in great form, winning its last four matches and climbing up to second in the East, trailing only Inter Miami CF by three points. Atlanta is unbeaten in its last two road matches and is looking for its first road victory of the 2024 season. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by the Home Depot against FC Cincinnati.

Staying compact defensively and weathering early waves of attack

Atlanta’s defense was off to a great start through the first couple of weeks of the season. Over the past two matches though, the team has conceded five goals. One of the keys to success on Wednesday night will be to return to that compactness defensively and build off a solid defense. That doesn’t mean going to Cincinnati and parking the bus, but instead making sure that the team is solid for the first 15-20 minutes and can grow into the match. It will be crucial for Atlanta to weather the early attacks that a team like Cincinnati is capable of, especially at TQL Stadium. Atlanta is 0-3-1 (W-L-T) when conceding the first goal, while Cincinnati sits at 6-1-0 when scoring the first goal.

If Atlanta can stay compact defensively, not concede early and give itself a chance to grow into the match, then the team has the quality in attack to create scoring opportunities. The 5-Stripes have the highest conversion rate of clear-cut chances in MLS coming into this matchday at 85.7%. If they can create some clear-cut chances, then three points on the road is a possibility.

Close down the space for Cincinnati’s wingbacks

Cincinnati’s attack features several players that can hurt Atlanta’s defense. Although Cincinnati has only scored 15 goals so far this season, the team has produced seven wins. All seven of those victories have come by a one goal margin. Most of the time, Pat Noonan’s team plays in the 5-3-2 formation with three center backs and two dangerous wingbacks. Luca Orellano, who scored against ATL UTD in the reverse fixture earlier this season, and DeAndre Yedlin provide the width for Cincinnati and join in on the attack frequently. That width allows Luciano Acosta to roam free underneath the two strikers and find those dangerous pockets behind the opposing team’s midfield and in front of the defense. Atlanta’s defense needs to do a good job of closing down the space out wide to force Cincinnati into a more predictable attack through the middle. If Atlanta can execute that plan defensively, they will have a good chance of coming home with points from TQL Stadium.

Finding the breakthrough in attack and building momentum

Atlanta’s attack continues to rank in the middle of the pack in terms of goals scored (16) andshots on target (58). The team ranks in the top-5 in expected goals coming into this matchup in Cincinnati. One of the keys to winning on Wednesday will be finding that breakthrough from the run of play. Giorgos Giakoumakis had five goals in the first five matches this season, but is now back fully healthy after an injury. It just feels that once the Greek striker finds one goal, more could be coming in quick succession. The same goes for Thiago Almada who has been credited with just one assist this year. The Argentine World Cup winner scored last weekend off a penalty kick and ranks among the team leaders in chances created. His creativity in attack is key for Atlanta’s success.

Regaining that cohesion in attack will be critical for the 5-Stripes not only on Wednesday but going forward during this busy month of May.

Fans can tune in on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm ET when the action kicks off at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game (English) or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).

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