Decision Day 2021 is on Sunday, and even though Atlanta United are essentially with 1 foot in the MLS Cup Playoffs, it still has much to play for.
A win at FC Cincinnati tomorrow officially seals things for Atlanta, as would losses by the New York Red Bulls, a CF Montréal loss or draw, or Atlanta to beat out Orlando City in goal differential. (Which, considering Atlanta’s GD is +7 and Orlando’s is 0, seems a pretty strong possibility with Atlanta playing Cincinnati. As I said: 1 foot in.)
And an Atlanta win leaves open the possibility of a 4th-place finish and at least 1 playoff match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Essentially, if NYCFC to fall to the Philadelphia Union, 4th place belongs to the Five Stripes with losing their edge in goal differential to Orlando out of the question.
As for Cincinnati? It’s won just 4 games all season long (Montréal, Toronto 2x, and Chicago) with that 2nd win against TFC on Sept. 11 its last win as it enters Decision Day on an 11-match losing streak that started with—ironically enough!—a 4-0 loss at the Benz to Atlanta on Sept. 15. (The record, by the way, belongs to the 1999 MetroStars, with 12 lost in a row.) Its goal differential of -36 is worst in the league; only Inter Miami, with 35 to Cincy’s 36, have scored fewer goals, while its MLS-worst 72 goals allowed is 9 more than Toronto FC have let in. It’s finished last in points in all 3 seasons as a top-flight side. The good news? Cincy has a new GM in Chris Albright, whose fingerprints are all over a Philadelphia Union club that won the Supporters’ Shield in the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season and could end Sunday with the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. His role will be giving the roster a good, hard lookover while searching for the club’s 4th permanent coach since its debut season in MLS in 2019.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: FC Cincinnati 0-3 Atlanta United
Let’s be honest. By all accounts this should be a walk in the park for Atlanta United against a dreadful Cincinnati team. Slipping a few goals into the net will be the perfect cap to the regular season as they’ll be able to rest (save Miles Robinson and Ronald Hernandez, who have been called into World Cup qualifying by their respective countries) ahead of the beginning of the postseason in a few weeks.