Atlanta United entered its match against FC Cincinnati looking to answer some key questions: what would the team look like under new manager Rob Valentino? Would there still be man marking? Which of the teams would hilariously give up a late lead? Would the team’s performance improve after being fully hydrated and properly fed for the first time since February? How many hat tricks would Josef score?
In the end two struggling teams played their guts out and Cinci scored first to take a lead and then followed the script they’d written all season and blew it.
Atlanta United lined up in a 4-3-3 with Ronald Hernandez lined up at left back in something of a surprising pick for manager
Josef Martinez Rob Valentino.
Alineación @fccincinnati pic.twitter.com/iLf4wrDXzS— Atlanta United Fútbol Club (@VamosATLUTD) July 21, 2021
Meanwhile, Fußball Club Cincinnati set out in a 4-3-3 featuring several washed out USMNT players including some never wases and has beens.
Tonight's XI ⬇️#CINvATL | #FCCincy pic.twitter.com/9VWGo40vQx— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) July 21, 2021
Gifs of goals or highlights and pithy comments about soccer and observations about the game and things
The first half saw the teams both come out with a lot of energy. Initially, it looked like FCC would press Atlanta all the way back into Mammoth Cave, but Atlanta eventually found a way to move the ball forward and even looked solid in midfield. The typical refrain of “Atlanta really struggles in the final third” rang true as an Irish guy and two kids couldn’t get much going in that department.
That said, Marcie Moreno did have a free kick hit the bar that was probably the closest an Atlanta player has come to smashing in a direct kick in two years. The no. 10 also created the best scoring chance Atlanta United has had in 15 months and basically defenestrated Geoff Cameron along the way, but Jackson Conway isn’t Josef Martinez and didn’t score.
It looked better and there were even stats that quantified that observation.
I don't want to alarm anyone -- especially @DirtySouthSoc -- BUT WE'RE ALREADY PAST 0.50 XG! #ATLUTD pic.twitter.com/gVZiKcXdJW— Chris Smith ⚽✍️ (@CJSmith91) July 22, 2021
Alec Kann also saved the entire first half all by himself making a terrific... leg block? It wasn’t quite a kick save, but it kept the game at 0-0.
Alec Kann with the nice save pic.twitter.com/d4fNcmgpxo— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) July 22, 2021
There would be some excitement to end the half as Santi Sosa won a ball by sweeping the leg of Alvaro Barreal and on the counter Gustavo Vallecilla karate chopped Moreno down giving Atlanta a free kick in a dangerous area. Alas, the resulting play did not lead to a goal and the clubs went into the half tied at nil-nil.
Halftime also brought a coaching announcement.
LMAO @ Rob Valentino's halftime interview. He said Josef Martinez is helping him as an assistant coach and he'll say when he's ready to go in.— Rob Usry (@RobUsry) July 22, 2021
And of course, one of these.
It’s halftime! Here’s a little something to listen to while you take a water break. #CrownRoyalWaterBreak pic.twitter.com/mfFY6YreF5— Crown Royal (@CrownRoyal) February 8, 2021
It was either water jokes or discussion about the repercussions of eating Skyline Chili on the human digestive tract, so consider yourselves lucky.
After the players helped themselves to as much water and various sports drinks that they wanted, the second half got underway.
Here’s a list of things that happened in the second 45:
- Jackson Conway got in a fight with Geoff Cameron
- A shot hit the post and deflected off of Kann just missing going into the goal by a few inches, it undoubtedly would have gone in if Guzan had started
Still not sure how this wasn't a goal for @fccincinnati pic.twitter.com/4zvmEs3Bh7— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 22, 2021
- A ghost punched Luciano Acosta in the face and he rolled around on the ground for a while
And the Oscar goes to... pic.twitter.com/o5EH3Z2Zu3— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 22, 2021
The ghost must have given Acosta special powers because, as he does whenever he plays Atlanta United, he scored.
No stopping @LuchoAcosta94. #FCCincy have the opener! #CINvATL pic.twitter.com/TLzCEYDSq1— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 22, 2021
Inevitably this awoke Josef Martinez from his slumber and he abandoned his assistant coaching duties to came into the game for Conway with Amar Sejdic coming off for Matheus Rossetto.
The Venezuelan promptly scored, wait, no the other Venezuelan. FC Cincinnati can’t give up a lead if they don’t have the lead after all and Ronald Hernandez scored a rocket to bring things back level... then he took off his shirt to celebrate and got a yellow card despite not really having a solid enough game defensively to be just getting a yellow card for no good reason.
GAME ON— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 22, 2021
Ronald Hernandez blasts one into the back of the net for @ATLUTD pic.twitter.com/sCZds6IS1U
Following the goal, Machop Chol came off for Erik Lopez and former Atlanta United legend Brandon Vazquez came in for Issac Atanga.
Atlanta would keep searching for a second goal, Cinci seemed somewhat concerned about it and even took off an attacker with Barreal making way for defender Nick Hagglund. This may have been a result of the return of the Peachtree Press as the fitness regime enforced by the previous manager seemed to have had at least some positive effect.
Back to the list:
- Josef almost scored a free kick... Ok, it was badly placed but on target
- Marcie and the linesman argued about where the ball should go on a corner
At the end of 90 minutes plus injury time the score would remain even at one apiece. This seemed like a pretty fair result as each team struggled with finishing their chances with credit given to the goalkeepers for making some big saves. Plus, Cinci will never hold a lead again for the rest of the season, after they score it’s like they’re playing with a fresh plate of Skyline Chili in their pants.
A few parting thoughts:
- Josef + someone who wants the team to have fun and play attacking might be the best manager Atlanta United could hope for right now.
- Not sure who was better between Chol and Lopez, the team played better when Lopez was in, but Josef was also in and I think that’s why
- Sejdic is very solid in midfield