Atlanta United defeated FC Cincinnati 4-0 Wednesday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium thanks to a Josef Martinez brace and Luiz Araújo’s first goal in Atlanta United colors. Ezequiel Barco got onto the scoresheet late into the second half with a direct free kick goal. Atlanta United now has won six of its last seven games and is above the playoff line.
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda made a handful of changes to the starting lineup from Atlanta’s last match against Orlando City. Josef Martinez returned to the starting lineup and Miles Robinson stepped back in, replacing Anton Walkes at the back. Santiago Sosa stepped out after picking up a suspension for yellow card accumulation against Orlando. Interestingly, George Bello started on the bench.
Luiz Araujo scored his first goal in an Atlanta United shirt in the fifth minute. Instead of describing it to you through words, just watch what the Brazilian did to the poor FC Cincinnati back line. Alan Franco got an assist for that goal as well. Remember when Leo Messi took the ball from Sergio Busquets in midfield, ran past Real Madrid’s midfield and backline and scored?
Luiz Araújo takes on the entire city of Cincinnati and scores. pic.twitter.com/7CGQWI5gEI— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) September 15, 2021
Araújo’s first Atlanta United goal was a long time coming. Araújo has come close to scoring on many occasions in his previous appearances, and now he finally has his first goal.
“It was amazing,” Pineda said. “That’s where he can show what he can bring to the team, which is an explosive player that can go on the dribble and obviously coming inside to take shots. He can pass the ball in behind at times ... and I think he's a very dangerous player that is going to score many goals for this franchise.
And, everyone goes wild ‼️— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 15, 2021
Celebrations from the bench pic.twitter.com/TcpN1uaHWi
Though Atlanta came out of the gates blazing, that blaze was quickly reduced to a small tinder. Cincinnati had a couple of chances to get a goal, including a farce from Franco that nearly led to Brenner netting an equalizer.
In the 38th minute, Brooks Lennon brought down a chipped ball from the air, but couldn’t round the oncoming Cincinnati goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton.
Then, of course, Josef Martinez scored. Perhaps against the run of play, the unmarked Josef headed home Atlanta’s second goal of the match off a set piece to mark his 100th MLS regular season appearance with a goal. His header marked his 84th goal in 100 MLS regular season appearances.
Ezequiel Barco nearly managed to put the game to bed at the end of the first half, but his effort bounced off the post.
Josef came through again in the 56th minute, bending his shot past Tyton to take his all-time goal tally up to 85 MLS regular season goals in 100 MLS regular season appearances.
Alan Franco also made a bit of history tonight, becoming the first player in Atlanta United history to record three assists in the same match.
Barco had the last laugh in the 86th minute, scoring off a direct free kick. Atlanta United has now scored four goals from set pieces in its last two games, according to Doug Roberson of the AJC. Here’s a video for your viewing pleasure:
Ezequiel Barco in 2021 MLS before the Olympics:— Chris Smith ⚽✍️ (@CJSmith91) September 16, 2021
Ezequiel Barco in 2021 MLS after the Olympics:
And that’s how it ended.
- A multi-goal win is what I expected out of this match considering how bad Cincinnati have been this season. Sure, there was that long stretch in the first half where Cincinnati seemed like they were going to score and outplayed (if Brenner Souza da Silva hadn’t choked on his opportunities in the first half maybe this would be a completely different conversation, but I digress), but in the end Atlanta won 4-0. And even when Atlanta wasn’t at the top of its game, the team still looked like a threat going forward. Good win for the Five Stripes.
- Atlanta is on a nice little run now. With six wins in the team’s last seven games, Atlanta has made a real case for a postseason playoff berth. However...
- The next match against D.C. United is going to be much more of a challenge. Both teams are in the mix of teams that are currently hovering around the playoff lines, and neither team’s post-season plans are set in stone. Atlanta can’t afford to let up against D.C. like they did after the first goal they scored against Cincinnati.
Atlanta United will return to the Benz on Saturday to take on D.C. United in a crucial matchup that will have implications for Atlanta United’s push for a Eastern Conference playoff berth.