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Predicting Atlanta United’s starting XI against FC Cincinnati

Coming off a loss, what changes will Pineda make to his team selection?

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Charlotte FC Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United is looking to rebound off of a disappointing defeat last weekend as the Five Stripes welcome FC Cincinnati to Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday evening.

In last week’s loss to Charlotte, head coach Gonzalo Pineda surprisingly fielded a back three from the start for the first time this season. It didn’t fare as well as he’d probably hoped, and highlighted to media this week that he particularly thought the team struggled in the initial phase of the buildup play — the phase in which the arrangement and cohesion among the center backs and midfield is highly involved.

For that reason and more, I believe Pineda will revert back to either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 for Saturday’s match.

Notes:

  • Pineda highlighted the play of Ronaldo Cisneros with media this week, and when asked if he’d be ready to start, gave a sly grin and said “maybe” and “I hope Pat [Noonan, FCC head coach] isn’t watching this.” Perhaps, it’s the honest truth, perhaps Pineda is playing mind games. But I believe Pineda that he liked what he saw from the speedy Mexican forward and will want to see more of what he can offer.
  • Ronald Hernandez has not seen action with Atlanta United since making a costly error in the team’s 3-3 draw with Montreal a couple weeks ago. I think he comes back into the team tomorrow as a tucked-in fullback to help give cover for Atlanta’s center backs as they deal with FC Cincinnati’s tandem target strikers. Last week, facing two forwards, Pineda opted for the back three, but I think using Hernandez as a fullback is a nice compromise. I also think we’re likely to see a better and more-involved Brooks Lennon if he has a fullback behind him.
  • Franco Ibarra is a question mark. If Ibarra is not fit to start as he continues to progress in his recovery from injury, we’ll likely see Sejdic get the nod.