Atlanta United has been no stranger to late goals this season, but what it does struggle with is turning moments of magic into anything more. The Five Stripes will get another shot at that this weekend, however, thanks to Andrew Gutman’s 94th-minute stunner to give the good guys all three points over the Seattle Sounders. Atlanta returns to action with a visit to FC Cincinnati, a crucial six-pointer in the playoff race (get used to hearing those words a lot over the next few weeks).
2022 Cincinnati is nothing like the Wooden Spoon winning Cincy of years past. The Ohio side is sixth in the East on 32 points and is coming into the weekend off one of the biggest wins of its MLS history. Cincinnati beat Conference leaders Philadelphia Union by a score of 3-1 and put out a statement to the rest of the league that it’s not fading away anytime soon. That win followed a stretch of 11 games with just one win for the Lions, with defense in particular being a massive concern. Cincy kept just one clean sheet, conceded 24 times, and let in 4 goals on three occasions. In that case, it’s no surprise that Cincinnati has the second worst backline in the league with 43 strikes let in. It is taking steps to rectify the situation, however, and brought in Matt Miazga on deadline day of the summer window.
If the ex-Chelsea defender is the fix to Cincy’s concerns, the sky is the limit thanks to its three-headed offensive monster, headlined by none other than a certain Brandon Vazquez. He’s turned into one of MLS’ best strikers with 14 goals and 4 assists, supported by Luciano Acosta (6g, 8a) and Brenner (8g, 4a). Cincinnati’s 3-4-1-2 shape and the defensive midfield duo of Obinna Nwobodo and Junior Moreno give the attacking trio and wingback Alvaro Barreal (4g, 4a) even more freedom to flow forward and cause havoc so Atlanta will have to be on its very best behavior to avoid a downpour of goals Saturday.
The Five Stripes weren’t convincing by any means against Seattle but at this point of the season, points are what matters most. Despite remaining in 12th place, Atlanta is now two points out of 7th and 4 short of sixth place Cincy. With two games against direct competitors on the way, the next week has a major hand in how Atlanta’s 2022 campaign will turn out. Andrew Gutman’s stoppage time screamer means it got off to a pretty good start, but that won’t matter if Atlanta can’t find the next level in the coming weeks.
Predicted Starting XIs
McBlunder’s Prediction: FC Cincinnati 2-2 Atlanta United
Cincy’s high octane attack will combine nicely with the curse of the ex in the form of a Vazquez brace but Thiago Almada and Ronaldo Cisneros will do enough to rescue a point for the good guys in a topsy-turvy affair.