Atlanta United earned a well-fought draw after a 2-2 away draw to 2023 Supporters’ Shield winner FC Cincinnati on Decision Day.
The draw leaves Atlanta in 6th place in the Eastern Conference with 51 points through 34 games. After the dust settles, the Five Stripes’ first playoff opponent will be Columbus Crew who finished third in the East with 57 points.
Ronald Hernandez for Brooks Lennon was the only change to Atlanta United’s strongest lineup. Jamal Thiare features on the bench after going through concussion protocol following the 1-1 draw against Columbus a few weeks back. Although Ozzie Alonso and Tyler Wolff returned to training this week, neither made the matchday squad. Another notable absence: Santiago Sosa, who has been excluded from the gameday roster for the fifth match in a row.
Despite its frequent road struggles, Atlanta United seemed very confident and dominant throughout the first half. It controlled possession 55.5% to Cincinnati’s 45.5% and used it to create several great chances.
One of those chances became the opener when Thiago Almada played Saba Lobjanidze through on the right side so the Georgian could cut it back to Giorgos Giakoumakis who scored his 16th goal of the season.
Almada Saba GG— x - Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) October 21, 2023
That's 1️⃣6️⃣ GOALS for our TANK! pic.twitter.com/XH0MwGiJXp
Dominque Badji answered back in the 25th minute after drilling home a cross played into the six-yard box. The Senegalese forward tied the game 1-1 with his 5th goal of the season.
The Five Stripes regained the lead after an Almada cross found Giakoumakis who touched it over Roman Celentano to reestablish Atlanta’s lead. The Greek striker scored his 17th goal of the season in just over 1700 minutes.
But Atlanta couldn’t hold on until halftime as Lucho Acosta beat Caleb Wiley in an aerial duel to head home another equalizer in first-half stoppage time. The goal was the Argentine’s 17th of the season.
The Five Stripes seemed to be carrying over their rhythm from the first half, but a massive wrench was thrown into the plans when Thiago Almada was sent off in the 51st minute with a second yellow card. The expulsion came after the Argentine seemed to kick a Cincinnati player who didn’t have the ball. He will miss Atlanta United’s first playoff game.
Although the match truly had little at stake for either team, the road point should encourage the players and fans. Atlanta United played a very dominant first half where it created many dangerous chances. Sure, Cincinnati started gaining control when Atlanta went down a man, but that didn’t stop the Five Stripes from attacking and trying to get the edge.
Of course, there’s some concern in the defensive third. Both goals conceded were fairly preventable. Those combined with a silly red card led to Atlanta United losing control of a game that it could’ve (and probably should’ve) won.
What did you think of the match? Let us know in the comments below.