Here's a six-pointer that could catapult the Five Stripes into a playoff position.
Atlanta United will face FC Cincinnati in an MLS game on Saturday at TQL Stadium. The match represents yet another opportunity for the Five Stripes to climb the Eastern Conference standings and to get their first win-streak of the season.
FC Cincinnati (8-8-8) is sixth in the East with 32 points in 24 games. The Orange and Blue boast one of the most potent attacks of the league with 40 goals scored and a total expected goals of 38.4 - the third highest in the Eastern Conference. Cincinnati also have the third highest expected asssits of the league (27.3) and the seventh most goal-creating actions per 90 minutes (2.62). Their attack counts on the talents of players such as Luciano Acosta (6 goals, 9 assists), Brenner (8 goals, 4 assists), Alvaro Barreal (4 goals, 4 assists), and Golden Boot Contender (and former Atlanta United player) Brandon Vazquez (14 goals, 4 assists).
Atlanta's all-time record against FC Cincinnati is 5-3-1. When visiting, Atlanta is 2-1-1.
Cincinnati are very proficient at running down the wings and putting in a pinpoint cross into the box. Both of Cincinnati's forwards are clinical in front of goal and often score when one-on-one against the keeper.
Even though Cincinnati shine in the attacking third, their defense remains their main weakness. They have the fifth highest expected goals allowed in the league (36.9) and have allowed a whopping 43 goals. Cincinnati is also fourth worst in the league in goal-creating actions against per 90 (2.96) and fifth worst in shot-creating actions per 90 (22). Watching the film, their marking in the box is quite poor and they're sometimes dribbled past a little too easily.
FC Cincinnati Predicted XI
Atlanta United Predicted XI
How does Atlanta win?
Two words. Watch. Lucho.
Acosta is one of the best playmakers in the league right now and when you watch him play, you can clearly see why. He's capable of reading the forwards' runs and putting in a penetrating pass that usually becomes an assist. He's skillful and will wreak havoc on Atlanta's defense if they aren't careful.
The Five Stripes will have to be careful around the box as well. Lucho Acosta takes some pretty darn good free kicks and Atlanta's set piece defense... isn't ideal. Atlanta should exercise caution and avoid conceding free kicks in a potentially dangerous area.
Atlanta has also really struggled on the road this season, especially when they concede first. This is why they'll need to maintain their shape at the back and try to dictate the play as much as possible.
On the attack, Atlanta needs to get the ball into the box as much as possible. As I said explained earlier, Cincinnati does not have a great defense, so Atlanta's attacking talent needs to capitalize and create as many chances as they can.