United FC-FC Cincinnati Preview
Atlanta United are relieved to have the opportunity to move on quickly from Gabriel Heinze's short, unsuccessful stint in charge of the club.
Under Tata Martino in 2018, Atlanta were MLS Cup champions and an example to the rest of the league in how to run an expansion franchise.
But attempts to replace Martino and star midfielder Miguel Almiron have not gone entirely to plan.
It was hoped Heinze, appointed at the start of the season, would change that, but he departed at the weekend due to "issues relating to the day-to-day."
Star striker Josef Martinez's exile did little to help Heinze's popularity, yet Atlanta must now regroup under interim coach Rob Valentino.
They play FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, a welcome swift return to action after eight games without victory.
"Job number one is to get everyone on the same page, everyone to know their roles and responsibility," Valentino said.
"We have a game Wednesday. That's the best thing - there's games. We can get right into it and hopefully get positive results.
"I told the boys I hope I bring the human element. In terms of tactics, I'll do my best. We'll all do our best to turn the results around - take more risks, create more chances, score more goals and win games.
"But ultimately, we're dealing with humans. We're dealing with people."
Cincinnati - a point and a place behind Atlanta - will also be keen to get going again after losing a nine-goal thriller in the closing stages at CF Montreal.
FC Cincinnati - Brenner
The Montreal game was not much fun for the Cincy defense, but Designated Player Brenner finally seemed to find his feet. After one goal and one assist in 11 appearances in MLS, he netted twice from two shots against Montreal. That must be a platform for further improvement.
Atlanta United - Josef Martinez
Injury restricted Martinez to 69 minutes in the whole of last season and he has only started four games so far in 2021, forced to the fringes by Heinze. Under Valentino, he will surely get the opportunity to reclaim his place as Atlanta's leading man.
- FC Cincinnati have won only one of the five all-time meetings between the sides, a 1-0 victory at the MLS is Back Tournament last July. Atlanta have won three of the other four matches (D1), including the lone meeting in Cincinnati, a 2-0 victory in September 2019.
- FC Cincinnati lost 5-4 to CF Montreal on Saturday, the highest scoring match in club history. It was just the 11th time a team have lost a match in which they scored four goals in MLS history.
- Atlanta United's club-record winless run extended to eight games after a 1-0 loss to New England on Saturday (D5 L3). The Five Stripes have not lost consecutive matches on this streak, not doing so since a three-match losing streak in October 2020.
- FC Cincinnati scored twice in the opening 15 minutes against CF Montreal on Saturday, taking their total to seven goals in the opening quarter hour of matches this season, accounting for 44 per cent of the club's goals in 2021. No other MLS team have scored even 30 per cent of their goals in the first 15 minutes this season.
- Atlanta United have won the possession battle in all 13 of their matches this season and have held a league-high 59.7 per cent of the ball this season, the most in MLS. Only 19.9 per cent of the Five Stripes' passes have been in the attacking third, however, the fewest in MLS.
Updated July 20, 2021