Atlanta United needs one more win to have a chance to pursue a trophy

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan (left) and forward Adam Jahn celebrate a 2-0 victory over Cincinnati Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan (left) and forward Adam Jahn celebrate a 2-0 victory over Cincinnati Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

On to Columbus, Ohio.

Atlanta United’s season continues to have purpose because it defeated Cincinnati 2-0 on Sunday to keep alive its chances of competing in the MLS playoffs. The victory broke its six-game winless streak and sets up Sunday’s finale at Columbus. If the Five Stripes can defeat the Crew, which is one of the best teams in the East, it will qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season as long as Chicago loses one of its two remaining games and/or Montreal doesn’t win its finale at D.C. United.

“It’s been a bit of a crazy season,” interim manager Stephen Glass said. “We don’t make the rules. We are where we are. We could have been better at times, but I do feel if we get in the playoffs, we can do something.”

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If results go its way, Atlanta United still can’t finish higher than ninth. If it finishes ninth, it will play the eighth-seeded team, which is currently New York Red Bulls. If it finishes 10th, it will play the seventh-seeded team, which is currently Nashville. Both teams have 29 points. They trail sixth-place New England by three points.

The key to defeating Columbus was the same as it was against Cincinnati as it has been all season: score first.

Atlanta United took the lead on a goal by Adam Jahn in the eighth minute after fine work by Marcelino Moreno and Jurgen Damm, who notched his team-leading fourth assist. Atlanta United improved to 6-0-0 when it scores first.

“It’s a lot easier to win playing from ahead than from behind,” said Jahn, who has three goals this season. “I think it was all in the back of our heads, but personally, I was very cognizant of that and if we could come out and start well and score a goal first. If you look back earlier in the year when we were giving up goals in the first few minutes, and how hard it was to fight back from there. I think that’s a big key, especially going away at Columbus Sunday, we’re going to need another good start. I’m not going to say we’re going to score in the first five minutes of every game, but putting emphasis on that is important.”

Atlanta United got its second goal in the 27th minute on a penalty by Moreno — his first for the team. The penalty was won by Jon Gallagher, who started in place of Ezequiel Barco, after a good pass from George Bello.

From there, the defense mostly limited Cincinnati to harmless possessions in posting its sixth shutout.

“Columbus is a different proposition all together," Glass said. "As good as Cincinnati is on the ball, I feel like Columbus pose us different types of problems. It’s about us controlling on where we allow teams to play and when we can be aggressive with the pressure.”

Atlanta United coming games

Sunday at Columbus (11-5-5), 3:30 p.m., FSSE

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