Atlanta United will play on Wednesday in the thin air of Mexico City against Club America in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinals series.
Playing a team that preferred to sit deep, Atlanta United dominated possession (57.8%) and duels (57.1), a stat that de Boer emphasizes. Though they were outshot by Cincinnati (14-8), they matched them in shots on target (4).
De Boer made two changes, both out of necessity, to the starting 11 compared to last week’s 2-1 win at Nashville. Playing in a 3-4-3 formation, Brad Guzan started in goal with a centerback trio of Wyke, in his first start with the team, Fernando Meza and Anton Walkes. Brooks Lennon started at right wingback with Jake Mulraney on the left. Eric Remedi and Hyndman started in central midfield with Barco and Pity Martinez ahead of them. Lastly, Adam Jahn started at striker in place of the injured Josef Martinez.
After a mostly dull 16 minutes, Atlanta United began to find space down the right, defender Greg Garza’s side. A shot by Barco was saved. A shot by Jahn went over the bar.
And then, in the 21st minute, Pity Martinez, after a pass from Lennon, beat several defenders down the right and put a cross into the mouth of the goal where Barco was there to slide it in for a 1-0 lead. It was Barco’s second goal and Pity Martinez’s first assist. Barco celebrated by holding up seven fingers to represent Josef Martinez’s jersey number.
“It was 90% his goal,” de Boer said of Pity Martinez. “It was really nice to see.”
Atlanta United lost yet another defender, and the second in as many games, when Wyke was forced off in the 43rd minute. He and Cincinnati’s Jurgen Locadia bumped heads earlier in the half. George Campbell came on for Wyke. It was Campbell’s MLS debut. Last week, Franco Escobar was forced off at halftime with a muscular injury. Wyke came on in his debut. Centerback Miles Robinson and fullback Edgar Castillo are also out with injuries. Castillo is close to returning.
“He looked a little bit nervous but he can also be proud of his debut,” de Boer said of Campbell. “Look forward to hopefully a lot more.”
Atlanta United increased its lead to 2-0 on a goal from Hyndman, his second in two games, in the 55th minute. After Atlanta United passed the ball around, Hyndman moved into a pocket of space in the penalty box. Barco found him. Hyndman turned and ripped a right-footed shot into the near corner. It was Barco’s first assist this season. Pity Martinez was also given an assist.
Cincinnati cut Atlanta United’s lead to 2-1 on a knuckling shot by Yuya Kubo from 20 yards in the 64th minute. The ball’s swerve, first left and then right, left Guzan watching.
Matheus Rossetto made his debut in the 67th minute when he came on for Pity Martinez in what was a tactical move with an eye toward Wednesday’s game. Rossetto only re-joined the team for training on Friday after spending the past few days in Brazil working to secure his visa.
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