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Breaking down Atlanta United’s opponent: Cincinnati

March 8, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta United midfielder Emerson Hyndman defends against FC Cincinnati in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
March 8, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta United midfielder Emerson Hyndman defends against FC Cincinnati in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Atlanta United will play Cincinnati at 9 a.m. Thursday in the second game of the group stage in the MLS tournament in Orlando. Both teams lost their first games:

Cincinnati

Last year's record: 24 points; 12 at home, 12 on the road.

Last year's meetings: 1-1 draw March 10 at home and 3-1 win Sept. 18 away.

This year's record: 0-3-0 with minus-6 goal difference.

This year's meeting: 2-1 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Analysis: This was one of the worst teams in MLS history last season, its first in MLS. But it started to gain some traction in the final one-third after ownership realized it had vested itself in the wrong general manager and wrong coach, who selected many players that everyone else could see weren't going to work, especially for the price paid to acquire.

New general manager Gerard Nijkamp seems to have a long-term plan, which includes hiring Jaap Stam as manager.

The team added former Atlanta United striker Brandon Vazquez, who with consistent minutes has the potential to be a very good player in MLS, and Juergen Locadia. It added former Philadelphia midfielder Haris Medunjanin, who isn’t the quickest cat, but can unlock a defense with a pass and is good at free kicks. The club added Swedish centerback Tom Pettersson, who should be an upgrade on the enigmatic Kendall Waston. It also added versatile defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

But things aren’t looking much better this season. There’s not much Cincinnati could do to stop Columbus’ first goal, which came on an excellent free kick by Lucas Zelarayan. But there’s a lot they could have done to stop the next three goals.

"The message is that we need to keep on going and that's a simple thing," Stam was quoted as saying in the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I think if you're working in preseason then it takes time to get everything right at the first game. This tournament, it looks like everything is positive and we go into a tournament and play easy games but that's not the case because it's a preseason. It's like the fourth week for ourselves, you know, joining the club, working with the players. Players need to get used to everything, as well. You need to get fit. You need to get used to playing games as well. Before this game, we hadn't played 90 minutes. Some of them now have. We need to get them back into fitness. Other players, the feel a little bit stiff so we need to get them ready.  "Like I said, we're the team into sort of a preseason. It's step by step. Of course you want to do things very quick, very fast but that's not going to happen most of the time."

Doug's thoughts: Even without Josef Martinez, this should be an important three points for Atlanta United.

Cincinnati’s last lineup (vs. Columbus)

22 G Przemyslaw Tyton

12 D Saad Abdul-Salaam

2 D Kendall Waston

3 D Tom Pettersson

4 D Greg Garza

6 M Haris Medunjanin

31 M Kekuta Manneh

24 M Frankie Amaya

11 M Siem de Jong

7 M Yuya Kubo

9 F Adrien Regattin

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Atlanta United’s last lineup (vs. New York Red Bulls)

1 G Brad Guzan

2 D Franco Escobar

12 D Miles Robinson

6 D Fernando Meza

11 M Brooks Lennon

29 M Mohammed Adams

20 M Emerson Hyndman

21 M George Bello

15 F Manuel Castro

10 F Gonzalo Martínez

9 F Matheus Rossetto