Atlanta United vs FC Cincinnati

Josef Martinez and Atlanta United look to get back on track when they take on the MLS' newest side FC Cincinnati on Sunday, March 10th at 5:00 PM EST at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. The broadcast is available on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and Watch ESPN.

How to Watch

What: FC Cincinnati at Atlanta United

Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA

When: Sunday, March 10th at 5:00 PM EST

How (TV): ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN

FC Cincinnati (Away)

Head Coach: Alan Koch {Current: 0-0-1 (0) | Top Scorer: Leonardo Bertone (1) }

Key Players: Fanendo Adi, Kendall Watson, Greg Garza, Nick Hagglund

Expected Starting XI (4-5-1): Tyton, Deplange - Waston - Hagglund - Powell, Lamah - Ulloa - Bertone - Bone - Alexander, Adi

FC Cincinnati are the newest side in the MLS' 24th season and are the leagues 24th club. Planning to rely on experience MLS veterans like Kendall Watson, Greg Garza, and Fanendo Ali, FC Cincinnati are planning on having a stubborn defensive team to make up for their lack of attacking talent.

With as clean a slate as a team can get in the MLS, Cincy has nowhere to go but up. They have athleticism and size at the point of attack and have a number of experience defenders to help limit the opportunities of the opposition.

Unfortunately for FC Cincinnati that defensive mindset backfired on them when they played the Seattle Sounders in the first game of the season. They gave up 64% possession to the Sounders and despite scoring the opening goal, allowed four to go in the net by the 87th minute of the match.

Atlanta United (Home)

Head Coach: Gerardo Martino {Current: 0-0-1 (0) | Top Scorer: n/a}

Key Players: Josef Martinez, Pity Martinez, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez

Expected Starting XI (3-4-3): Guzan, Gonzalez-Pirez - Parkhurst - Robinson, Shea - Nagbe - Remedi - Ambrose, Villalba - Martinez - Barco

There aren't many sports in the world that force a championship team to rebuild the following season but leave it to the global transfer market to force Atlanta United into such a rebuild.

The changes that need to be made aren't stark, but losing some key players hurt Atlanta going into this season. Losing Miguel Almiron, Greg Garza, and Chris McCann are blows to Atlanta both on and off the pitch. Adding Pity Martinez was a solid move, but acquaintances need to be made.

Such acquaintances and more importantly team play need to be built, evidenced by Atlanta's opening game loss to DC United. Over the course of the season, Atlanta United will likely be fine. They are a talented club that still maintains the experience to put together a solid run. But time will only make the team grow closer, something early-season MLS and CONCACAF games will encourage.

What's At Stake?

There is no history on this matchup, considering this is the inaugural season of FC Cincinnati and thus will be the first match between them and Atlanta United.

A win for Atlanta United would gain them their first points of the season.

FC Cincinnati are also looking for their first points of the season when they take on the reigning champions.

Questions to answer

Why has FC Cincinnati adopted such a difficult system?

How can Atlanta improve their finishing?

We are going to compare FC Cincinnati and Atlanta United in an attempt to see who has the advantage in this matchup.

FC Cincinnati Is Trying To Fit In

Coming up from a lower league in the United States is different than in other continental leagues. Teams in Europe and South America face off regularly with higher-quality sides through cup competitions and relegated clubs. FC Cincinnati is playing an MLS-level system with not many familiar pieces.

For a team with not many attacking options, playing with additional men going forward is not an awful idea. The alternating "wingbacks" force defenses to adjust to deep crosses while also being wary of the central options in the midfield and at the point of attack. Unfortunately, FC Cincinnati don't look to have the correct personnel. At least not from their first match.

Their first match wasn't promising. While they scored a goal, there were a number of ill-advised passes up the field and to nobody at all. If only they had a creative mid-fielder to unlock the opposing defenses, but at the moment they are relegated to playing the long-ball forward to wingbacks who are bursting forward. Hopefully, the Cincinnati players' legs are up to the task until they are settled.

Atlanta Lost, But Controlled Most Of Their Last Match

Despite a 2-0 loss in their opening match, Atlanta showed a lot of promise. They maintained their discipline and skill from the back and an altered formation showed off some new dynamics to the Atlanta attack. Unfortunately, the end product was not there for Atlanta.

The numbers are actually quite baffling. Atlanta controlled the ball 56% of the time during the match and put in an incredible 126 passes in the final third. Whether it be from the wing or centrally, Atlanta's attack was coming in from all angles. Unfortunately, nobody, including star striker Josef Martinez could finish.

Head coach Frank de Boer made light of the situation, stating that the lack of finishing is due to early-season form and not an example of what's to come. What is more important to de Boer is the build-up play, which is true. Last year Atlanta was almost too reliant on Almiron to create chances. This year the attack with spread out, with capable wingbacks overlapping with wingers and new acquisition Pity Martinez creating chances out of the movement. There's a lot to be happy about in a loss.

FC Cincinnati Roster Notes

FC Cincinnati have no roster changes of note.

Atlanta United Roster Notes

D Franco Escobar - 16 Jan 2019 - OUT (Fractured Clavicle) was said to return in 6-8 weeks, Escobar is still undergoing rehabilitation and has no timetable for a return.

Head-to-Head: Nick Hagglund (CIN) vs Brek Shea (ATL)

Look no further than the defense of these teams to see where the impact will be made. For Atlanta United, the defense is used loosely as wingback Brek Shea will look to add a new dynamic in attack. On the other side, Cincinnati native Nick Hagglund needs to be the rock in the back for Cincinnati's strategy to succeed.

Nick Hagglund

Centre Back | 185cm, 87kg, (6-1, 191lbs)| United States | Exp. 6 Years

95 Apps | 73 Starts | 0.08 Gls/90 | 0.14 G+A/90 | 0.21 SoT | 0.93 Fls | 0.16 Crd

Nick Hagglund, a Cincinnati native, joined the expansion side FC Cincinnati this summer in return for allocation money from Toronto FC. His experience on a cup winning side was invaluable to Alan Koch and it hopefully pays off. Hagglund is an athletic defensive player who has proved his ability to pass the ball out of the back with Toronto. While FC Cincinnati are playing a difficult and disciplined system in their first year, the results, if it pays off, will be massive. Hagglund will be at the center of that.

Brek Shea

Winger | 191cm, 79kg (6-3, 174lb)| United States | Exp. 12 Years

215 Apps | 154 Starts | 0.18 Gls/90 | 0.34 G+A/90 | 0.64 SoT | 1.18 Fls | 0.22 Crd

In a previous midweek performance against Herediano Brek Shea was impressive. A massive wingback, Shea has the size to do his defensive duties but the skill to provide some options in the attacking third. Like the rest of his team in the last match, opportunities were made but not taken. He will have to show that he can play effectively with new man Pity Martinez if he hopes to keep his place at wingback. For all the passes made in the attacking third, Shea can't send in crosses blindly hoping his teammates will get on them. He will have to be more diligent.

FC Cincinnati at Atlanta United Predictions and Odds

The oddsmakers have Atlanta United (-1.5) favored over FC Cincinnati (+1.5), with a +115 for Atlanta and a -150 for FC Cincinnati.

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