Atlanta United face off against FC Cincinnati on Thursday morning in what is a key match for both teams. Here are three things to watch for.
Atlanta United and FC Cincinnati return to action after embarrassing losses in their opening matches. Atlanta lost 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls in an overall dull showing. FC Cincinnati, meanwhile, lost 4-0 to their in-state counterparts, the Columbus Crew, in the most lopsided match of the tournament so far.
If either team wants to advance to the knockout stages, they need at least a point from this match. After their embarrassing performance in the first match of group play, compounded by a disastrous 2019 season, Cincinnati will likely fight for whatever they can get. Atlanta will approach this match with the expectation of a win and nothing less.
Here are three things to watch for on Thursday morning.
3. Midfield match up
Manager Frank de Boer decided on a 3-4-3 in Atlanta United’s first match against the New York Red Bulls. It ultimately proved an interesting decision with a perceived lack of bite in midfield. This was the result of playing central midfield duo, Emerson Hyndman and Mo Adams. Hyndman was virtually nonexistent against New York, and Adams was all over the field but had little impact on the match.
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Thursday morning might see some change at the position, especially as they face a three-man midfield in Cincinnati’s expected line up. It was clear that New York’s four-man midfield gave Atlanta plenty of trouble, and although Cincinnati do not have the same intensity, there is an inherent numbers advantage.
In order to remedy the situation, de Boer might have the team play in a 4-3-3, although a 3-5-2 is more likely. The Five Stripes could line up in a three-man midfield with two defensive midfielders and one attacking, or de Boer could play around by adding Ezequiel Barco or Pity Martinez into the midfield mix.
Regardless of the starting XI on Thursday morning, the midfield is going to be crucial in Atlanta’s quest for three points.