FC Cincinnati 2

PREVIEW | FC Cincinnati 2 continue late season playoff push with road trip against Atlanta United 2


FC Cincinnati 2 hit the road for their first trip to Kennesaw, Georgia on Saturday, Sept. 2 as they take on Atlanta United 2 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in a crucial match for both sides’ playoff hopes as the end of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season approaches. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. ET and can be streamed live on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV App.


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Saturday’s match will be the second ever-meeting between the two sides following Atlanta’s expansion into MLS NEXT Pro at the start of the 2023 season. The Orange and Blue are 0-0-1 against Atlanta.

FC Cincinnati 2 earned two points in a shootout win against Atlanta United 2 on May 25 at Scudamore Field at NKU Soccer Stadium. Atlanta’s Karim Tmimi opened the scoring two minutes into the match before Erik Centeno was sent off with a red card just before the hour mark. Ben Stitz brought the match level in the 73rd minute to force the extra time shootout. 

Paul Walters saved Nick Firmino’s first penalty for Atlanta while Cincinnati converted on their first three attempts. It was Walters who ended the match with his second shootout save against Toni Tiente.

Atlanta United 2 looked a team poised to challenge for a postseason spot in their inaugural season in MLS NEXT Pro, winning three of their first six and picking up quality results against Orlando City B and Chicago Fire FC II. But Atlanta’s playoff hopes are in serious jeopardy after losing five of their last six matches and dropping to 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, 10 points off the final playoff spot in the east.

Atlanta continue to rely on star forward Nick Firmino in the attacking third as the forward sits fourth in the Golden Boot Race with 14 goals on the year. No other Atlanta player has scored more than five goals. Firmino has also taken on the role of playmaker, pacing Atlanta with five assists, and ranking third on the team in key passes (13).

Kofi Twumasi leads the Atlanta backline, making 23 appearances this year, nine more than any other Atlanta defender. He ranks second in the league in interceptions (61) and ranks top ten in tackles (37). Despite Twumasi’s efforts, Atlanta have conceded multiple goals in eight of their last nine matches, allowing 25 goals since June 25.

Four goalkeepers have featured for Atlanta United 2 this season with Justin Garces and Vicente Reyes leading the way with nine appearances each. Graces leads the team with 27 saves but has conceded 27 goals while Reyes has allowed eight goals and holds a 79 save percentage.

SEASON ON THE LINE – Both FC Cincinnati 2 and Atlanta United 2 have everything to play for Saturday night at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. A regulation win for either side would see the other eliminated from playoff contention. A penalty shootout, regardless of the result, would keep both teams alive in the chase. Only two teams have been eliminated from the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs, Inter Miami CF II and LAFC2.

HAVE A DAY, JESUS – Jesus Castellano led FC Cincinnati 2’s attack at TQL Stadium last Sunday in a 2-0 win against New York City FC II. Castellano scored the Orange and Blue’s opener for his third goal of the season and added an assist on Malik Pinto’s second half goal for his fourth assist of the year. Castellano played 90 minutes last time out against Atlanta.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER SAVE – Paul Walters heroics in net against New York City FC II resulted in the second clean sheet of the season for FC Cincinnati 2. Walters made seven saves in the contest, including a saved penalty in the 87th minute to deny MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot leader Matt Myers of his 17th goal of the year. Walters now has 64 saves on the year, tied for fourth across MLS NEXT Pro goalkeepers, in just 15 appearances.

ROAD TRIP – Three of Cincinnati’s last four regular season MLS NEXT Pro matches come on the road, beginning this weekend in Atlanta. The Orange and Blue earned their first road win of the season against Philadelphia Union II on August 13, a 2-1 win at Subaru Park and will look to pick up their second road win in three away matches.