PREVIEW| FC Cincinnati take on Atlanta United FC looking to snap losing skid

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Amid an uncharacteristic losing streak (the likes of one the club hasn't seen in nearly two years), FC Cincinnati is looking to continue their streak of success against Atlanta United FC and earn a result on the road for the third consecutive season. 

On the road for a second game in a row, part of a stretch of four road fixtures in five games, The Orange and Blue are looking to shake the unfamiliar feeling of losing by focusing on their structure, routine and consistency in training. 

"The group is not accustomed to losing games," FCC Head Coach Pat Noonan said in his prematch press conference Thursday in regards to the winning standard they've set for themselves. "Sometimes, when you lose a game, you see different things in the aftermath of that. I think the trainings have been good...this is a pretty mature group and I think they're all able to analyze their own performances and conduct and say, 'Am I doing enough?' And so that's always great as a coach if you have players that recognize it and can own it.

"So, for me, it's more about the management side of it in these moments where you just try to have conversations with guys to see where players are at. Good, bad, indifferent, just make sure that you connect with them in ways where it's not… we're not all of a sudden a bad team. We've had a bad little stretch here. But there's also enough good things within this stretch of a couple losses, and maybe not our best performances, where we're still in games, we're still competing in a good way… and I think the conversations have been good."

Last season, FC Cincinnati was undefeated in the match following a loss, and the last time they dropped consecutive games was May 2022. They have never lost three straight since Pat Noonan took over as head coach. While The Orange and Blue have not earned the results they've come to expect from themselves, and have had frustrating moments in the performances, Noonan reiterated that he felt there were positive signs to look forward with.

"Our on-the-ball spacing (and) decision-making in how we wanted to break pressure got better," Noonan said of the bright spots from last Saturday's match with CF Montréal. We're still struggling in front of goal, but there's still improvement in the game….Based on what's being asked of them in trying to make adjustments, I do think these guys are doing some good things to get back into games or to try to find ways to improve." 

FC Cincinnati enters the match still very much in the hunt for the Eastern Conference and the Supporters Shield. With 12 points, FCC sits three points behind the East-leading Inter Miami CF and New York Red Bulls but has a game in hand over the South Beach side. A win on the road over fellow Eastern Conference contender Atlanta United FC would represent the fourth point-earning result on the road this season out of five matches. 

Saturday's match also represents the season's final matchup scheduled to be played on an artificial playing surface. This season, FCC is 1-0-1 in games played on turf and can continue a winning streak that started in 2023, when The Orange and Blue went undefeated.  

FC CINCINNATI at Atlanta United FC – Saturday, April 20, 2024 – 7:30 p.m. ET – Mercedes-Benz Stadium

HOW TO WATCH

Stream:MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
TV Talent (English): Steve Cangialosi (PxP), Danny Higginbotham (Analyst)
TV Talent (Spanish): Oscar Salazar (PXP) & Jamie Macias (Analysis)

Radio: ESPN 1530

Radio Talent: Tom Gelehrter (PXP), Ray Gaddis (Analyst)

Be sure to follow @FCCincinnati on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for live updates from the game.

All-time versus Atlanta United FC

FC Cincinnati is looking to close the gap all-time with Atlanta United. Since joining MLS in 2019, FCC has a 2-5-5 record against the Georgian club. FCC earned just one win over Atlanta from 2019 to 2022, but since Pat Noonan took over as head coach of The Orange and Blue, FCC is undefeated with a 1-0-3 record. 

In the trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium last season, FCC earned a vital result in their trophy-winning campaign, scoring twice after the 75th minute to snag a 2-1 victory from a losing position. 

The matchup with Atlanta United FC will be the 13th most in club history, all in league play. The 13th matchup will be the most against any regular season opponent thanks to an additional league matchup in 2020 during MLS is Back in Orlando, Florida. Cincinnati’s five draws against Atlanta are also the club’s most regular season ties against any opponent (CLB and DC, 4 each).

FC CINCINNATI NOTES

Georgia Peach – FCC defender Miles Robinson makes his return to Atlanta United FC after playing seven seasons with The Five Stripes. Robinson was the clubs first ever MLS SuperDraft pick, going second out of Syracuse University, and played 123 MLS matches with the club before departing for FC Cincinnati.

Georgia native Alec Kann also returns to his old club and home state after making his 2024 debut last week against CF Montréal. Kann joined the club in 2017 for its inaugural season and started 18 games that season. The Decatur native would play five seasons for Atlanta before joining FCC in 2022.

On the (artificial) Fairway –  FCC will again be on an artificial playing surface for the third time in MLS play, marking the third and final time this regular season FCC will have to account for the turf field. Since 2022, FCC is undefeated on artificial playing surfaces, earning a 2-0-7 record in nine matches including a win earlier this year at New England Revolution’s Gillette Stadium. Prior to 2022, FCC was 1-6-1 on turf, and 0-4-0 record at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  

Acosta loves ATL – FC Cincinnati captain Luciano Acosta has eight career goals against Atlanta United FC in 13 combined starts between his time with FCC and D.C. United. His eight goals are the most against an MLS opponent in his career, and his three with FCC represent the most against Atlanta in club history. 

Top Form – Yuya Kubo equaled his MLS high three goals with his 58 minute strike against CF Montréal last weekend, leveling his tally from 2020 where he had three in 19 appearances. In 127 appearances across all-competitions, Kubo has ten goals and nine assists and is one of just three players to appear in all eight FCC MLS matches this season (joining Acosta and Pavel Bucha).

In the Booth – Former FC Cincinnati defender and 2023 Supporters Shield winner Ray Gaddis will join the FC Cincinnati radio booth for the first time, calling the game as an analyst on ESPN 1530. Gaddis, who made over 270 career MLS appearances, including 51 with The Orange and Blue, started 15 games for FCC in 2023 and came on as an important sub in the Supporters Shield clinching win against Toronto FC in the 85th minute at BMO Field.

SCOUTING Atlanta United (3-2-3, 11 points, 6th in Eastern Conference, W-W-W-D-D)

Atlanta United FC is expecting some much-needed reinforcements this week in anticipation of their matchup with The Orange and Blue. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that three notable players, striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, winger Xande Silva and centerback Stian Gregersen, have all returned to the training grounds in preparation for the weekend fixture with FCC. Their availability remains unconfirmed, but their selection would definitively alter the match's complexion. 

Giakoumakis, a Greek national team mainstay, leads Atlanta with five goals despite being absent for the club's last two matches with a bone bruise and only playing four games on the season. His five finishes also rank tied for sixth in MLS. 

Argentine attacking midfielder Thiago Almada has been a mainstay on the roster again and leads the explosive offense with 25 shots (9 on-target) and 19 total attacking assists. With only one goal and one assist on the season, Almada may not light up the leaderboards quite yet. Still, his influence is clearly apparent in all phases of the game.

In net for The Five Stripes, MLS veteran Brad Guzan remains the mainstay between the posts, starting all seven matches and making 22 saves. Guzan has been the starter for Atlanta United FC since its inaugural season in MLS in 2017. Guzan has made 208 starts for ATL and 252 starts in MLS dating back to 2005 when he made his rookie debut for the now defunct Chivas USA.

On the bench for Atlanta, Gonzalo Pineda for his fourth year and third full season as head coach of the club. After starting his coaching career as an assistant in Seattle, Pineda has led Atlanta to a 102-37-30 record. This season, Pineda has battled player absence due to injury and international duty but still has The Five Stripes with a league-high +5 goal differential. 

Atlanta has some of the most notable stars in the league with Giakoumakis and Alamada. Still, FCC head coach Pat Noonan believes the depth of talent Atlanta brings may be its most formidable weapon. 

"I think the way they use you know [Brooks] Lennon on the right side in different ways you know, specifically with the ball, shows his value. You know, he's on the flank, he's coming inside as a second 6, maybe as a second 10. The runs in behind, he's a really effective piece for them," Noonan said Thursday. "[Tristan] Muyumba is a nice new addition…we saw him last year and you know, the ground cover, the on the ball quality. I think he's somebody that's very important. And then there's some new faces, [Noah] Cobb, [Bartosz] Slisz ...these are some new faces now that you're starting to get a little bit more familiar with."