Atlanta United drew 1-1 with MLS newcomers FC Cincinnati Sunday Night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of 70,382 fans. There was heightened anticipation for Atlanta’s rabid home base to get their first glimpse of the new squad, new manager, and a new chapter of football in the city.
Last year’s MLS MVP Josef Martinez scored his first goal of the season, his 51st in MLS regular season, and his 55th overall with Atlanta. Julian Gressel sent a beautiful through ball into the right side of the box and Martinez took care of it from there, sending it home in the near-side netting.
But it was after Martinez’s goal that the problems began. The attack fell pretty flat after that and Atlanta saw a few chances but they were either a step behind or a ball was too long. Even for an offense that seemed flat in the second half, they still fired off 27 crosses and forced 23 clearances from Cincinnati’s defense while holding 66% possession.
FC Cincinnati’s one shot on target was the goal that came late in the 86′. Kenny Saief sent a beautiful ball to Roland Lamah who infiltrated Atlanta’s back line and bested Brad Guzan beating the keeper 1 v 1.
The best part of the night was the stadium’s standing ovation for Greg Garza being substituted into the match. The former five stripe was instrumental in Atlanta’s MLS Cup victory and dominance last season.
When the final whistle blew, the stadium erupted with boos. The fans were clearly disappointed. “I didn’t think it was fair because everybody worked very hard and gave 100 percent,” said the newly appointed Frank de Boer. “(FC Cincinnati) had their first chance in the 85th minute, and I know it’s very hard to concede a goal like that, but defensively we were standing very well. Leandro (González Pirez), Miles (Robinson), and Parky (Michael Parkhurst) did fantastic, and Jeff (Larentowicz) in front of them. I don’t think it was fair to the team.”
The Dutchman is definitely on the hot seat as he’s seen a single win in five matches. Today ties the length of his last stint when he managed Crystal Palace. It’s been a tough go for the club in 2019, having to pull off a Champions League miracle in Kennesaw two weeks ago to playing multiple matches back-to-back to hoping for another miracle this Wednesday against Monterrey. The transition hasn’t been smooth. The captain Michael Parkhurst was willing to elaborate on that:
“Yeah, it’s been a difficult introduction for Frank (de Boer), for the team. You go from one system to another, and you start off with a very difficult tournament, a good Costa Rican team. They’re not a powerhouse, but they’re a good team. And we play away to a team that’s always given us fits and a very good D.C. team. And then we play away to one of the best teams in North America. So, that’s an extremely tough run of games. So, part of us was disappointed and part of us was saying, “hey, that’s a tough run of games, so we get home, we fix things tonight.” And I think that was the hope here tonight, but it didn’t go that way. So, we have to look ourselves in the mirror like I said. It’s been a tough transition for everybody, but we need to make sure we stay strong as a group. We keep the belief and we’ve got time to turn things around, but we want to do it as quickly as possible obviously.”
Shots: 10-4 Atlanta
Shots on Target: 4-1 Atlanta
Corner kicks: 5-0 Atlanta
Fouls committed: 8-6 Atlanta
Clearances: 23-9 Cincinnati
Offside: 8-0 Cincinnati
Possession: 66-34 Atlanta
Passing Accuracy: 86-74 Atlanta
Atlanta United returns to action Wednesday, March 13 (8 p.m. EST, Yahoo! Sports, Univision Deportes) in the second leg of its Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal tie against C.F. Monterrey at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They’ll have to work out the kinks and hopefully try something new before this spirals out of control.
Photo: Courtesy of ATLUTD