In what was supposed to be the “easier” match of the three, Atlanta fell 1-0 to a Cincinnati side that never truly went on the offensive, even after going two-men up. The club will play their final group match against Columbus Crew SC on Tuesday, July 21 at 8:00 PM ET.

Many assumed that Atlanta United’s toughest test would be in their first match against New York Red Bulls, get an easy win against FC Cincinnati, and hopefully edge out a win over a strong Columbus Crew. Now that reality has set in, you can chuck those pre-tournament predictions out the window.

The hope that Atlanta’s second half performance against NY would spill over into todays’ match were dashed to bits after Jake Mulraney was sent off in the 26′ minute. What I can say is that they played better down a man and attacked as if numbers didn’t matter.

The closest chance in the first half for the five stripes came from Pity Martinez. His free kick effort put keeper Przemyslaw Tyton on notice as he was forced to make an extended save. Substitute Edgar Castillo followed up with a left-footed strike from inside the box but Tyton handled that nicely.

Just when things were starting to take shape for Atlanta, Ezequiel Barco drew a penalty just before halftime that was rescinded after VAR review.

In the 76′ minute, FC Cincinnati’s Frankie Amaya scored the only goal of the match, a howling long-range effort into the top corner past a leaping Brad Guzan.

To add further insult to injury, JJ Williams saw all of nine minutes of the match before he was shown red heading into stoppage time. So the match ended with a second-straight loss, no goals, and nine men on the pitch. The roster was full of changes today and the most notable was the absence of George Bello, the wonder-kid who nearly drew level in the match against Red Bulls. “I said that we were going to do rotations and he’s still young and had a hard game vs. Red Bulls”, said Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer. “So we wanted to prepare him for the next game. I told him to focus on Columbus Crew and be fresh for that.”

Another notable move was after the red card in the 26′ minute, the Dutchman sacrificed his striker Adam Jahn. He hasn’t shown much confidence in Jahn since his move to ATL and many thought starting this match would benefit his confidence. “Normally, you are going to drop deeper and Adam is not a player that will beat defenders with his speed. So, you have to have players that can play 1v1. Yes, on set pieces he can still be dangerous, but probably you have to drop deeper. For me the only choice was to take him out,” said de Boer.

Atlanta United sit at the bottom of Group E with 0 points (0-2-0) in the MLS is Back Tournament. In regular season play, they’re now 2-2-0, totaling six points from four matches. In order to move on, they’ll need a convincing win against Columbus and a little help from rival NY against Cincinnati.

-Jon J.

Photos: Courtesy of ATL UTD

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