Gonzalo Pineda is treating Wednesday’s visit of FC Cincinnati as a “life or death” game for Atlanta United as they attempt to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Five Stripes picked up a first win under new head coach Pineda at the second attempt on Friday with a 3-0 victory against Orlando City SC.
That win leaves Atlanta just outside the Eastern Conference’s top seven ahead of their encounter with Cincinnati, who picked up a rare win last time out against Toronto FC.
Pineda, who was brought in as Gabriel Heinze’s permanent successor, is aware of the importance of building some momentum at this stage in the campaign.
“That is the message. It was a great victory against Orlando. We celebrated, recovered the next day and Sunday it was about working on Cincinnati,” he said.
“We are planning everything – every little last thing – as if we have to win this game as if its life or death against Cincinnati. I think we’re going to be prepared for them.”
Cincinnati’s 2-0 win against fellow strugglers Toronto ended a 12-match winless run and was also the Orange and Blue’s first victory at their new TQL Stadium home, four months after moving in.
Jaap Stam’s side remain well off the playoff pace, but the Dutchman is pleased to have lifted the doom and gloom that has enveloped the club in recent weeks.
“It’s nice. The fans turn up every game and are always positive, so it’s good to get the win. We are very happy about that,” Stam said. “That’s how it needs to be now.
“The win gives us a good feeling. It’s great to see all the fans involved and it’s what we all wanted.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Atlanta United – Josef Martinez
The Five Stripes welcomed some key men back against Orlando and their international players will also be available for this match, including Venezuela striker Martinez. He has scored four goals in his last six appearances for United and will surely slot straight back into the frontline here as Atlanta chase a sixth win in seven matches.
FC Cincinnati – Brenner
Brazilian forward Brenner opened the scoring for Cincinnati in their win against Toronto to take his tally for the season to six goals in 22 outings. That is just one goal shy of Allan Cruz’s club record of seven goals in a single season, set two years ago.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– FC Cincinnati’s only win over Atlanta United came in the MLS is Back Tournament in July 2020. Atlanta has won three of the other five meetings (D2), including two wins and a draw at home.
– Atlanta United’s 3-0 victory over Orlando City on Friday was just the second win by three or more goals for the Five Stripes since the start of last season (4-0 at D.C. United in October 2020) after winning a league-high 17 games by at least three goals in the team’s first three MLS seasons (including playoffs).
– FC Cincinnati ended its club-record 12-match winless run with a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday, the second 2-0 win Cincinnati has recorded over Toronto this season. Cincinnati has just one other win by a two-goal margin since April 2019 (2-0 vs Red Bulls in July 2020).
– Since the beginning of August, Ezequiel Barco has been involved in seven of Atlanta United’s 12 goals (4 goals, 3 assists). Barco had contributed to just four goals (1 goal, 3 assists) in his previous 21 appearances for Atlanta United dating back to the MLS is Back Tournament last July.
– Luciano Acosta has scored six goals in nine career matches against Atlanta United (5 with D.C. United, 1 with FC Cincinnati). No player has scored more goals against Atlanta in the team’s MLS history.