Atlanta United will look to push themselves into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference on Wednesday when they host league-leading FC Cincinnati.
Having recently played through a rough patch that saw them lose two MLS games and fall out of the Leagues Cup group stage, Atlanta (11-7-8, 41 points) has been in form and could crack the conference’s coveted top four with a win.
Since league play resumed, the Five Stripes defeated the Seattle Sounders 2-0 on the road and trounced Nashville SC 4-0 at home.
Midfielder Thiago Almada scored a goal and had two assists in Saturday’s victory, while new signings Xande Silva and Saba Lobjanidze scored in their home debuts.
“(Almada) is a very high-quality player. It’s very easy to play with a player like him,” Lobjanidze said afterward. “I trained only once with him and played only 20 minutes with him today, but I was really enjoying playing with him.”
Under the 2023 MLS Cup Playoff format, the top four in each conference earn home advantage in a best-of-three series before advancing to single-match knockout stages. Atlanta sits sixth, while Cincinnati (16-3-6, 54 points) leads the MLS.
Cincinnati has the single-season points record within reach as they chase down the New England Revolution’s 73-point mark from 2021. Meanwhile, a win on Wednesday and a loss from Charlotte FC could see Cincinnati become the first team to clinch a playoff spot.
“It’s nice from the standpoint of ‘you know you’re in,’ but that was never the goal, to reach the playoffs at a certain point in the season. It’s to be in a spot like we’re in now at the very end,” head coach Pat Noonan said. “It’s positioning we’re focused on.”
The match also features a clash of top scorers as Atlanta’s Giorgos Giakoumakis and Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta each have 12 goals and are among a four-way tie for second in the MLS.
The two sides have not met since Aug. 13, 2022, when they played to a 2-2 draw at TQL Stadium, with Atlanta goals from Almada and Andrew Gutman canceled out by strikes by Brandon Vasquez and Brenner.
—Field Level Media
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