FC Cincinnati vs. Atlanta United Prediction, Preview, and Odds - 11/7/21
Eastern Conference foes will meet in the regular-season finale on Sunday afternoon when Atlanta United visits FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium. Atlanta is still battling for playoff positioning in fifth place at 12-12-9 overall for the season after battling the New York Red Bulls to a scoreless road draw on Wednesday, with the tie hitting at +334 odds. Cincinnati has been long eliminated in last place at 4-8-21, and lost 2-0 last Saturday to the Philadelphia Union as a huge +905 underdog.
These teams have met twice already this season, producing a 1-1 draw on July 21 in Cincinnati followed by a big 4-0 home win for Atlanta in late September. Atlanta leads the all-time series 4-2-1.
Atlanta United in great position to clinch playoff berth
It’s a relatively straightforward scenario for Atlanta to clinch a spot in the postseason on Sunday, as they just have to win, draw or lose by less than eight goals after picking up a crucial midweek point on the road with the scoreless draw against the Red Bulls. Atlanta didn’t generate much throughout the night until one great scoring chance was denied in stoppage time, with most of the dangerous opportunities going to the Red Bulls in the first half.
New York had 57% of possession for the game, and the final stats for Atlanta weren’t pretty as it managed just two total shot attempts and one on target. Brad Guzan made three saves while effectively dealing with any pressure the Red Bulls generated.
“I’d say I’m half-satisfied,” head coach Gonzalo Pineda said to Atlanta’s official website. “I felt that it wasn’t the way we wanted to play. We wanted actually to have a little more possession, that was part of the game plan to have more control as always… We had a difficult game in front of us with a team that presses at a very, very high intensity, but the kids did well. I was pleased with the determination and the character of the team.”
Atlanta’s offense has picked things up since a mid-season coaching change, bringing its overall numbers to an average of 1.30 goals and 13.12 shots per game. The defense has played well this season, allowing 1.09 goals and 13.18 shots per match while keeping 10 clean sheets.
After missing nearly all of last season with a torn ACL, star Josef Martinez has been in fine form with 11 goals in just 23 matches to pace Atlanta’s offense. Ezequiel Barco leads the team with five assists while scoring seven times, and Marcelino Moreno is also having an excellent year with nine goals and four assists.
Starting midfielder Santiago Sosa is currently dealing with a lower body injury and is considered questionable. Fellow midfielder Emerson Hyndman suffered a torn ACL in June after making seven starts earlier in the year. Reserve midfielder Tyler Wolff has a sprained toe and likely won’t be available.
Nightmare season comes to an end for Cincinnati
Cincinnati is heading for a third straight last-place finish since joining MLS, and its losing streak was extended to 11 games last weekend with a 2-0 defeat at Philadelphia. The Union opened the scoring in the 11th minute before doubling the lead shortly after halftime, which was more than enough as Cincinnati never generated much of attack on the night.
Philadelphia had 52% possession and 20 total shot attempts to Cincinnati’s seven, with the visitors managing to put just two of those on target. Goaltender Kenneth Vermeer was the lone standout with five saves, including a great early stop that initially kept things scoreless.
“It’s playing for pride, we need to have a chip on our shoulder and show people we shouldn’t be in the basement of this league and that we have something to play for because although the points aren’t going to make a difference, we want to make a difference for the fans,” defender Chris Duvall said to Cincinnati’s website about the team’s motivation this week.
Cincinnati has at least flashed some ability in attack with an average of 1.09 goals and 12.0 shots per match. The defense has been the worst in MLS by a significant amount, with Cincinnati allowing 2.18 goals and 15.60 shots per game while keeping six clean sheets this year.
Brenner is the top scorer for Cincinnati this season with eight goals to go along with one assist. Luciano Acosta is having a standout campaign with seven goals and a team-high seven assists, while Alvaro Barreal has added three goals and three helpers.
Starting defender Gustavo Vallecilla has been sidelined lately by a hamstring issue and is considered questionable for the season finale. Fellow center back Maikel van der Werff has missed significant time with a sports hernia. Goaltending prospect Beckham Sunderland is in concussion protocol.
Side prediction: Atlanta United -125
Total: Over 3 (-110)
Fading woeful Cincinnati is pretty much a must right now, and Atlanta has been a capable enough team in the 12 matches since Pineda took over as head coach. Atlanta still has plenty to play for as it needs a win to have a shot at hosting a playoff game, and should be much more of a favorite to win outright given Cincinnati’s defensive struggles all season long.
There’s no good way to spin an 11-game losing streak in a parity-filled league like MLS, and the numbers are pretty grim as Cincinnati has been outscored 34-13 during the current slide. Cincinnati has issues all over the roster of course, but a defense that is allowing an MLS-worst average of 1.84 expected goals per game has been the main culprit.
Atlanta has more attacking talent than its early-season goal numbers showed with the superstar Martinez leading the way, and has been an above-average offense by any metric since Pineda made a few scheme changes in the middle of the season. Bet on Cincinnati to continue this historic slide, with Atlanta carrying plenty of value at these odds.
Advanced metrics indicate Atlanta’s stingy defense probably won’t keep up much longer, as it is allowing a shaky 1.72 expected goals per game when on the road. Cincinnati’s offense is merely below average but has shown some signs of life with multiple goals four different times during this losing streak, and getting Acosta back in the lineup after a brief absence due to yellow card accumulation is huge.
Atlanta put four goals past this Cincinnati defense about a month ago, and the hosts could easily give up this total by themselves as they have done many times throughout the season. Don’t trust the dreadful Cincinnati defense to hold this under, and Atlanta won’t be able to quite manage a clean sheet either.