Atlanta United hosting Cincinnati tonight, MLS midweek action: Starting Lineup, August 30
by Jason Longshore
1- Atlanta United doesn't get much time
to rest on their laurels after Saturday's 4-0 win over Nashville, they're back in action tonight as the Supporters' Shield leaders FC Cincinnati comes to town. They had a big win of their own over the weekend, 3-0 at home over NYCFC. This could be a fascinating battle of #10's as Thiago Almada was named the Player of the Matchday with his one goal, two assist performance. Luciano Acosta had two assists of his own Saturday night and is seemingly always a monster against Atlanta. (photo credit: ATLUTD)
2- Tonight will likely come down to how each team manages the ball. Atlanta is second in MLS in possession at 55.8%, Cincinnati is 22nd at 47.7%. The Orange and Blue are maybe the most comfortable on the ball of the pressing-oriented teams in MLS, and that's often down to how dangerous Acosta can be. Cincinnati is 5th best in MLS in conceding the fewest key passes per match, 7th best in allowing the fewest passes into the penalty area, and 4th best in allowing the fewest goal scoring actions. Roman Celentano is into double digits in clean sheets behind a backline anchored by Matt Miazga. If Atlanta can get them chasing shadows, as they did at home against the Red Bulls and Philadelphia, they can start to open up those spaces in the attacking half.
3- In my opinion, even more important to Atlanta United's success tonight is how they defend. Back-to-back clean sheets is starting to make Atlanta's defensive numbers make a little more sense. The 5 Stripes defensively have been strong all year long in terms of now allowing teams to complete a high percentage of passes, create many chances, or get many shots on target but individual mistakes have punished them severely in terms of goals conceded. In these last two wins, the team has been so comfortable on the ball and has kept the team connected to allow even fewer dangerous opportunities. It will be key tonight against a team that can thrive in transition moments.
4- Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets are supposed to return to the starting lineup tonight as Miami hosts Nashville in a rematch of the recent Leagues Cup final. The Herons are on the longest unbeaten run in their short history with nine straight games without a loss in all competitions. Nashville are trying to bounce back from their worst loss ever on Saturday night. The Boys in Gold have lost six of their last seven league matches, they're 4-7-3 in all competitions over their last 14 games and have to right the ship to avoid falling into the wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.
5- The USMNT will unveil the roster for two upcoming friendlies later today and the story yesterday flashed back to Gregg Berhalter and Gio Reyna in many circles. I missed where soccer coverage in this country was driven by tabloids, that's an aspect of England and a few other places that the US really doesn't need to emulate. The relationship between Berhalter and Gio Reyna will get resolved when he is able to play for the USMNT. He missed the preseason due to another injury and has only recently returned to training for Borussia Dortmund. He has to find a way to get on the field more consistently, he only started four matches for Dortmund last year.
Also, with the fixation on Berhalter's actions here it has to be said that Reyna's parents ruined a decades-long friendship and tried to ruin Berhalter's reputation and employment future with their actions which factors into all of this. That's not on Gio Reyna, but it also complicates everything. Also, all of this started with poor behavior from Gio when he wasn't going to start at the World Cup to the point that his teammates needed to have a conversation with him about it. Stop with the tabloid coverage and just understand that when Gio is healthy and contributing at Dortmund, he'll get called in for the USMNT. And when that time comes, then Berhalter can rebuild his relationship with him.
6- Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has been charged by the English Football Association for his reaction to being sent off during his side's 2-1 win at Newcastle on Sunday. He was sent off for DOGSO and it was the correct call in my opinion. The FA confirmed that van Dijk used abusive and/or insulting language in addition to failing to leave the field in a timely manner and could face an additional suspension.
7- Tottenham were eliminated in the Carabao Cup second round after a penalty shootout with Fulham. It's the first time Spurs have been eliminated in the second round since 2005. It was a tricky matchup obviously, the only second round matchup between two Premier League sides, but it's a huge disappointment for Tottenham. Perhaps it was due to those third kits? What color are those?
8- Rangers travels to Holland today to face PSV in the second leg of the final Champions League qualifier all square at 2-2. Last year in the same matchup, they won 1-0 in the Netherlands to advance to the group stages of the tournament. Getting into the group stages is critical for revenue this year, and winning these sorts of matches is key for a club trying to topple their crosstown rivals as the kings of Scotland. Speaking of which, Rangers will host Celtic on Sunday for the first time this season.
9- Tonight in the Copa Libertadores, Racing hosts Boca Juniors is the second leg of their quarterfinal that is deadlocked at 0-0. Boca outshot Racing 14-7 and had 57% of the ball in the first leg at La Bombonera, but couldn't find the breakthrough. Over the weekend in the Copa de la Liga, Racing won at Tigre while Boca surprisingly lost at Sarmiento.
10- On this date in 1995, the Atlanta Ruckus defeated the Vancouver 86ers (now Whitecaps in MLS) in a shootout after a 2-2 draw in regulation at Adams Stadium. Bruce Murray and Greg Sheen scored for the Ruckus in regulation, and Lenin Steenkamp converted the winning attempt in the shootout. The win kept the Ruckus in the driver's seat for the final playoff spot in the A-League.
11- Since I was at that match, today's Song of the Day is probably one that was blaring on the stereo of my 1985 Chevy Celebrity as I was pulling out of the Adams Stadium parking lot. It was #1 on the alternative radio charts on this day in 1995 and I had seen them earlier in the summer at their first ever concert in the US.