Soccer Down Here
VAR: FC Cincinnati
by Jarrett Smith When I was a kid my dad had a wood burning stove in a small brick house on the edge of Hiram, Georgia. The stove worked wonders in that house and could run you out into the cold if you kept it running too long. The downside of that was those days where I was chilling out on the couch playing Madden and dad tossed a pair of work gloves on me. A tree had fallen and we had to go cut it up and haul it back and then split the wood.
You know what really sucks about splitting wood as a kid? Having to try to chop through a knot in the wood. No matter what, it was a pain in the ass. How do you deal with that frustration? Find a piece of wood and smash the living hell out of it. That’s always a fun way to fix your issues unless you mess it up and then embarrass yourself, getting nothing done and possibly injuring yourself.
Atlanta United has been trying to cut through the same knot in the New York Red Bulls since day 1 and they’re 2-2-2 in regular season play following a Red Bulls game. In theory they get to put their axe through some softwood and get 90 minutes of stress relief. But it’s completely possible to mess the swing up and then you’re trying to figure out A) How you missed and who saw and B) The protocol for possibly removing an axe head from your leg. Look, I’m getting calluses just thinking about splitting wood so let’s talk about the last time Atlanta played Cincinnati way back in March of 2020.
2-1 Atlanta. Barco and Hyndman scored for The Five Stripes before a strike from Yuya Kubo made things interesting.
How we got there:
Pretty much what I just said? Atlanta was dangerous with Pity and Barco causing all sorts of problems even without Josef Martinez in the lineup after his torn ACL against Nashville. Kubo’s strike (which we will get to with the goals) was absurd in all the right ways.
How MLS was this game:
Eh. It was a soccer game. Better, more talented team got out on the front foot and played well at home even if they had some moments of early season hiccups. Cincy was trying to figure things out with a new coach again. Yes, again. This is a thing for them.
We still haven’t figured out how to rate these yet, but we’ll get there together.
First off I’m going to cheat with showing off Barco’s saved shot because CHRIST the ball from Pity Martinez...
This should have been in the conversation for pass of the week if it wasn’t. Holy hellfire what a ball.
These two would link up again soon enough and this one gets in the back of the net. Note the shuffle Pity puts on his man. How rude.
Let’s go 3 out of 5 for this one. The move to get space is great. The finish is fine.
Emerson Hyndman has big shoes to fill in Atlanta and he was 2 for 2 in goals in the first two games of the season before the world ended. Barco finds him in the space and say what you want about Emerson but the dude has a really quick trigger and does the damn thing.
4 out of 5 since the pass is really good into tight space and he goes slap shot the short side for added disrespect.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been waiting for this one for an excuse to whip out a 5 out of 5 and here we are with Kubo putting has damn foot through the ball with some back-up fastball action.
LOOK AT IT.
What’s the same:
I mean, a lot on the field. Atlanta is still a front runner in the league and Cincy is still trying to figure out if there are legs to stand on. Standing comes later. You still have the same wild cards to deal with in Kubo, Locadia and Allan Cruz.
Well they got a new permanent coach! Jaap Stam is here to bring some order to live in Cincinnati. It’s a tough ask for him. He stepped into the role in May and this is his first live action with the club against other teams that actually means something. This is an insanely tough ask for a club that is trying to find its way with a brand new manager.
As for Atlanta, you probably won’t see Wyke and George Campbell out of necessity since everyone is actually healthy for this one.
Otherwise there’s not much. This was the last game Atlanta played before play was halted.
What should you expect:
It feels rude to say one way traffic but it also feels dishonest to NOT say one way traffic. Atlanta is the better team. They’re packed with talent across the board. It comes down to Atlanta doing what they failed to do against New York: finish chances. They do that and they should walk out with 3 points. They do that and also play sound defense and they should walk out with 3 points and a nice little GD buffer going into the last group stage game. As stated before this is such a tough ask for Cincinnati. They didn’t look bad to start against Columbus but it’s very much in that situation where ‘something bad happens the wheels come flying off’. If Atlanta can get started as quickly as, say Orlando against NYC? Then the wheels might catch fire real quick.