Without star Josef Martinez, Atlanta United FC managed to get past FC Cincinnati earlier this season. Upon the MLS restart, Atlanta will need to do it again.
Atlanta looks to rebound from its first 2020 defeat while trying to keep Cincinnati winless on Thursday morning in Group E play of the MLS is Back Tournament near Orlando.
Goals from Ezequiel Barco and Emerson Hyndman helped Atlanta (2-1-0, 6 points; 0-1-0, 0 points in MLS is Back) earn a 2-1 victory over FC Cincinnati (0-3-0; 0-1-0) on March 7 -- in the teams' final match before MLS shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. It also was United's first contest without Martinez, who sustained a torn right anterior cruciate ligament during their opening 2-1 victory over Nashville SC.
Without Martinez, Atlanta struggled to generate a consistent offensive attack during a 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, in its opening match of the tournament at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex.
"We're Atlanta United and we're expected to win every game we play in," midfielder Mo Adams told the club's official website. "(It's) unfortunate not to get a result (against New York).
"But, it doesn't change anything. We have to still go out and play the two games, aim to win and get out of the group stages."
Atlanta is 2-0-1 all time against Cincinnati, which has been outscored 9-3 during its first three matches of this crazy 2020 season. FCC will certainly be in need of a better effort following a 4-0 loss to the rival Columbus Crew on Saturday.
"Sometimes where you're making mistakes, then players get disappointed," first-year Cincinnati manager Jaap Stam told the official MLS website. "The only thing is -- and we've addressed that within the team -- that we're just at the start and we need to improve."
Yuya Kubo scored FCC's most recent goal, in the 64th minute against Atlanta. Meanwhile, Barco and Hyndman are responsible for all four of United's goals this season.
--Field Level Media