If Atlanta United are feeling any lingering disappointment when they arrive for their home opener Sunday against expansion FC Cincinnati, a boisterous crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium should lift the team's spirits.
The defending MLS champions not only dropped their season-opener in league play 2-0 at D.C. United last weekend, but they went to Monterrey, Mexico on Wednesday and were crushed 3-0 in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.
Atlanta actually does not have to go back all that far to gain inspiration. Its 4-0 victory Feb. 28 over Costa Rica's CS Herediano, to advance into the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, is the kind of play that will be desired.
"It's over with now," Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan said after Wednesday's defeat, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We have to turn our focus to Sunday. That's part of the challenge of being in this competition. We have to have the right mind frame going into Sunday."
Atlanta United midfielder Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez, who had the team's only shot on goal at Monterrey, will head into play Sunday following the news this week that he was called into Argentina national team duty. Argentina will play Venezuela and Morocco during the international break March 18-26.
Expansion FC Cincinnati made their MLS debut on Saturday at Seattle and were overwhelmed 4-1 by the Sounders. That game was played before a healthy-sized crowd of 39,011, which will actually pale in comparison to the 60,000 that could be on hand rooting against them Sunday.
Simply getting his team on the field in a regular-season match was a benefit for FC Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch, who insists he saw growth.
"We're going to need that growth, because (Sunday) is going to be even more difficult," Koch said. "We knew the schedule that we were presented is very difficult. ... There were good moments (at Seattle), and then there were some tough moments. Now we need to continue to grow in those good moments and try to minimize the tough moments. It's not going to be easy."
Dating back to May 20, 2018, Atlanta has an active 13-game unbeaten streak (10-0-3) at home, including three playoff victories by a combined margin of 8-1.