Atlanta United view FC Cincinnati tilt as playoff prep

Atlanta United are battling for seeding in the MLS Cup Playoffs as they travel to face FC Cincinnati for Decision Day on Saturday.

Atlanta (13-9-11, 50 points) enters the match in sixth in the Eastern Conference but could finish anywhere from fifth to seventh in the table.

The Five Stripes have never lost in Cincinnati (2-0-2) but are 3-6-7 in away matches this season. Atlanta’s last road victory came on Aug. 20 at the Seattle Sounders.

Atlanta picked up a single point in a draw with the Columbus Crew in their final home game on Oct. 7.

“We’re taking this match very seriously. It can be the last preparation before playoffs,” Atlanta head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. “We know the first game will be away in (the) playoffs, so we can take this match as the best preseason we can have against the best team in the league and away. If we can win away against Cincinnati, I think we can beat anyone in the playoffs, so that’s the mentality and how we’re trying to approach this game.”

Atlanta forward Giorgos Giakoumakis leads Atlanta with 15 goals and is tied for third in league scoring entering Saturday’s match, while Thiago Almada is the league leader with 17 assists this season.

FC Cincinnati (20-5-8, 68 points) enter Saturday’s regular season finale with the Supporters’ Shield and the top seed in the playoffs secured.

A victory over Atlanta would put Cincinnati in a tie for the third-most points in an MLS regular season and tie them with the 2018 New York Red Bulls for the most home points (43).

Midfielder Luciano Acosta has paced Cincinnati this season with 16 goals and 13 assists in 31 matches.

Cincinnati enters Saturday’s match with a 13-2-1 home record and is coming off a 1-0 away victory at Inter Miami on Oct. 7.

“For me, in these moments now when you’re finishing out the season, it’s about having your strongest team ready to go to have some consistency moving into the playoffs,” Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said. “We’ll have a strong group out on the field that’s prepared for a tough opponent.”