The late, legendary English soccer manager Sir Bobby Robson once said this of new coaches at clubs: "When you take over it's because something has failed to happen at the club."
At Atlanta United, Rob Valentine was installed Sunday as interim head coach after Gabriel Heinze was fired, and it's safe to say a lot failed around the club recently in order for that to happen.
FC Cincinnati will be hoping Valentine and Atlanta don't have time to correct the failings prior to Wednesday's game between the clubs at TQL Stadium.
The contest will pit the Nos. 10 and 11 teams in the Eastern Conference standings against one another, and both are in desperate need of a win.
Atlanta (2-4-7, 13 points) will look to the game as an opportunity to emerge strongly from Heinze's dismissal, and a franchise-worse eight-match winless streak.
Josef Martinez, Atlanta's star-goalscorer, addressed media members Tuesday. He debriefed on the subject of the current state of the team and declined to comment specifically on Heinze, who insisted recently that Martinez not practice with his teammates.
Despite his recent absence, including being excluded from the dress list in Saturday's 1-0 loss to New England Revolution, Martinez will be available for selection.
FC Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam said on Monday he expected Martinez to play.
"Scored a couple of goals, I believe," Stam said jokingly of Martinez. "Everybody knows his quality. Everybody knows how important he is. It’s the same when we spoke a little bit about Toronto and you talk about Altidore when he was out and coming back into the game… The player in particular himself as well in what he can do, we all know his ability. We’re aware of that and we need to be aware of that when he’s on the pitch."
Despite the most explosive offensive showing in FC Cincinnati history on Saturday against CF Montreal, Cincinnati enters the Atlanta match having dropped five attainable points over the last two games.
After relinquishing a 2-0 lead in an eventual 2-2 draw with Columbus Crew July 9, FC Cincinnati couldn't plug its defensive holes and lost at Montreal, 5-4.
The game marked the sixth time in FCC history the team conceded five or more goals, and the second such instance in 2021.
In the wake of the Montreal loss, which saw several players unavailable due to pandemic restrictions at the Canadian border, questions were asked of FC Cincinnati's goalkeeping and ability to close out matches.
The midweek Atlanta match comes in the middle of a quick succession of games for FCC, and a trip to Nashville SC awaiting this weekend.
FC Cincinnati could put distance between itself and a lot of the criticism it's facing with a victory against a struggling Atlanta team.
"In a way, it's good that the games are coming fast because after a certain result, then the next game you've got the opportunity to set things straight," Stam said. "In soccer, you need to sometimes be very quick in letting things go. Talking with the players about what we've done and how we've done. Of course, straight away after the game, you're already discussing little things as well. Sometimes it's also good to not talk too much about certain things again and get into what's happened. Sometimes you also need to move and I think, for us, that's a very important thing now."
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 21 | TQL Stadium
Series info: Atlanta leads the all-time series between the teams with a 3-1-1 record against FC Cincinnati.
Odds: FC Cincinnati is favored, according to BETMGM.com.
Cincinnati.com prediction: Atlanta United 1, FC Cincinnati 1.
Record: 3-6-3, 12 points; 11th in Eastern Conference
Goals for: 16
Goals against: 25
Coach: Jaap Stam – second season as FC Cincinnati coach (7-19-7)
Projected starting lineup:
Kenneth Vermeer (GK)
Edgar Castillo, left back
Gustavo Vallecilla, center back (left)
Geoff Cameron, center back (right)
Joseph-Claude Gyau, right back
Caleb Stanko, midfielder
Luciano Acosta, midfielder
Haris Medunjanin, midfielder
Alvaro Barreal, winger
Isaac Atanga, winger
Brenner Souza da Silva, forward
Record: 2-4-7, 13 points; 10th in Eastern Conference
Goals for: 13
Goals against: 16
Coach: Rob Valentine - interim head coach appointed Sunday
Alec Kann, goalkeeper
George Campbell, right back
Alan Franco, center back
Anton Walkes, left back
Brooks Lennon, full back
Jake Mulraney, midfielder
Amar Sejdič, midfielder
Marcelino Moreno, midfielder
Erik López, forward
Machop Chol, forward
Erick Torres, forward
Noteworthy: Much has been made of FC Cincinnati losing Allan Cruz and Ronald Matarrita to the Concacaf Gold Cup, but Atlanta has been decimated by ongoing international competitions. On Wednesday, United will be without the services of defender George Bello (United States), starting goalkeeper Brad Guzan (United States), starting center back Miles Robinson (United States) and Ezequiel Barco, who is away with Argentina's Olympic soccer team at the Tokyo Olympics.
FC Cincinnati will also be without Yuya Kubo for the Atlanta match. Kubo, one of the leading tackle-winners in MLS, is suspended for one game for yellow-card accumulation.
Player to watch: Josef Martinez – Gabriel Heinze and former MLS MVP Josef Martinez had a relationship that was described in media reports as strained, but it didn't take long for Martinez to re-enter the conversation for Atlanta despite recently training separately from the club at Heinze's orders. Martinez was present for Atlanta's Monday training session. FC Cincinnati is preparing for him to play and Atlanta officials said Martinez, who suffered a torn ACL in the opening match of the 2020 season, would be available for selection. That's not good news for FCC as Martinez is one of the biggest pests in club history with three goals against Cincinnati in the 2019 season alone. Due to the injury Martinez suffered last year, he did not play in any of Atlanta's three games against FC Cincinnati.