Cincinnati entered Decision Day having seen a third straight last-place finish in MLS long sealed, but held much of the play throughout the first half. They were rewarded when they opened the scoring through Zico Bailey in the 21st minute as the 20-year-old defender netted his first professional goal.
Atlanta gradually grew into the match, coming close in the 53rd minute when Martinez had his opportunity stopped by the quick reflexes of Kenneth Vermeer and seeing forthcoming chances denied by Cincinnati’s defense. Later, in the 66th minute, Miles Robinson’s header missed by inches as Atlanta continued to push for the equalizer.
But Robinson made good on his next scoring attempt in the 70th minute for his first MLS goal. His header on an Atlanta corner kick sailed past Vermeer to level the match with 20 minutes remaining.
Then, in the 79th minute, Martinez delivered his moment of magic with a brilliant volley, putting Atlanta in front for good. The Venezuelan striker had scuffed a glowing chance moments ago but didn’t miss this time as Cincinnati were sent to a league record-tying 12th straight loss.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Cincinnati put together an inspired performance against playoff-bound Atlanta but saw a slim lead evaporate as they end the year with yet another loss. It’s now onto 2022 as new general manager Chris Albright has much to evaluate while seeking to improve the fortunes of a club that’s finished last in points in each of their first three seasons in MLS. The Five Stripes escape the Queen City with a win, but know that they’ll need to give a much better account of themselves moving forward as they begin their quest for their second MLS Cup at Yankee Stadium on the other side of the World Cup Qualifying break.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Josef Martinez has had a moment of brilliance or two in Cincinnati. He added to his highlight reel with a fantastic volleyed goal that put Atlanta up for good.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Martinez deserves it on this day. His match-winner ensured Atlanta wouldn’t suffer an unlikely defeat to last-place Cincinnati.
- CIN: End of season
- ATL: at New York City FC | Eastern Conference First Round, Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs