The day you never imagined would come is finally almost here. It’s 6:59 AM on Christmas Day, and you’re lined up at the bedroom door to rush out to see what Santa brought you.
The MLS season is about to begin.
FC Cincinnati is ready to play its first-ever MLS match, cobbling together a team only 9 months after the formal welcome into top-tier play. However, the schedule makers have had the last laugh, throwing nine playoff-caliber matchups in the Orange & Blue’s way in the first 10 games.
Their first opponent is “MLS 2.0” powerhouse Seattle, owners of an MLS Cup, a Supporters’ Shield, and four U.S. Open Cup titles in only ten seasons of Major League Soccer existence. Seattle finished second in the crowded Western Conference, only to stumble in both games against rival Portland in the playoffs. Seattle welcomed LAFC to the league and their home stadium last year, but lost 1-0 in a chippy affair.
No pressure, right?
- While FC Cincinnati has only been in existence since 2015, the Sounders have been through three incarnations in the NASL, USL, and MLS. However, since their dawn in 1973, the Sounders have only ever played against one team from the Queen City—the Cincinnati Riverhawks. Between 1998 and 2002, the teams played five times, with Seattle winning three matches.
- The last match between the Sounders and Riverhawks was on August 4th, 2002—a USL A-League match that ended in a 4-1 win for the Sounders. The Sounders would end up claiming two USL titles before they joined MLS in 2009, while the Riverhawks would disband in 2003.
- Individually, Cincinnati’s forwards have done decently against the Sounders. Fanendo Adi has scored 8 goals against Seattle as a Portland Timber, while newly-acquired Kekuta Manneh scored a hat trick over Seattle for Vancouver back in 2013.
- The most dangerous piece in Seattle’s attack is likely Raúl Ruidíaz. Despite playing in only 14 games in 2018, the Peruvian forward scored 10 goals. Only Josef Martinez (0.91) and Zlatan (0.81) scored goals at a higher goal-per-match clip than Ruidíaz last year. With Jordan Morris back from a devastating ACL injury, Seattle’s offense should be vastly improved.
- Although FCC is the newest team in the league, the average age of their roster (26.9) is one of the oldest. Only D.C. United (27.5) and Minnesota United (27.2) have a higher average age. However, Seattle is no spring chicken, either (26.8). (For the record, FC Dallas is the youngest, around 24 years of age.)
- Since being traded to Seattle in 2013, goalkeeper Stefan Frei has only missed 6 matches in 5 years. Despite allowing only 7 clean sheets last season, Frei was arguably the team MVP, allowing only 34 goals in 33 games. Only the Red Bulls’ Luis Robles started at least 30 games with a lower goals-per-game average (30 goals in 31 games).
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s maiden voyage into MLS, leading to their home opener on March 17th.