FC Cincinnati’s fifth consecutive loss comes at a moment where the team could really use the boost in morale. The uplifting feeling from starting hot against some of the strongest teams from last season has now given way to sullen acceptance that achieving the playoffs might be a pipe dream if something doesn’t change. It’s getting harder to locate the good coming from the games when the team is struggling to get healthy and cohesive.
It is hard to say if the team hit rock bottom from their 1-0 loss at San Jose, but a better team would have found a way to win with the advantages presented to them. The first 51 minutes of the match were understandably in San Jose’s favor. FCC has found it difficult to out-possess teams this season, and Saturday was no different. The ‘Quakes had hefty advantages in possession and pass success, as well as a 9-3 advantage in shots.
Suffice to say, had Cristian Espinoza not gotten his red card in the 51st minute, we may have seen more of the same. However, the man advantage did flip the statistics—FCC enjoyed a possession advantage after the red card that brought the overall possession to a 52/48 split for San Jose. Despite not finding the net, FCC had their own 9-2 advantage in shots.
Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow is that, even with a man advantage over 40 minutes in the second half, FCC weren’t able to break through with the goal they so dearly miss. Despite substituting in players with offensive potential—Manu Ledesma, Roland Lamah, and the returning Fanendo Adi—the zero was hung for another game. Only two shots were attempted on frame in the second half, and both were from midfielder Fatai Alashe.
The tide could still be turning. The big number that stood out when FCC beat Portland for their first win this year was the number of shots taken inside the 18-yard box (12/6). Even with the penalty kick factored in, seven of FCC’s eight goals have been from inside the box. However, despite having eight shots inside the box to San Jose’s four, the results have been threadbare. And perhaps that is where Adi can finally produce now that he’s healthy and hopefully ready for full 90-minute games.
So far, the Orange & Blue have failed to score in five games and a total of 501 minutes. Those numbers have been announced repeatedly and are starting to build. FCC has been shut out in six games already this season, something that happened only five times last year.
Stretches of play without a goal is, fortunately, not as much a rarity in MLS play as people would imagine. Matthew Doyle pointed out the longest stretches of inefficiency when Montreal was undergoing a small stretch of their own last year. While the Impact figured out their issues and almost made the playoffs in 2018, history doesn’t paint a rosy picture for FCC.
The worst stretch belonged to Toronto FC in their inaugural 2007 season. Not only did they start their first season with four straight clean-sheet losses, but they eventually went nine games without scoring a goal, losing seven and drawing two. That TFC squad won only 6 times in 30 games, ending the season with only 25 goals and a -24 goal differential. Expectedly, both of those numbers put them dead last in their first year in the league.
Of note, both Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake opened their first season with longer scoreless streaks, and both finished near the bottom of the MLS table. Their goal differentials also were believably bad, which is to be expected from teams that could not produce offense.
However, if there is any sort of bright spot, Colorado had a similar scoreless streak in 1999, but still managed to make the playoffs. Yes, the number of teams in the league is now double that of the league in 1999, but it’s still a positive sign. There is time to turn the ship around, especially now that FCC gets two home games and two (hopefully) winnable road games against Orlando and Colorado.
Of note, this power outage is affecting the entire state of Ohio. Columbus have lost their last five games, having scored only 2 goals of their own.
The Bright Bulbs
At least this game gave us a chance to analyze Frankie Amaya in his first professional start with FC Cincinnati. Given the chance to work before his substitution in the 67th minute, Amaya was efficient when he had the opportunity with the ball. He led the starters in pass success (95%) and tied with Kenny Saief in team-high for tackles (4). However, his possession numbers were still relatively low (2.5%), as the ball was primarily controlled by Ulloa (10.5%), Waston (5.5%), and Lasso (5.1%).
The other positive is that this was the first game where both Adi and Ledesma were on the pitch at the same time, albeit both in a substitution role. Ledesma had a significant amount of possession (2.3%) and was 4th on the team in Audi Index numbers for only 25 minutes of play. While Adi’s numbers were hard to monitor, getting him onto the pitch was the first step.
It’s a small victory in itself, but considering that both last year’s USL MVP and major DP signing have only played 24% and 18% of the minutes this season, it was good to get them back to Square One. If Greg Garza is able to return to full health and the best midfield tandem can be decided, maybe Koch can crank out the fullest, most effective lineup and bail this sinking ship out.
Until the next goal for FCC can be scored, however, the fans will be wondering when the lights will come back on.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as FCC prepares for their home tilt against Montreal next Saturday.