FC Cincinnati return home to face the New York Red Bulls for their third match under interim head coach Yoann Damet. The Orange & Blue are …
FC Cincinnati return home to face the New York Red Bulls for their third match under interim head coach Yoann Damet. The Orange & Blue are licking wounds after last weekend’s 5-1 thrashing in Orlando, and hoping to return to winning ways in front of a Memorial Day weekend crowd at Nippert stadium.
After a slow start to the season, Chris Armas’ Red Bulls have won four of their last six matches and are now in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Saturday’s match is the second meeting this season between these two teams. On April 28th, Red Bull won the first match 1-0 in New Jersey, despite a strong second half performance from FCC. Defender Connor Lade scored the lone goal in the 38th minute of that contest.
The Red Bulls come to Cincinnati after a disappointing 2-2 midweek draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps at home. A rotated Red Bulls lineup led 2-1 until the 61st minute when Freddy Montero equalized from the penalty spot after VAR spotted a handball in the box.
New York will have a few key absentees for this match. Bradley Wright-Phillips, Vincent Bezecourt, and Andreas Ivan are all doubtful due to injury. However, the center back pairing of Aaron Long and Tim Parker is likely to be reinstated on Saturday per Joe Goldstein. Long was injured and Parker was suspended for the match against Vancouver.
Corben Bone, Greg Garza, and Allan Cruz are all listed as questionable for FC Cincinnati. Forward Rashawn Dally has been recalled from his loan and is available for selection in this match.
Mathieu Deplagne has logged 1,170 minutes for FC Cincinnati this season, more than any player on either team. Luis Robles of the Red Bulls has played every minute in 12 starts in 2019, 90 minutes less than Deplagne.
According to the oddsmakers, FC Cincinnati’s chance of winning, at the time of publishing, is paying the exact same as the odds of New York winning, 2.6 to 1.
FC Cincinnati needs to beware of set piece situations. The NY Red Bulls have scored the second most set piece goals in MLS, at 6, and FC Cincinnati have conceded the second most set piece goals, 5.
The Red Bulls are one of the few teams in the league with less yellow cards than FC Cincinnati. Their total of 15 cautions is the fewest in MLS. They do however have 2 red cards, including Kaku’s infamous ejection against Sporting Kansas City.
FC Cincinnati and the Red Bulls are second and third in MLS with the most interceptions per game at 13 and 12.5 respectively.
To start with a little good news/bad news, I found the semi-obvious location to which the MLS app moved the condensed games (under the “Highlights” tab; more information, less life…did I win?). Moving on The Big Picture, Major League Soccer’s 12th week files under “one helluva.” We are getting trend-lines people, momentum(/season?) altering turns of events, some of them with Games of Thrones-esque blood-letting (timely), and with those hitting the mightiest houses, the plot thickens. Elsewhere, picking week 12’s Goal of the Week came one hell of a lot easier than picking the Save of the Week (Candidate 1 and Candidate 2). Some truly trash officiating rounds out the weekend, and what can be more on-brand than that for MLS? VAR doesn’t work and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.
I’ve got one final note for this preamble, and largely because this is an FC Cincinnati-centric site: every game I watched this weekend apart from the…poor display (that’s an aggressive euphemism) between FC Cincinnati and Orlando City SC put that game in sickening relief. To paraphrase an old album by The Cranberries, Everyone’s Competent, So Why Aren’t We? (For more punishment, here are my extended notes on yesterday’s disappointment.) As for what’s below, I came up with three main talking points for the MLS Week 12 – the stuff that seems more relevant or, in one case, historic – but I’ll touch on every game in the past week down below…assuming I don’t forget something. With that, let’s start with the blessed, happy history.
The Ultimate Underdog(s) Go Into the History Books
“…like the clinical finisher he is…in the MLS.”
If you ever needed proof that literally record-breaking success in one arena can never escape the gravity of a failure in another one, there it is. I don’t even know if the announcer intended to conjure the ghost of Chris Wondolowski’s greatest failure, but he qualified that statement, not me.
Where to begin? Yes, I did cry manly tears after every goal Chris Wondolowski scored against the Chicago Fire on his/the San Jose Earthquakes’ way to the 4-1 rout in which he made history. Also, credit Bobby Warshaw and Matt Doyle for giving good background on the scale of Wondo’s unlikeliest of accomplishments. Players beyond counting came into MLS with infinitely more promise of chasing Landon Donovan’s regular-season goal-scoring record, never mind beating it, and that only makes it, for lack of a better word, awesomer. (People who don’t root for underdogs are rightly recognized as terrible human beings.)
Warshaw and Doyle named their own moments for what makes Wondolowski such a special player, but I pulled a different one out of this game – and, fittingly, it’s something I can’t link to. After scoring his first goal and tying the record, another great chance fell to Wondolowski and he got closer to the sideline than the goal with his shot. After that miss, he didn’t slap the turf, or lay on the grass (it’s grass at Avaya, right?) dramatically “contemplating” the miss. He immediately shoved himself off the turf, and got back to it. Three more goals followed, thereby raising the bar that the next challenger to the throne will have to clear.
Each goal he scored showcased an aspect of Wondolowski’s game that it’s worth passing on to the youth. His third came from the (rather attractive) finish that prompted the quote up top, while his second – the one that broke the record – showed what makes a great forward – e.g., following up on every shot. His fourth demonstrates why a forward should never stop looking for an opening, on the grounds that the ball might defy physics and find you. Personally, I’ll always cherish the record-tying goal, and that’s 1,000% down to the fact that Shea Salinas delivered it. That connection – Salinas to Wondolowski – signals to every player who didn’t even make varsity that not all paths to glory take the same route, and to never stop dreaming. In a perfect world, this record will stand forever, or at least for decades, and for that exact reason. And, if MLS really does become a selling league, it should last longer.
One last note on this game: Chicago’s defense has been a wall lately, so it’s significant that the ‘Quakes pulled them apart as badly as they did. There was the rain, I suppose, but Chicago hadn’t allowed a goal in its last three games; hell, they’d only allowed 1.0 goals a game over its last 10 games, and that was only because the Seattle Sounders dropped four on them 11 games before this one. In the end, it took David Ousted enduring a succession of nightmares to make this specific result happen (see the 2nd and 4th goals, especially), on top of the Fire missing shots that few teams do. Don’t sell your Chicago stock yet, because this loss had a freak-ish air to it.
Shots Fired Over the Rockies
First, Diego Polenta should have absolutely seen his second yellow when he stood on the foot of…a player whose identity I can’t recall (but think it was Sam Nicholson) and stopped him from carrying the ball forward and out of the Rapids’ attacking third. Why? I feel alright making that judgment because I saw him staring at the man’s foot as he stood on it, just to make sure he got the placement right. And that’s your first officiating snafu for the weekend…most of which involved LA-based teams. At the same time, I’m glad the Galaxy got away with it because that brushes off any of the asterisks that might have otherwise hung over the Colorado Rapids’ first win of the season.
This has been a long time coming: Colorado has morebraveloses in its recent history than most teams see all season. Second, they’ve scored more or as many goals in 2019 (17) than 10 other teams in MLS – some of them in the conversation as credible challengers (e.g., Atlanta United FC (13 goals), New York City FC (15)). The fact that their defense has killed them follows from, but, the Rapids have always had a little something going on. The real surprise, then, is that it took them this long to win. The game primarily featured both teams trading misses – with Colorado’s Kei Kamara leading the bonerparade (I got to use the word “boner!”) – but bothteams also cleared a ball off the line. It had the feel of an open game too, which means both LA and the Rapids liked their chances enough to go for it. The funny thing is that arrangement worked better for Colorado, who actually out-shot the Galaxy on their home-field.
That said, Colorado made some adjustments before one trading window or another closed (Full Disclosure: I’m terrible at tracking those things), by bringing Lalas Abubakar from Columbus Crew SC and Jonathan Lewis from NYCFC. Both players looked solid, with Lewis causing all kinds of headaches today and Abubakar looking steady and solid. Time will tell if that’s what turned them around, but details aside, but Colorado finally turning a promising performance into a road win officially serves notice to all the even potentially terrible team in MLS. To name some names, time to perk up Orlando, FC Cincinnati, New England Revolution, and maybe even Sporting Kansas City. Your days of muttering “at least we’re not Colorado” could very well be at an end. Speaking of the Galaxy…
Large Houses on Fire
That was the LA Galaxy’s 4th straight loss – and two of those happened in LA’s suburbs, and that means they lost a couple of excuses with this one. Sure, you could chalk up the loss to NYCFC to them finding every one of their feet, but that same sleight of hand doesn’t work with Colorado. The second excuse – e.g., no Zlatan Ibrahimovic – cuts from a different angle, but it’s still concerning. Any team that requires one player to keep it afloat has a margin exactly as wide as said player’s health/capacity to not do stupid sh*t (so they can stay on the field); LA failed the first test, while Zlatan failed the second. The Galaxy might be safe in the standings, they might have plenty of talent, but that’s an official skid in any league, and it’s gone global with this result.
Toronto FC is the other team in trouble, even if they’re a slightly trickier case. They posted crazy numbers against D.C. United in Toronto at mid-week without ever really managing to look menacing. They created too few chances and too many of those fell to Jordan Hamilton, a player on the bare cusp of MLS-level. Things get worse/weirder when you look at the box score for Toronto’s dispiriting loss to Real Salt Lake in Utah. They’re still (barely) holding the ball and dictating the game…but it keeps winding up in a dead end. RSL, meanwhile, banged three low–probabilitygoals past the rando TFC starts in net and, crucially, that’s not the first time that’s happened. The problems go deeper than Jozy Altidore not starting, basically. At this point, it looks fundamental – even with Alejandro Pozuelo still looking promising and capable as any team in MLS.
Going the other way, both TFC and the Galaxy remain above the playoff cut-off, and LA is eight points above danger to boot. They have ambitious ownership groups that spend real money on talent…I mean, Zlatan? Pozuelo? At the same time, both teams share a present reality with Sporting KC: talented as all get out on the roster side – and with some upgrades under the hood to boot – but who cares if you own a sports car when it’s on blocks in the front yard? I’ll expand on SKC below, but that’s where those three teams are parked right now: sleeping giants that may never wake up. There’s plenty of season left, of course, but sometimes the car never comes off the blocks.
Those are the three big topics (or mine), so let’s move on to the rest of the results. And, sure, maybe I relegated the main event to the under-card.
Los Angeles FC and FC Dallas played a home-and-home series over Week 12, and LAFC took four points of six. There’s not much with which to quibble in LAFC’s home win, but the return leg in Dallas featured the other reffing boner of the weekend – and this prompts another, where to begin conundrum. It starts with the soft penalty call on Bressan, and ends with the question of why Chris Hedges rightly gets sent off for dragging down Carlos Vela while LAFC’s Tyler Miller doesn’t get sent off for football-holding Jesus Ferreira later in the same game. (Also, to spit in their eye a bit, why the fresh hell is that not in the highlight clip, MLS? I found it (see around 1:50), but kindly stop elevating the brand over truth/reality.) These were strange games and I think you can get several reads out of them. Even if Dallas looked far from helpless playing in LA, there’s a solid case that LAFC deserved three points minimum from this swing. Going the other way, how Dallas managed LAFC raised their stock a little for me.
Elsewhere in Texas, the Houston Dynamo deserve credit for another big week at home. After the Portland Timbers made them sweat midweek (and I’ve got extended notes on that), and with Houston still (allegedly?) needing to stockpile points before they play a lot of the second half of the season on the road, the game against D.C. became the main event for their Week 12. The Dynamo passed the test with richly-detailed flying colors: they had to come from behind to win, and they scored both their goals with neither Alberth Elis (concussion precautions) and Romell Quioto on the field. Memo Rodriguez bagged one D.C. should have stopped and seeing Bill Hamid lose his whole damn mind after Tommy McNamara scored the winner tells you everything you need to know about D.C. They’re a frustrated, stuttering team at the moment, and Paul Arriola’s stupid, hostile sending off reveals a little rot in their confidence.
Like the Galaxy and TFC, D.C. is better than fine. Moreover, there aren’t many teams making noise below them. At the same time, TFC really did play them off the park at midweek, no matter how ineffectually. If you review their results, D.C. really does look more like a part of a pack than a contender lately.
The other big mentionables from Week 12 include two more “big clubs” – Seattle Sounders FC and Atlanta dropping points, at least arguably. To clear up any confusion and/or alleviate any hurt feelings, both teams remain strongly in the hunt. A lot of context, however, surrounds the Sounders in this particular moment: these games – a narrow win over a heavily-rotated Orlando squad and surviving a there-but-for-the-grace-of-Brenden-Aaronson’s-youth-go-I goalless draw at the Philadelphia Union – look at lot different when you consider the three straight draws in their recent past. Like Seattle, Atlanta is the opposite of soft. Until Sunday’s loss to the New York Red Bulls, they’d allowed 0 goals over their last five games (also notable: they’d just scored eight over the same period). They had 55 minutes’ worth of game to take advantage after Tim Parker got sent off, but New York stifled them, then went on to steal the game. Like Seattle, again, Atlanta picked up a fairly soft win midweek, when they beat the Vancouver Whitecaps on the back of a(nother) dodgy penalty. In Atlanta’s defense, or maybe more against the ‘Caps, they kept Vancouver from taking a decent shot all the way until the 84th minute.
That leaves just three games from MLS Week 12, and only one of them really registers. Minnesota United FC is simultaneously unbeaten at home and also not that good at home; beating Columbus in Minnesota really only registers for lifting the Loons to a 2-0-3 home record (meaning they’re under 50% on points at home). To give Minnesota its due, they look to have a solid core around Darwin Quintero, Jr. in Brett Kallman, Osvaldo Alonso and Romain Metanaire – and all those guys (on 1/6th evidence; condensed games have shrunk a bit) played pivotal roles in getting this win – but, as must be noted, Columbus has been bloody awful lately. I’m talking puke-bucket-awful, 1-7-0 in their last eight games, and why would you disgrace the two wins that came before those eight games by association. Worse, they were sloppy in this one and, to float an opinion, signing Gyasi Zardes to a DP contract hints at an issue with the fish rotting from the head with this bunch.
To wrap up with the results that only mattered to each teams’ mothers and respective fans, Ignacio Piatti’s substitution appearance was surely the biggest news out of the Montreal Impact’s goalless home draw against the New England Revolution. (Fun side note: they actually posted a highlight clip for that, but not for potential red cards in the games listed above.) Like Cincinnati and Orlando, those are two teams going nowhere at the moment. Elsewhere, Krisztian Nemeth’s full-spectrum performance defined Sporting KC’s 1-1 home draw against Vancouver. Still, Vancouver’s equalizer came ridiculously late and Nemeth’s celebration of the goal he scored moves that one to a solid second in the running for MLS Week 12’s Goal of the Week.
That’s it for this week, see you the next one. Also, just like winter, Gold Cup is coming…
The ‘new manager bump’, or an uptick in form following the arrival of a new head coach, might have already worn off for Yoann Damet’s squad. Orlando SC’s 5-1 rout over Cincinnati highlighted how FCC’s problems may go beyond a simple coaching change.
Of course, it is important to note the adversity the Orange & Blue faced. Family emergencies, injuries, and extreme heat all impacted both the lineup selection and the game plan. Despite these hurdles, the score was deadlocked at halftime amid a competitive – yet sluggish – Sunday afternoon affair. What went wrong for Cincinnati in the Sunshine State?
First 30 Minutes
Fans may have wanted to watch the fast, possession-oriented style of play Damet teased them with in his coaching debut. Perhaps due to the limited roster, he opted for a lower line of confrontation and a more defensive approach in Orlando. The conventional belief behind this strategy is to play safe and limit mistakes, and to hit strong on the counter.
FC Cincinnati did this relatively well the first 30 minutes. Frankie Amaya and Emmanuel Ledesma were receiving the ball, turning, and dribbling up the field with pace before making defenders commit. Darren Mattocks did well on the day to create an opportunity for Ledesma which blasted off the crossbar, and to clinically finish a half-chance into the roof of the net surrounded by four purple defenders. Truthfully, Mattocks was lucky to never be closed down on his goal, and Robin Jansson dived in when all he had to do was contain and push out wide.
The positives stop there. Mattocks had only 11 touches before his substitution. After the first goal, FCC began to sit back and afforded Orlando more opportunity to dictate play. Some players, meanwhile, switched off at critical moments.
After the deflected goal from Tesho Akindele put Orlando on the scoreboard, FC Cincinnati looked shell-shocked in defense as James O’Connor’s side tallied 10 shots after half-time and over 200 more passes throughout the match.
FCC was also second best on three separate corners. The first mistake, Kendall Waston’s WWE maneuver leading to Nani’s rebound penalty conversion, was the epitome of the type of defense that landed Cincinnati in its rough predicament.
The 2-1 score line gave Orlando all the momentum it needed to bury FC Cincinnati with pace, possession, and set pieces, while Cincinnati looked toothless in attack. Fitness may have been an issue, as numbers rarely supported the player on the ball, and attackers were not tightly marked with conviction in crucial moments as the match progressed. Getting a point or three on the road looked very unlikely at that stage, and the late game substitutions did little to quell these fears. Spencer Richey did well to keep the game as close as he did.
Roster Questions as Gold Cup Looms
Damet finds himself in one of the toughest coaching environments in the country right now. He must, as the youngest MLS coach in history, find a way to inspire a limited roster of players while Jeff Berding scours the planet looking for his inevitable replacement.
Alan Koch may have lost the locker room, and with it, his job. An interesting development after his departure is that some of the team’s highest profile players are still not starting. Are there injury issues at play or do recent choices in player selection go beyond that? Will Damet have the support of the dressing room and front office to make these tough calls?
Fanendo Adi, the star striker and highest-earning player on the team, was not brought to the Queen City as a backup. It remains to be seen how Damet will utilize Adi, but there is little evidence to suggest he provides a spark off the bench.
Where does USMNT player Kenny Saief fit into this club’s short-term or long-term plans? Is Greg Garza reliable enough to build around given his very unfortunate but continued injury troubles?
Has Justin Hoyte overtaken Nick Hagglund as Waston’s center back partner, despite the funds the organization gave up obtaining Hagglund? Additionally, the club is currently using an international spot on the second-string keeper.
Selecting strong matchday squads will only get harder for
Damet as the Gold Cup approaches and players leave for international duty. It
will give other players an opportunity to shine, and luckily for Cincinnati,
there is a still a lot of season left to be played.
At this point in the season, however, a four-goal loss to 10th place Orlando is a big blow to a club aiming for a playoff berth.
Orlando City SC roared back against FC Cincinnati after Darren Mattocks scored the opening goal in the 34th minute. Tesho Akindele scored two, Nani scored two, and Dom Dwyer added insult to injury by adding a fifth in the 82nd minute. The Orange & Blue drop their eighth game out of 13, and fall from 11th to the bottom spot in the Eastern Conference.
Additionally, Greg Garza left the match in the 7th minute with an apparently severe calf injury.
Orlando City SC 5, FC Cincinnati 1
Orlando City Stadium | Orlando, Fla.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
CIN – Darren Mattocks (Eric Alexander) 24’
ORL – Tesho Akindele (Will Johnson, João Moutinho) 37’
Orlando City SC: Brian Rowe, Ruan, Lamine Sané, Robin Jansson, Sebastián Méndez, Will Johnson, João Moutinho, Cristian Higuita (Josué Colmán 78’), Nani (Dom Dwyer 66’), Chris Mueller (Benji Michel 85’), Tesho Akindele
Bench: Greg Ranjitsingh, Kyle Smith, Kamal Miller, Oriol Rosell
FC Cincinnati returned to winning ways under interim head coach Yoann Damet last week, and look to extend their success…
FC Cincinnati returned to winning ways last week under interim head coach Yoann Damet and look to extend their success against Orlando City SC this Sunday. They’ll reacquaint themselves with former rival, James O’Connor, in the process. O’Connor coached Louisville City FC from 2015-2018 before taking the reins at a struggling Orlando City last June.
Orlando City SC are in tenth place in the Eastern Conference, one place and one point ahead of FC Cincinnati in the standings. The Florida outfit come into Sunday’s match on the heels of three consecutive defeats, including a 2-1 midweek loss to the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink. They rotated heavily for that match so many of their usual starters should be rested for Sunday’s contest.
Corben Bone, Kenny Saief, and Allan Cruz are all listed as questionable for FC Cincinnati.
42% of FC Cincinnati’s attacks come down the left side. That percentage is tied as second most left-sided attack in the league. That percentage is typically even higher when Greg Garza is in the match. In comparison, Orlando City FC is fairly balanced but favors the right slightly at 39% of attacks originating there.
FC Cincinnati are second-best in MLS in aerial duel success rate at 53.9%. Only LAFC does it better.
Greg Garza returned from injury to start last Saturday, and led FCC in total passes (91), total passes in Montréal’s half (37) and total touches (107).
FC Cincinnati have the fewest total yellow cards, at 14, in MLS and the fewest cards per game at 1.2. Orlando City SC, in comparison, have 22 yellow cards after 12 matches.
Nani has lived-up to his DP billing for Orlando City SC. In just 8 starts, he has 5 goals, including 2 game-winning goals, and 4 assists. However, he has been nursing a calf injury and did not play in OCSC’s last two matches.
Which second-round games should you tune into this week for your U.S. Open Cup entertainment?
With the second-round matches of the U.S. Open Cup underway this week and the third-round matches on deck, Orange & Blue Press’s Connor Paquette and Geoff Tebbetts take a look at the higher-profile games you should be watching this week.
Las Vegas Lights FC (USLC) vs. Cal FC (UPSL) Tuesday, May 7th, 10:30 PM
Welcome to the “WynalDerby”, ladies and gentlemen. (Okay, so that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.)
National Soccer Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda was one of the key figures that led amateur-squad Cal FC to immense success in 2012 as its head coach. After making it to the Open Cup tournament and knocking off Kitsap Pumas in the first round, Cal FC went on to slug the USL’s Wilmington Hammerheads, 4-0. They then outlasted Portland 1-0 in the next round, one of the biggest shockers by an amateur qualifier against an MLS squad to date. (Seattle would smother the dream run, 5-0, on their own path to the finals.)
Wynalda’s departure to Atlanta Silverbacks the next year derailed all that momentum, but Cal FC has qualified numerous times since then. Their return to the limelight was interrupted in qualification last year—literally—by the stadium’s lights going out before the game ended, but the replay win against Cal United brought them back to prominence. Their win over FC Mulhouse means they have their first advancement past the first round since that 2012 squad. Veteran midfielders from that 2012 team, Richard Menjivar and Danny Barrera, have rejoined the club, perhaps for one more run to USOC stardom.
It’s only fitting that the team has to go through Wynalda to get to the next round. Las Vegas managed to get to the third round last year, only to stumble against PDL squad FC Golden State. Now Las Vegas has hired Wynalda to retool its offense with ex-Cal FC forward Irvin Parra leading the squad in scoring. With so many common denominators between the teams, this matchup could be far from formulaic.
Orange County SC (USLC) vs. Orange County FC (NPSL) Wednesday, May 15th, 10:30 PM
Place your bets! FC or SC—which pseudo-Americanized moniker for clubs of the beautiful game is truly the best? Despite calling the same pitch home in Irvine, California, Wednesday at sundown will be our first-ever chance to find out.
Both Orange County clubs were founded roughly one decade ago, but they have travelled much different paths leading to their own unique successes. Orange County FC has steadily risen from the sixth-tier SoCal Premier League in 2007 to the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) in 2017, earning Elite-Eight playoff finishes over the last two seasons. In 2018, the team accomplished an eyebrow-raising 3rd-place finish among the 94 teams.
Orange County SC, recently transitioned to the USL Championship, is helmed by 2018 MVP finalist and ex-FC Cincinnati midfielder Aodhan Quinn. Last season, they dominated their way to finish atop their conference table, tied for second overall in the league. Unfortunately, second place would become a theme as OCSC would eventually fall to Phoenix Rising FC in the Western Conference finals.
While both OC teams made it to the second round of the U.S. Open Cup last year, OCFC stumbled against USL-level Fresno, and OCSC were thumped at home by FC Golden State. Two sour endings to promising seasons. Two chips, one for either shoulder. One County to claim. A rivalry is born.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USLC) vs. Dayton Dutch Lions (USL2) Tuesday, May 14th, 7 PM
What year is it? No matter—you probably forgot that these
two teams once were league competitors. (Don’t worry; we did too.)
Back in the day, when USL Championship was still known as USL Pro, Dayton and Pittsburgh were close rivals in the League’s National Division. Starting in 2011, Dayton specifically wasn’t much of a threat. They posted an abysmal two wins and 16 losses that year, but of the few teams they managed to overthrow, the elusive first win was against Pittsburgh. And yet surprisingly, it was Dayton who made it to the quarterfinals of the 2012 U.S. Open Cup, even going so far as to knock out the Columbus Crew along the way.
Since their last head-to-head meeting, Pittsburgh has reinvented their soccer identity; in 2018, they adopted a new crest, matched their colors to the city’s iconic yellow and black, and tagged an “SC” to the end of their name to cap it off. The hire of Bob Lilley has brought them back to a competitive level, but they’ve yet to make a significant impact in the Open Cup. The Riverhounds haven’t gotten past the 4th round since 2001, when they almost beat Chicago in the quarterfinals.
These two clubs have a brief but competitive history against one another. Amazingly, it’s Dayton who holds the head-to-head advantage, having a 4-2-2 record against the Riverhounds during their four-year USL Pro stint. Thus, if Pittsburgh wishes to continue their evolution and reach the pinnacle of lower division soccer, they must first smite their ancient rival.
Greenville Triumph SC (USL1) vs. Charleston Battery (USLC) Wednesday, May 15th, 7 PM
There hasn’t been much competition in South Carolina over the past few decades. Charleston has enjoyed a healthy 25 years as the preeminent soccer club in The Palmetto State. The Battery have arguably been the strongest lower-tier team in the U.S. Open Cup during the MLS Era, twice making it as far as the semifinals and finishing as runners-up to D.C. United in 2008. The last time they faced another South Carolina team in the U.S. Open Cup was back in 2002 when they beat the Greenville Lions, 3-0.
Speaking of Greenville, when the Triumph joined USL League One this year, the team rolled high to hire former FC Cincinnati head coach John Harkes to the same position. It probably was the biggest splash in a league that has started a little like a ripple. But while Greenville itself is in the middle of the table after ten games, the Triumph’s big win against rival South Georgia last week set up an interesting matchup.
Picture it—Cincinnati, 2016. Harkes had just led upstart FC Cincinnati
to the USL playoffs. In the team’s first ever playoff game, the Orange &
Blue were dealt a devastating 2-1 loss to…the Charleston Battery, the same team
Harkes faces this week.
Perhaps both sides wouldn’t consider this to be a revenge
game, but this is the first USL Championship squad Harkes has faced since then.
In addition, he’s brought in a few players from that 2016 FCC team (goalkeeper
Dallas Jaye, defenders Evan Lee and Tyler Polak) who probably still remember
that loss pretty well too.
OKC Energy FC (USLC) vs. NTX Rayados (North Texas PSA) Tuesday, May 14th, 8:30 PM
There could arguably be bigger games this week between beefier USL squads, but none are as intriguing as this David and Goliath battle in which you don’t know who is who.
Surprisingly, the local qualifier teams have done well to get past the first round this year. Five of the eight qualifiers won their matchups last week, but the Rayados possibly had the hardest route to get there. Due to heavy rains, the Rayados found their flight cancelled, forcing the team to drive 320 miles to play the Little Rock Rangers. Despite an early lead, the Rayados were down 2-1 at halftime to the Rangers. After going down to 10 men from a late red card, the Rayados pulled off a miracle equalizer in stoppage time, then won the shootout to advance.
The miracle stoppage-time equalizer is exactly how these two teams played their game last year. Down 2-1 to the Energy, the Rayados managed a 90th-minute penalty kick to save their tournament, then pounded three extra-time goals to stun the USL squad 5-2. The second-round loss was OKC’s earliest exit ever in the tournament, so it’s pretty evident the Energy will want to exact revenge on their own turf this time.
Phoenix Rising (USLC) vs. New Mexico United (USLC) Wednesday, May 15th, 9:30 PM
Phoenix has taken their name to heart and lit the lower division soccer world on fire in recent years. As a player-owner, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba showed the good people of Arizona an electrifying atmosphere that most sports can’t imagine reaching at this level. They continued their charge in atmosphere on the field, making the 2018 USL finals only to fall to the defending Champions, Louisville City FC. But although successful in the community and in their own league, the squad has yet to do serious damage in Open Cup play; they’ve only made it to the 4th round once, back in 2014 when they were Arizona United SC.
To spite Phoenix further, the hottest story in the Southwest now resides in New Mexico United. One of seven expansion teams in USL Championship, NMU have taken the league by storm, bringing in over 12,000 fans per game at Isotopes Field in Albuquerque. The newest team sporting yellow and black has come out swinging, dropping only one game on the season. They’re led by the high-octane forwards Kevaughn Frater and Santi Moar; each of whom are tied for the Western Conference lead in goals scored possess both Player-of-the-Month and Goal-of-the-Month honors to start the season.
How will their neighbors respond? For the most part, Phoenix
has enjoyed isolation of marketplace in the Southwest, as their closest true
rivals were in the distant lands of Texas and California. But with Phoenix’s
slow start to the season and New Mexico rising to the East, a new threat has emerged.
Yellow and Black versus Red and Black—the border war begins.
Third-round matchups will be played on or around May 29th, with fourth-round matchups (and FC Cincinnati’s game) announced the following Thursday, May 30th.
However it happened – corporate corner-cutting, a mass arrest of Major League Soccer’s more tech-savvy interns – the highlights team at Mothership HQ …
However it happened – corporate corner-cutting, a mass arrest of Major League Soccer’s more tech-savvy interns – the highlights team at Mothership HQ opted against splicing together (near as I can tell) even one condensed game this weekend. As such, I’m flying blind(er) with this weekend’s review (and I’m not sure I’m entirely against it; seriously, over-preparation is something people do). The biggest, more relevant caveat I can provide follows from there: I’ve only watched the highlights, checked the box scores and line-ups for all the games this week, then did some math to come up with everything down below. It’s better than guessing – by a fair stretch, I’d argue – but it’s not the ultimate dream, aka, total coverage. That said, even if the coverage isn’t total, everyone will be mentioned. To share a kind of user’s guide, when I use a phrase like “super-active,” what I really mean is, “he showed up all over the highlights.” Also, unless I make a clearly detailed point, assume I’m thinking “it looked like” in front of every sentence that describes a game-state of any kind.
For this week’s review, I decided to start with my hometown Portland Timbers, and not just to proselytize (though, by the earth beneath my feet, and the gods over my head, I will make Timbers fans out of as many people as possible). For anyone who hasn’t heard, the Timbers lost last Friday to the Vancouver Whitecaps all the way up in the very bottom of British Columbia. As noted in the write-up I posted to Conifers & Citrus, the Timbers turned a slow start all the way around, to the point where the ‘Caps couldn’t keep track of where the next punch would come from. Portland ended with the number of shots that one usually only sees in a rout (having reviewed every box score from this past weekend, I’ve got about 15 games’ worth of back to that argument,) only they never scored. 27 shots…27 wild-ass shots, apparently, but that box score provides a decent impression of the totality of that game.
If you take the time to read that post, I felt all right after Friday’s loss – disappointed, but, with Portland playing well over five of the last six games, and winning three of those in a row, all them away, I could still see a fairly clear path forward. With Providence Park still rushing to completion, the Timbers still having two games left to play on the road before returning home…to face Los Angeles FC (srsly? sh*t).
Staring down the cold-steel barrel of those two games – away to the Houston Dynamo, then away to the Philadelphia Union – made me feel like I’d read the script for Friday’s loss to Vancouver upside down. According to recent math, Houston and Philly away are just about two of the hardest road games available in MLS 2019, and then the Timbers face (per one opinion) MLS’s Manchester City in their first home game against LAFC. That’s the sharper clarity you miss by focusing too much on the present. Bottom line, the Timbers threw away its best chance to come out of their road trip with more than 10 points – and they did it while out-playing a team on the road and for 2/3 of the game. As a Timbers fan first, I’d much rather have 13 points right now than try to pry them out of their next three dips into your higher rings of Hell. The point is, you can’t always tell what a yesterday’s loss means until you look ahead to a tomorrow or two down the line.
To pull back and stare at the big picture, MLS Week (by a slim margin) 11 was a busy and fairly talkative mess. During a week where 1/3 of the league played two games, the league’s two, increasingly-clear heavyweights packed their dominance rituals into just one game – and they weren’t the only teams making noise…of whatever kind or sound (see the Colorado Rapids, and cry). Of the teams who played two games during Week 11, four of them more or less carried on in a meaningful direction (three of them, for sure, the fourth less so); and there are smaller trends to track even under all of that. I plan to touch on every team/game in MLS in this review (and we’ll see how I do), but I want to start in the most obvious place – i.e., with MLS two clear heavyweights.
Of Contenders (and Dark Horses)
When Los Angeles FC….more or less pounded Columbus Crew SC in Ohio this weekend, they very quietly slapped down any (or just my) talk of a slow-down. And, yes, Columbus hasn’t been great, but they’d just done a tidy dance atop LAFC’s inter(-ish)-city rivals, the Los Angeles Galaxy, four days before, and that at least opened the floor to some questions. Watching the highlights cleared up at least the present confusion – especially with Carlos Vela looking like a player from another, better league – and then you see the soccer gods show their favor in such transparent, almost heartbreaking ways to anyone who hasn’t been a favorite child. It only gets worse when you see Mark-Anthony Kaye all over the highlights to boot. For those who haven’t checked, LAFC’s goal differential is, for this kind of league, off the charts.
That same factor – e.g., an eye-catching goal differential – sells me on Philly as well. LAFC’s differential is wider (29 gf, 8 ga versus 23 gf, 12 ga), but the Union’s still lives on a distant (small sample) planet from the rest of MLS with that +11 spread. After mopping the floor with the opposition at home over the past two games (not to mention padding that goal differential), the Union traveled Toronto FC, a reportedly tricky, definitely big venue, shivved the home team, and went home with all three points. From the highlights alone, the brightest spot I saw was them getting a solid ROI out of Kacper Przybylko. Better still (from Philly’s point of view), it looked like Philly smothered them all the way until they choked the game-opening goal out of them. At this point in the season, LAFC and Philly look like something like global gatekeepers, teams doing well (enough) in any venue.
Before I forget Columbus and TFC, one of them had a reasonable week (Columbus), while a disaster hit the other one (TFC). Defensible as it may be to get (numerically) played off the park by Atlanta in the Dirty South – TFC’s other, arguably worse loss over Week 12 – handling the Union at home was TFC’s real litmus test. While TFC played under the same profile in both games, the loss to Atlanta highlights the chilling, semi-unexpected hint at what’s eating TFC: they’re both dominating and dicking around with possession, and have the non-results to show for it. Not one shot on goal against Atlanta. The story is brighter in Columbus – Gyasi Zardes woke up (and that’s one hell of an assist), and they got half the points from Week 11 – but it feels notable all the same to see them play themselves into the space between the Galaxy and LAFC (as in, is that their level?). To get back to Atlanta, though…
While I think anyone with eyes can see that Atlanta’s enjoyed a bit of an upswing lately, I’m not sure everyone noticed that they’ve allowed just one goal in their last six games. Those same six games haven’t been the toughest stretch by any means – e.g., four games at home, and against some of MLS’s dimmer bulbs (at present! dream, guys!), the New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City away and the Colorado Rapids and, in their other game this weekend, Orlando City SC at home. In other words, those are games they should be winning. The point is, they are, Hector Villalba looked dangerous across both games, and Josef Martinez got twoassists against TFC and, again, teams aren’t scoring against them.
Another team rising from the depths is New York City FC, who have lately mastered the art of turning Ds into Ws. NYCFC wrapped up their fourth win in five games all the way in Los Angeles, and they (again, from the looks of it) played pretty circles around the Galaxy. When people ask what makes a team better, it can be something unexpected as having a fullback like Anton Tinnerholm on the roster (who was involved in bothgoals). To wrap up the Galaxy, as cranked up as I’d be the goals they allowed against Columbus (i.e., up the gut), they have bigger fish to burn – e.g., that’s 3 straight losses, yes? On the plus side, losing to a surging NYCFC side at home isn’t the same as losing to a lot of teams right now.
That leaves only one dark horse in the stable, the Chicago Fire. To draw an arbitrary line, Chicago has allowed just five goals in its last seven games – and, to those wondering, I used that cut off to keep the math useful and to isolate the period where Chicago collected a helpful number of points. 3-2-2 might not win a team any titles, but it’ll probably get them to the playoffs – a reasonable step forward for a team like Chicago. More to the point, that defensive solidity (also, the formation is notable) has let them build the kind of reliable results that help give faith in a team – e.g., tight losses away to NYCFC and LAFC, and thrashings of teams they should thrash at home (e.g., Colorado, New England, and, this past weekend Minnesota United). With that defense clicking and Aleksandar Katai prowling, Nicolas Gaitan leading lethalcounters across two games, and Frankowski’s incredible speed, I’m just saying that sleeping on Chicago suddenly looks like a bad idea.
An Interlude, The Maddening Tweener
Before moving on, there’s one fringe, deeply deceptive candidate who has very quietly improved its recent record: the New York Red Bulls, a team that has become hard to track precisely because it keeps losing some freaky-ass random games with stunning regularity. Now comes the fun: look at the line-ups the Red Bulls started in each ofWeek 11’s games. If I gave you a blind taste-test as to which of those line-ups lost in Harrison, NJ and which won in Frisco, TX, I’m something like 75% certain you’d get it wrong. The funnier thing is that the Red Bulls have now won three of their last four games, and they probably got unlucky against Montréal. While they’ve looked more like they used to in recent weeks (i.e., one- or two-touch passes and lots of movement, like this), the one thing that keeps me from rising them to the land of the living is the low numbers I keep seeing them produce. When you’re already at the margin, it doesn’t take much to knock you off the edge.
Should We Fire Our Coach? (Signs Point to Yes!)
Of the two teams who fired their coaches this week – FC Cincinnati and the New England Revolution – both of them won the game immediately after the defenestration. In Cincinnati’s case, the most visible change came from either shuffling around personnel or commitment to a new way of playing (NOTE: both could be valid; the second one is mine, the other one is more precise). The decision to put their foot on the ball a lot more in the post-Alan-Koch era paid off for FC Cincy, but I would also never call the Montréal Impact an easy read – not least because they aren’t all there. On the one hand, sure, if they translate that (now) 4-4-2 record to the end of the season, they’re deep in the playoffs. At the same time, none of what I saw around their win over RBNY nominated them for powerhouse (this was a gift, but not an egregious one), and, as noted in my longer write-up on their road loss to FC Cincy, they hardly graced Ohio with their presence. To close with Cincinnati, the concept looks good, but keep a lid on expectations till further notice (and may they come soon).
I know less about the Revolution, I mean besides the brutal (savage? war-crimes-esque?) divide between their evisceration on the road at Chicago and their eye-catching win over the San Jose Earthquakes. At the same time, the eye test might have some wrinkles in it. First, the Revs got pushed around a bit in every even loosely attacking metric except goals scored. On the one hand, it’s great they caught San Jose with theirpants down, but can they build a season around it? Also, I didn’t make much of this in the paragraph above on Chicago, but, holy sh*t, the comedy of deeply-unfunny errors that end with Nemanja Nikolic scoring on the third giftthe Revsgave him. They’re still terrible defensively, and that’s going to amount to a burden. That said, were I a New England fan, I’d draw comfort from seeing Mike Lapper re-imagine the team and get results. If pressed, I’d play Lapper’s XI against Brad Friedel’s last XI every day of the week.
Well, that’s it for everything I can fit into a topic. To close out the rest of the results I haven’t mentioned yet, the Colorado Rapids…reverse conjoured a lossat home to Real Salt Lake, one that included the tragic, immediately-caveated phrase right after the Rapids scored their (thoroughly decent) equalizer, “and how important can that one be?” Note how they hung the thought, waiting for the inevitable failure; Kei Kamara missing the PK only amplifies the case that this team is cursed. To go a little more global, Colorado ranks among a bunch of teams that I’ll never call decent until they utterly convince me. It’s going to take six weeks’ worth of wins before I take them seriously (or even just stop mercilessly measuring any result they get against something that debunks it). And, to use a handy example, RSL hangs from the same hook: sure, they’re in the playoffs at time of writing, but only by the grace of punching every convenient team that’s available to them.
To well and truly close out, I didn’t see anything that exonerates Minnesota’s loss to Chicago (if nothing else, you’re worried about Katai beating Ike Opara like that). I think…wait, crap! I forgot the late, late show – i.e., D.C. United’s narrow 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. My only thoughts there are, 1) feels like more of the same (e.g., an SKC loss); 2) Wayne Rooney serves up a mean set-piece; 3) most importantly, and as much as I try to avoid it (and I need a therapist for this), as much as I keep trying to dismiss D.C. United, they’re 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. If I can’t get as excited about D.C.’s three wins in their last four as I get in the Red Bulls, what good am I?
Finally, and I think this is the last one, the Seattle Sounders beat the Houston Dynamo at home 1-0 late on Saturday, and a second consecutive bomb from Cristian Roldan feels like the only surprise there. (Also, Alberth Elis should have done better with this one).
Please, God, let that be everything. Overall, I think it’s safe to argue that, until further notice, MLS has two clear contenders: LAFC and Philly. Some “hot” teams exist between them and the grasping pit below – e.g., Atlanta, NYCFC, (missed it, but) and DC; and maybe Chicago and the Red Bulls (all Eastern Conference teams…hmm) – but the rest probably feel stuck in a permanent loop of “how do we make things better, I mean without spending money?”
Following a tumultuous few weeks in club history, FC Cincinnati returned to Nippert Saturday with a new coach and mindset. Winless in 7 matches …
Following a tumultuous few weeks in club history, FC Cincinnati returned to Nippert Saturday with a new coach and mindset. Winless in 7 matches, and having gone 655 minutes scoreless from the field of play, FCC abruptly made a coaching change Tuesday. The club decided to place their foreseeable trust in the youngest MLS coach ever, previous assistant coach Yoann Damet. That decision was rewarded by the players with a flowing, decisive 2-1 victory over an in-form Montreal Impact. Many adjectives come to mind regarding the team’s performance … refreshing, encouraging, hopeful, enjoyable!
With less than 100 hours
since being named coach, how did Damet and his team turn the tide?
Damet made several tactical changes to the formation and line-up from what we’ve witnessed this season. The most significant and impactful change was to the midfield. Instead of rolling out a pair of Central Defensive Midfielders, “Yo” as the team refers to him, changed from a double pivot to a single pivot midfield formation.
He entrusted Victor Ulloa with a field general role that fostered connectivity between the back line and attacking players which FCC has been lacking all season. In Italy, they refer to this deep-lying midfield general as the “regista” – the director. Ulloa looked comfortable and ready to take on the regista role for the Orange & Blue. Ulloa had 93 touches in the match, 43 more than any other midfielder from either team. Here is Ulloa’s dynamic and effective distribution map for the game.
This use of the single pivot formation enabled the Orange & Blue to control possession and create fluidity from the back line through the midfield to the attacking third. Both of FCC goals were the result of double-digit pass sequences. The first goal was arguably one of the most patient, methodical team goals in FC Cincinnati history. Each field player gets a touch on the ball and contributes to the one-minute full field build-up resulting in Allan Cruz’s second goal of the season.
Over the first eleven matches, FC Cincinnati had a woeful shot conversion rate. Shot conversion rate is calculated as goals scored divided by shots attempted. Prior to Saturday’s contest, FCC had scored 8 goals over 112 total shots attempted, a rate of only 7.1%.
As noted by OptaJack before the game, no other MLS expansion team since 2015 had a season rate under 11.0%. Saturday’s two-goal haul over only six total shots translates to an efficient 33.3% rate for the game. By far the most productive goals per shot ratio of the season, thereby increasing their season average to 8.5%. Note, however, that FC Cincinnati only had 6 total shots.
Confidence in His Players
Possibly as important as the tactical changes unveiled on Saturday was the confidence the manager showed in his squad. Damet was both humble and effusive towards his players in his post match remarks. “The most important pieces are the players. We want to provide an environment that allowed them to express themselves, and the players showed tonight that they are capable of playing football.” He continued, “They deserve fully the credit for the performance of this afternoon.”
One result does not guarantee a continued positive trajectory, but the improved atmosphere and energy surrounding the team is evident.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of our fantastic supporters who are Moms!
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as FCC travels to Orlando next Sunday to take on former Louisville skipper James O’Connor and his Orlando City SC squad.
Yoann Damet is off to a flying start as FC Cincinnati’s interim manager. Allan Cruz ended the Orange & Blue’s goalless drought 7 minutes…
Yoann Damet is off to a flying start as FC Cincinnati’s interim manager. The fireworks started early when Allan Cruz ended the Orange & Blue’s goalless drought 7 minutes into the Saturday matinee at Nippert Stadium. FCC then doubled their lead in the second half courtesy of a cool finish by substitute Fatai Alashe. Montréal made matters interesting by grabbing a goal in the 75th minute, but FC Cincinnati held on for the win, ending a five-game string of losses.
After a tumultuous week where FC Cincinnati fired head coach Alan Koch, the team attempts to regroup on home turf against the Montréal Impact
After a tumultuous week where FC Cincinnati fired head coach Alan Koch, the team attempts to regroup on home turf against the Montréal Impact. Interim head coach Yoann Damet now leads the team, and interestingly, he was an academy coach with the Montréal Impact for three years prior to joining FC Cincinnati in 2017.
The Orange & Blue have lost five straight matches and have not scored a goal in that timeframe. Their most recent disappointment was in San Jose where they suffered a 1-0 defeat despite having a man advantage for most of the second half.
Montréal arrives in the Queen City buzzing after a 2-1 midweek win over the Red Bulls in New Jersey. They were without star playmaker Ignacio Piatti and rotated their roster, but still won. As a result, they occupy third place in the Eastern Conference. Further, they are tied on points with the two leaders in the East, but a -3 goal differential leaves them in a lower position. Piatti will also miss the match against FC Cincinnati on Saturday.
Greg Garza, Corben Bone, and Alvas Powell are all listed as questionable for this contest, although Garza did return to practice this week. Kickoff is at 1 pm Eastern Time.
FC Cincinnati is second in the league in aerial duels won, with 19.4 per game. Only the New York Red Bulls can boast a higher rate.
FC Cincinnati and Montréal Impact have the second and third worst shots per game averages in MLS. However, Montréal at 10.6 shots per game have scored 14 goals and FC Cincinnati, at 10.2 shots per game have netted only 8.
The Montreal Impact have scored twice as many goals from open play, 10, as FC Cincinnati have, 5, this season. FCC ranks last in the league in this category.
The Impact lead MLS in successful dribbles with 148. In comparison, FC Cincinnati are 15th with 102 total. Keep in mind that Montréal has played one additional game at this point in the season.
For some insights on this week’s opponent, we reached out to our friends in Montréal for perspective on FC Cincinnati’s new head coach, Yoann Damet and Saturday’s matchup.
Antony de Varennes, co-editor in chief of culturesoccer.com, shared the following on Damet’s philosophy as a coach.
“Yoann Damet is a coach that likes to be close to his players. He strongly believes that the human side of the players is as important as the tactical approach. On the pitch, he focuses on the players as a group and not as individuals as he thinks that a well-balanced group will enhance individual performance.”
For additional insights on Damet, check out the article below from Culture Soccer (you’ll need a browser translator if you don’t speak French).