Alan Koch is out as FC Cincinnati’s head coach. Assistant Yoann Damet will serve as interim manager until a new coach is hired.
Alan Koch is out as FC Cincinnati’s head coach. Assistant Yoann Damet will serve as interim manager until a new coach is hired.
A press report released on Tuesday morning indicates that the decision was based on management’s perception that Koch had not maximized the talent at his disposal.
This decision is not
driven by recent game results themselves, but rather the underpinnings
that have led to those results,” said President and General Manager Jeff
Berding. “We have not come close to maximizing the talent we have in the
dressing room this year, nor have we seen a foundation
being built that will set us up for success this year
and into next year. Our whole locker room is committed to our
club goal of earning an MLS postseason bid, and we need to put them in the best
position to do so.”
Koch’s dismissal comes after a streak of 5 consecutive defeats for FCC despite a positive start to the season. The team currently sits at 2-7-2 in 11th place, second from bottom of the Eastern Conference after 11 matches played.
FC Cincinnati will undergo an “international search” for their next head coach.
FC Cincinnati still has a ways to wait until the enter the U.S. Open Cup. What teams are we most excited to square against?
The 106th U.S. Open Cup kicks off tonight at 7pm ET. FC Cincinnati possesses one of the most incredible Cinderella stories to ever grace the tournament with their 2017 climb to the Final Four. Since then, the tournament has been a fan favorite and the only opportunity for supporters to see the Orange and Blue take on rivals outside of their league.
This year, the format changes slightly, as FC Cincinnati don’t play until two rounds later than usual. With that in mind, here are the Top 5 teams for lower division clubs that I personally want to see FCC face when they enter the tournament in Round 4.
For simplicity, we’re keeping our choices aimed at Northeast/Central teams, since FC Cincinnati is most likely to join one of those regions in the bracket.
I was originally going to put Lou City in the honorable mentions, but I believe they need an explanation as to why they’re not ranked higher. After all, in my biased opinion the Dirty River Derby was the rivalry of lower-division American soccer. From Streamer-Gate to Bite-Gate, from James O’Connor’s bee-suit promo to the Hurricane at Slugger, there was so much drama when these two clubs met on the pitch.
But that’s just it–they’ve faced each other so many times in the past. Not to dismiss the quality of play, but there have already been so many incredible games and stories between these two clubs. No matter the divisions, these cities and teams will be linked for the rest of their existences. While a trip down Memory Lane in the form of another Open Cup match would certainly draw, it simply wouldn’t have as much impact, since the last rivalry game has been so recent.
With Louisville repeating as champs in 2018, their former head coach O’Connor being hired by Orlando City, and Cincinnati winning the regular-season pennant on their way out the door, it felt like the page had been turned. Now we need to let time pass so that it will be a fresh start when the rivalry is one day revisited.
4. Saint Louis FC
Rumors are circulating that the Lou is next in line to join Major League Soccer. Now would be a wonderful opportunity for FCC to build on rivalries ripe for explosion. I was uncertain if Nashville SC belonged here, but while FC Cincinnati has already had a fair share of moments against Nashville, last year Saint Louis was treading water as a big-time club under-performing in a different conference.
But that’s changed over the past year. With many former FCC players on the roster (Kyle Greig, Kadeem Dacres, Matt Bahner, and 2018 fan-favorite Russell Cicerone) Saint Louis currently sits at 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. With their potential to rise ever further in the American soccer landscape, recognizable names for long-time FCC supporters, and relative proximity to the Orange and Blue, a reunion would be a welcome match to help FCC kick off their 2019 U.S. Open campaign.
3. Forward Madison FC
This one is a bit personal. Forward Madison FC is a ridiculously fun club making its mark in USL League One already. Their social-media presence has been a phenomenal addition, and they are setting the standard for what lower-division soccer clubs are capable of in terms of fan experience both inside and outside matches.
With that in mind, an encounter against one of football’s recent great creation stories in FC Cincinnati would be a fantastic way to help a club with so much potential build their brand and make a tremendous impact on a city newer to the professional soccer landscape. Give me the ‘Mingos!
2. Indy Eleven
Congratulations to Indy Eleven for being recognized as a top-tier team alongside the likes of the Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Colts. Dreams for MLS expansion on the mind, Indy put together an incredible campaign to earn the support of their local and state government to build a soccer-specific-stadium as part of a much larger development.
Indy being so high on this list shouldn’t come as a surprise. FC Cincinnati supporters only got a small taste of the potential rivalry Indy brought to the table when they transitioned from the NASL during the 2018 off-season. Their close proximity enticed thousands of FCC fans to travel for the Orange and Blue’s second game of the year. I imagine a very similar crowd would sojourn once more.
What’s even more exciting about the potential of facing the Indy Eleven is the reunion with familiar faces of many fan favorites. Former players Kenney Walker, Paddy Barrett, Tyler Gibson, and Evan Newton all signed with Indy for the year. Orange-and-Blue blood streams through all of them, and it would be all the more pleasurable to kick off the cup campaign by inviting them back to the place they helped build.
1. Dayton Dutch Lions
Nearly all the teams I’ve mentioned to this point have faced FC Cincinnati at one time or another. However, one club, just an hour north of Nippert, has never had the opportunity to play one of Ohio’s biggest clubs. It’s time to change that. The Dayton Dutch Lions are entering their 10th year as a club. What better way to further develop their history than to play FCC?
It’s very likely Dayton is a target market for FC Cincinnati when they eventually create a USL affiliate. Whether or not they pursue that location route, building a relationship with a top market in the state (and one FCC is competing with Columbus over) is not only necessary, but recommended. It’s a win-win situation. Of all the prospective match-ups the U.S. Open Cup could provide, this is the team we’d be most fortunate to face.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press to follow FC Cincinnati’s season and their potential entrance into the U.S. Open Cup.
The U.S. Open Cup begins again. What lower-tier teams are expected to go far this year?
It has been almost one year since FC Cincinnati was accepted into Major League Soccer’s grandest stage. There have been perks from the call to the expanded field—scintillating match-ups against deeper talent, travel to bigger cities, the meaty prospects of a “Hell Is Real” Derby rematch twice a year—but a major downgrade is the fact that the Orange & Blue are no longer the underdogs. That also means we’ll have to wait before we see a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match that matters.
Fans in the Queen City owe a lot to the tournament that shined a light on the underdogs the brightest. FCC’s miracle run in 2017 was amplified even more by teams such as Miami FC blazing through Orlando and Atlanta, Sacramento Republic crushing Real Salt Lake, and local-qualifier darlings Christos FC rattling D.C. United. While there still hasn’t been a non-MLS team in the finals since 2008, each year another lower-tier team makes us believe.
For now, those “underdog” days are over for FC Cincinnati. The Orange & Blue now join the competition in the fourth round with 20 other MLS teams. However, we cannot forget that the Open Cup lifted our profile even higher than before, and that’s why we should be following the 106th edition of the Cup from the first round (which is still easy to do with the games all on ESPN+). We owe a lot to those phantasmic games in 2017.
But which teams could make a similar run for the Cup this year? This article will cover the lower leagues involved and the teams that could make the deepest invasion in the open competition.
Local Qualifiers – NTX Rayados
Since 2014, there has been at least one amateur team that had survived qualification rounds and climbed all the way to the fourth round to face an MLS squad. While a “local qualifier” has not managed to get further than this, last year’s highest-advancing amateur club, NTX Rayados from Dallas, TX, could likely repeat the run.
The glut of MLS, USL, and NPSL squads means that only 8 local amateur teams make the competition this year (compared to 13 last year). However, the Rayados have been a powerhouse in the United States Adult Soccer Association and have qualified the last eight years. Granted, they have only gotten out of the first round twice, but last year’s squad scored three times in added extra time against Oklahoma City Energy FC for the second-round upset.
While the team was hammered 5-0 by eventual champions Houston Dynamo, the team has pulled in help from a national junior-college champion team to keep the squad young and talented. It took two long penalty-kick wins to make it this far this year, including one that went eleven rounds, but NTX could easily find themselves in a rematch against OKC if they can get past Little Rock in the first round.
Remember when FC Cincinnati had a mini Ohio derby against AFC Cleveland in 2017? If Cleveland didn’t get past the first round, FCC would have had to travel to face the Menace in the second round. While Des Moines missed qualifying last year, their 13-1-0 record in 2018 gets them back into the tournament for the 11th time in 18 years.
Although the Menace failed to make it past the quarterfinals in the USL PDL tournament last year, the team returns a great deal of talent. The team has brought in Mark McKeever to helm the team this year, who led the Mississippi Brilla to the third round in the Open Cup last year. The Menace also bring back 2018 USL PDL MVP Ryosuke Kinoshita—the University of Louisville forward scored 17 goals for the Menace last year. He could be key in helping the team reach heights they haven’t seen since 2005, back when they beat USL1 teams Pittsburgh, Charleston, and Atlanta to get to the fourth round.
The run might not be easy though—a win means the Menace would have to host St. Louis FC in the second round. Considering they lost to St. Louis back in 2015, perhaps there’s an opportunity for an upset.
Is there really a team in the USL’s brand-new Division III league that could go far in the Open Cup? Only six of the ten teams are unaffiliated and can compete, so the pickings are slim in the first place. Much of the meat in the league would have to face the top teams in the USL (Nashville SC, Charleston Battery, Indy Eleven), and Forward Madison would have to send an untested team 1,400 miles to face El Paso.
We threw a dart at a map of the U.S., and it landed nearest to Richmond. Why not roll with the team that won it all way back in 1995 and reached the semifinals in 2011? Granted, they have a steep challenge ahead of them in drawing NCFC if they get to the second round, but young striker Joe Gallardo has done well to start the season with 3 goals in his first six games with the Kickers. Maybe lighting strikes a few times in a row?
While USL League Two (then PDL) has been considered the developmental half of Division IV soccer, the NPSL has to be considered the more regionally competitive half of the tier. The league has the most semi-pro representation in the U.S. Open Cup this year (14 teams), and it’s likely that the former NASL giants Miami FC could progress the furthest in the tournament this year.
Miami FC took major steps back last year in more ways than
one. Forced to flee to NPSL when the NASL collapsed, the semi-pro squad was
unable to get out of the USOC second round last year. However, the team still
rode the hot feet of midfielder Dylan Mares and striker Ariel Martinez to win
the 2018 NPSL Title, and the team’s only gotten better by signing ex-Red Bulls
pro Lloyd Sam and former Toronto goalkeeper Mark Pais.
Can Miami FC repeat the success that got them past Orlando
and Atlanta in 2017? That might be a bit of a harder challenge, but Miami
FC’s 10-0 win over division rivals Storm FC this past week ought to strike
fear in the USL Championship and League One teams. Miami FC should be able to
trounce local-qualifiers Florida Soccer Soldiers on their way to facing a shaky
Charlotte Independence squad next week. The step beyond that, however, could
lead to a clash of ex-NASL giants…
Part of me says that I shouldn’t play my chips this way.
Tampa Bay has had that rock-star persona over the past few years with big names
like Joe Cole and Marcel Schäfer gracing the pitch. However, this incarnation
of the Rowdies has not gotten far in Open Cup play. Their biggest win was a
third-round upset of Seattle in 2013, but they’ve never gotten past the fourth round
since starting in 2010.
Why should this year be any different? First of all, it
feels like the facelift to personnel has finally made the team younger and
hungrier. 2018 felt like a sendoff to multiple players heading into retirement
(Cole, Schäfer, Michael Nanchoff, Georgi Hristov), so it became the right time
for new coach Neill Collins to stockpile talent. MLS discards such as
midfielder Andrew Tinari and goalkeeper John McCarthy have fit in well, while
forward Sebastián Guenzatti is leaving his mark as the new strike force.
Talented USL standouts such as Zach Steinberger and Antoine Hoppenot have
filled out the rest of the roster.
With that complete roster, Tampa Bay has started the season
as one of two USL teams still undefeated. Considering they have the weekend off
before their second-round matchup against local USL League Two talent, as well
as a home stretch after that, Tampa Bay could go far in the Open Cup. If the
luck of the draw means they don’t have to travel great distances, I could see
them upsetting an Orlando City or Atlanta United squad down the line.
The immense explosion in USL expansion has created scenarios
where USL Championship squads will likely face each other or a USL League One
squad in the second round, so predicting an easy route to the third round isn’t
so simple this year. Six teams in the Western Conference for the USL
Championship will have to slug it out against each other, leaving some room for
the untested teams.
The most intriguing of those teams appears to be Las Vegas. Their
inaugural 2018 season was more circus than soccer with pre-game
llamas, money-drop promotions, and a
head coach who smoked in the stands during a preseason tilt against
Vancouver. However, the hiring of MLS stalwart Eric Wynalda suggested that the
team was ready to be taken seriously. Midfielder Irvin Parra has come back to
the USL revitalized, scoring five goals in the last five games, while
goalkeeper Thomas Olsen has started the season with four clean sheets.
Las Vegas will take on a relative lightweight in either FC Mulhouse (NPSL) or Cal FC (UPSL), and either team will have to travel far to get there. If Las Vegas win and get paired against Reno 1868 FC in the third round, the in-state rivalry could spark a streak.
Are the Lights ready for MLS competition? Perhaps. The 5-1 victory over Toronto in the preseason might be a measuring stick for such matters. If Vegas can make it to the fourth round and avoid matchups against the Los Angeles teams, I see an upset in the cards.
What teams in this year’s competition will go the furthest? What
giant-killing opportunities lurk on the horizon? The only way we’ll find out is
by letting it all play out to completion.
With the arrival of MLS Week 10, fans of Major League Soccer finally have a body of current context to help them understand the results they’re seeing…
I want to start this week’s post by correcting the record. If it wasn’t last week that I slagged off on the condensed games on the MLS App as a path to enlightenment, it was the week before. All it took to get me back into the fold was the decision to preview the state of the San Jose Earthquakes by watching their three games prior to this weekend’s (100%-guaranteed sleeping-meds) win over FC Cincinnati. A longer taste of what they’d done over that period shrank them a little. While it’s still true that the condensed games rob you of any and all sense of what happens in the middle of the – and that poop is vital (often) – they still deliver a larger sample of opportunities (by the attack) and failures (from the defense), and that’s more information in your head no matter how you slice it.
At any rate, watching all those condensed games gave me a better read on San Jose’s “revival,” which looks even less impressive still after suffering through 90 minutes of watching them pass circles around FC Cincy (for those who want more pain, see my extended notes). A handful of thoughts circle over the corpse of Cincinnati’s loss to the ‘Quakes – chief among them, that San Jose didn’t do much with all that time on the ball, and that Cincy could have stolen a point but for Daniel Vega’s right hand(?).
All the same, few things push back against any narrative about San Jose becoming a force quite as hard as the sub-text of all the results that built their eight-point haul from their last four games. For one thing, the streak started against a Sporting Kansas City squad that hasn’t won since the end of March. The road draw that followed came against a Seattle Sounders team that last won over a pairof squeakers at home against Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC; and the game before that saw them stymied by FC Dallas and Jesse Gonzalez’s right hand. The point isn’t to crap on all those results – eight points out of 12 is never bad, especially with two of the games on the road – but to put that narrow win over Cincinnati in the proper context of San Jose narrowly beating a team that has been pretty damn bad lately, and at Avaya Stadium.
The grander point I want to make is that, with the arrival of MLS Week 10, fans and observers of Major League Soccer finally have a body of current context to help them understand the results they’re seeing, Hallelujah. Just six teams in the league haven’t yet played 10 games, which means that 18 teams have, and that means we have data, guys!
As (the few) close observers of this space know, I used to compile all that stuff into the Form Guide ULTRA, the table of results (etc.) that I use to track results. That will show only the last 10 results for each team for the rest of 2019 going forward, but 10 games reaches back far enough into any given team’s history to establish a sense of their “form.” For reasons of timing and sanity, I’ve decided to post the Form Guide ULTRA later in the week (but here’s last week’s post for reference), but, with 10 games under the collective belts of 3/4 of MLS, the ground beneath my feet finally feels firm enough to allow for me to judge a slippery concept like form. With that context in the back of our minds, let’s talk about all the results from the past week and what they might actually mean.
I’ll start by writing off the games that didn’t really move the needle – which isn’t the same thing as calling the results meaningless. DC United’s 3-1 helping of hate over Columbus Crew SC files doesn’t budge the needle for the same reason as Cincinnati’s loss to San Jose – e.g., Ohio is in free-fall, y’all, as in both Ohio teams have lost their last five games. In other words, beating either Columbus or Cincinnati doesn’t matter until further notice. In their defense, both teams have played a bunch of recent games on the road – three of their last four for Columbus and four of their last five for Cincinnati – so maybe they’ll both turn things around upon arriving home. Against that, both teams have struggled with scoring all season; Columbus has scored only 9 goals, while Cincinnati has…oof, just eight. The horror deepens for Cincy after that, sadly, in that they haven’t scored in five whole damn weeks, leaving them at 0 goals scored, versus nine allowed. Columbus, meanwhile, has had…moments on the field, both offensively (and ruled offside) and offensively (huh, MLS was too ashamed to highlight it), and, this week at least, DC got some bounces. Still, five straight losses are what they are and, given the venues where each played this past weekend, and the circumstances under which they arrived, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see that both Columbus and Cincinnati lost this past weekend.
The other predictable/meaningless results included Minnesota United FC’s 1-1 draw at Allianz versus Seattle and, to make the bigger stretch, Los Angeles FC’s goal-less draw in LA against the Chicago Fire. To start with the latter, I only watched the highlights and checked the box score – which showed what I expected (e.g., LAFC domination, and they came close) – but that happens; when Chicago turns the tables on LAFC at home, that’s news. With Seattle at Minnesota, it’s great to see Ike Opara get rewarded with a goal (and over Chad “F-ing” Marshall) after getting stoned twice against the Los Angeles Galaxy two weekends ago, but, even with Seattle’s Cristian Roldan answering back with a screamer/GOTW candidate (I have another favorite), the essential dynamic of this game looked the same coming out as it did going in – i.e., Minnesota is a good team that’s still a couple of steps behind perfect progress (though it was good to see them play well (enough) without Darwin Quintero Jr. out there), while Seattle is a strong team that has under-achieved enough lately to make it feel predictable.
The last game that files under “It Doesn’t Matter” was the Portland Timbers 2-1 road win over RSL. As discussed at length in my extended notes, by no means did Portland outplay Real Salt Lake; both their goals relied on a mixture of talent and divine intervention, but the general underlying trend held up: Portland has its formation and sense of self sorted out, while it’s entirely possible that RSL only got their two most recent wins by playing bad teams in good circumstances (or, in FC Cincy’s case, just circumstances). With that, we turn to the real stuff, the games that really might have mattered this past weekend. May as well start with the headline…
So, is the Philadelphia Union the sh*t, or did they just happen to line up against two sh*t teams over Week 10? Their week started Wednesday when they fairly outclassed FC Cincy – if only in the second half – and it ended with them absolutely steam-rolling the New England Revolution – if only after the 65th minute. If there’s one result to linger on, it’s the New England game: the Union coughed up a lot of quality chances for a game that ended 6-1, but they also put up literally crazy numbers against them (which, here, means 15 freakin’ shots on goal). Because it’s virtually impossible to understate how slackly the Revolution can defend (therearenowords), I recommend eating a salt lick as you digest those goals, but the reality is that Philly does have talent, their young defenders look good when they should, and, no matter how crappy it is, Sergio Santos became the latest guy to score a goal for them. They’ve got a couple of biggies coming up – e.g., at Toronto and versus Seattle – and that should clarify things a bit.
After that, I assume that Atlanta United FC’s 3-0 demolition of SKC in KC will be the next biggest headline on the weekend. For what it’s worth, that’s not wholly unjustified. As I’ve noted for a few weeks, the Five Stripes have returned to posting last season’s numbers and what they did against SKC (again, in KC) can best be described as assault. If you get a chance to vote on goal of the week, or even MVP, just be honest and vote Ezequiel Barco who, on the back of Josef Martinez’s self-sacrifice, put on a clinic of shootingfrom distance. With Atlanta’s good works acknowledged, it is vitally important to return to the starting premise of this post: between injuries and a CCL hangover that feels like a spin into cirrhosis, Sporting Kansas City is easy pickin’s right now. We’re talking Ohio-level…
To shift the conversation to happier climes, things are going much better lately for both teams with “New York” in their names. First, the New York Red Bulls lent some credence to the idea that they’d only need one good week to get going when they beat the Galaxy 3-2 in Harrison, NJ – and that was a win they had to salvage to boot. New York City FC made the bigger splash by absolutely stuffing the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo – that’s to the tune of zero (0) shots on goal for the Quebecois. NYCFC is the bigger story, without question, not least because they’ve picked up 10 points from the last 12 available. And this is no home-field fluke, because they beat both Montreal and D.C. away and, in a solid follow-up to the games that came before it, they left L’Impact looking complacent and confused. Dome Torrent’s job looks fairly safe all the sudden. It’s harder to track what’s going on with the Red Bulls. For one, they looked far (far, far, far) better in the condensed game I watched tonight than they ever did against FC Cincinnati last weekend (see “far, far, far” for my extended notes). Part of that surely followed from the Galaxy trying to play a little (ahem!), and the thing to point out there is essential freakishness of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. For what it’s worth, I think LA will become more like a normal team when he’s gone, but there’s no denying that he’s a real weapon in the here and now. In a break with precedent, his size didn’t define the kinds of goals he scored/set up on Saturday (and credit Diego Polenta for both entry passes), but that’s always a factor.
The bigger story is LA’s record on the road – well, that and the fact that they gave up two highly similar goals against the Red Bulls (no video, MLSsoccer.com, srsly?), and as close apart as the goals they scored. To wrap up the Red Bulls, we’ll see; the way they scored the game’s first goal after extended pressure on LA recalled the Red Bulls teams of the last two-three seasons, and that’s potentially huge. The deeper story/question is how much of that result followed from what will ultimately become the Galaxy’s home/road split – i.e., the Galaxy is perfect at home (6-0-0, while reportedly not playing that well), while being…somewhat less on the road (1-2-1 after yesterday). The Galaxy picked up their lone win against Vancouver, and before the ‘Caps settled on an identity, so that’s another candidate for an asterisk. The bigger question is what happens to the Houston Dynamo when they finally leave the snug confines of BBVA Compass Stadium (which truly rolls off the tongue, does it not?).
For as bad as they’re not doing, FC Dallas strikes me one of those mid-table teams that MLS allegedly does not have. By that I mean, they’re always a tough out, while also being fairly damn limited on the attacking side of the ball. I was about to reference their scoring to prove that point, but they’ve scored 15 on the season (even if four of those came against RSL), which puts them comfortably in the top half of the league. In that sense, Houston beating Dallas 2-1 could very well underscore how good Houston could be in 2019 (also, enjoy this goal by Mauro Manotas, who had two on the night, especially the build-up). Dallas doesn’t get a ton of offense outside of what comes through Bryan Acosta and, especially, Michael Barrios. If anything stands out in this game, it’s the box score – Dallas held the ball a lot – but Houston has the sharper edge, and maybe even the better defense. If they can take that on the road and work it, it might be time for everyone to party like it’s the mid-late-aughts.
All the above leaves only one question left to answer: who is the worst team in MLS? My notes on New England’s loss to Philly make a pretty good case for the Revolution, but the Colorado Rapids screamed out a pretty loud shot for the claim this week with a 2-3 home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. In spite of some serious snafus (very serious, I assure you), I’m still going to hand the crown to New England. If nothing else, the Rapids fought back more credibly – and, had Diego Rubio not gotten sent off for stupid, who knows what might have happened? – but the bigger reason has less to do with the final score-line than it does with how the Revolution’s issues felt global, while the Rapids’ felt more specific somehow, as if it kept going back to one player getting hung out by the scheme. On a simpler level, the Rapids at least tried to fix their issues by firing Anthony Hudson; back in New England, meanwhile, Brad Freidel still sits on the hot seat (and I don’t know what else they have to see before they accept that Friedel has lost all of that team).
To wrap up Vancouver (and, golly, I do hope that’s everyone), Lass Bangoura showed well in this game and the more that happens, the more threatening the ‘Caps look. That said, their concerns include giving up two legit penalty calls – i.e., that’s hardly the path to glory – but Colorado has to feel significantly, permanently worse about how badly Axel Sjoberg screwed up in this game.
All for this week. If all goes well, and nobody dies (it’s been an issue lately), I’ll be back with more next Monday.
FC Cincinnati’s fifth consecutive loss comes at a moment where the team could really use the boost in morale. The uplifting feeling…
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
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.
A long-range effort from San Jose midfielder Nick Lima in the 22nd minute delivered the only goal of Saturday’s contest between…
A long-range effort from San Jose midfielder Nick Lima in the 22nd minute delivered the only goal of Saturday’s contest between FC Cincinnati and the Earthquakes.
The Orange & Blue played the match with a man advantage for over 40 minutes but could not score a goal. San Jose midfielder Cristian Espinoza was dismissed after being issued a second yellow card in the 51st minute.
Fanendo Adi started the match on the bench but played 11 minutes as a substitute. It was his first time suiting-up since March 17 in FC Cincinnati’s home opener. Frankie Amaya, recently recalled from his loan to Orange County SC, made his first MLS start on Saturday and played 67 minutes.
FC Cincinnati remains in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. They tread water above the New England Revolution who lost 6-1 to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday and have a -14 goal differential.
FC Cincinnati will have a chance to stop their Eastern Conference freefall on Saturday when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes…
FC Cincinnati have a chance to stop their Eastern Conference freefall on Saturday when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. A midweek defeat to the Philadelphia Union means four consecutive losses for Alan Koch’s men, and five losses in their last six matches played. The biggest concern now is the team’s extended goal drought, which stands at 431 minutes.
FC Cincinnati may have picked the wrong time to visit San Jose. After losing their first three matches at Avaya this season, Matias Almeyda’s side surprised MLS with a 3-0 drubbing of the Portland Timbers at home on April 6th. They are 1-1-2 since that win with results that include a 4-1 home victory over Sporting KC and road draws with the Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas.
Fanendo Adi, Greg Garza, Kenny Saief, and Corben Bone are all listed as questionable for this contest. Kickoff is at 10:00 pm Eastern Time.
The San Jose Earthquakes have more disciplinary infractions than any team in MLS with 24 yellow cards and 1 red card after 9 matches. Expect a physical opponent on Saturday.
In contrast, FC Cincinnati has accumulated 11 yellows this season (tied for third fewest) and 0 reds. They also have the fifth-fewest fouls per game in MLS. Could Alan Koch’s side find success with a more physical approach?
Both teams allow their opponents a lot of looks at goal. San Jose allows an average of 16.1 shots per game and FC Cincinnati allows 15.9 per game. Those are the second and third highest shots allowed per game averages in MLS.
San Jose score 1.6 goals per game at home on average and FC Cincinnati concede 1.7 goals per game away from home. FCC will have to score 2-3 goals to get something out of this match if those averages hold up —not a great stat for FCC given their current offensive form.
San Jose averages the third most key passes per game in MLS at 11. FC Cincinnati, by comparison, is last in the league at 6.9 per game.
Want a statistical category where FC Cincinnati leads the league? FCC has the fewest dispossessions per game, at 6.9, of any team in MLS. Dispossessed is defined as “Player is dispossessed on the ball by an opponent – no dribble involved.” Basically, it represents being caught on the ball.
After a scoreless first half, the Philadelphia Union capitalized on their superior performance with goals by Kacper Przybylko and Fafa Picault.
After a scoreless first half, the Philadelphia Union capitalized on their superior performance with goals by Kacper Przybylko and Fafa Picault. Without a heroic six-save performance by Spencer Richey, the score could have been much more lopsided. The Philadelphia Union move into first place in the Eastern Conference with Wednesday night’s victory.
FC Cincinnati square-off against the Philadelphia Union in a midweek clash marking the Orange & Blue’s first ever rematch versus an MLS opponent.
FC Cincinnati square-off against the Philadelphia Union in a midweek clash marking the Orange & Blue’s first in-season rematch versus an MLS opponent. After taking 7 points from the first four games, Cincinnati suffered defeat to Philadelphia at Nippert Stadium by a score of 2-0. Since then, FCC has only managed 1 point from the following four games.
That winless stretch is highlighted by the complete absence of goals. FC Cincinnati has not scored a goal from the run of play in 475 minutes. Even for a team that prioritizes strong defense and counterattacking soccer, the lack of offensive production is very troubling. Only Atlanta United and Vancouver Whitecaps FC have scored fewer goals this season. In turn, the defense bears a greater burden as they must be perfect for 90 minutes. Head coach Alan Koch is now left to determine what changes are needed to get his team back on track.
Fanendo Adi, Corben Bone, and Greg Garza are all listed as questionable for this match. The Union also have injuries problems. They look likely to miss star goalkeeper Andre Blake. In addition, Marco Fabian may not be fully fit as he just returned to training yesterday after an ankle injury.
Kickoff at Talen Energy Stadium is at 7:30 PM.
Philadelphia (4-3-2) are sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. Since these two sides last met, the Union have picked up 7 points in four games. They can go top of the Eastern Conference with a win.
Will Fanendo Adi dress for Wednesday’s game? He returned to training last week but did not make the bench against the New York Red Bulls. Off-field issues aside, Adi’s experience and goal-scoring expertise are sorely missed right now.
Last time Cincinnati faced Philadelphia, 4 players had played every single minute. Now just three players have that honor: Nick Hagglund, Mathieu Deplagne, and Leo Bertone. Like their FCC counterparts, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, and Jack Elliot have all racked up 810 minutes of total playing time.
On the flip side, Nazmi Albadawi is the only field player to not have earned playing time under Alan Koch this season. Of course, this does not include loaned players (such as Emery Welshman) or injured players (such as Jimmy McLaughlin).
Kendall Waston and Leo Bertone both have 4 yellow cards putting them in dangerous territory. MLS rules state that after 5 yellow cards players must serve a 1 game suspension.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of Philadelphia Union versus FC Cincinnati.
With one glaring exception, MLS Week 9 coughed up broadly predictable results, or, failing that, explicable ones. That exception was…
To start with a wee spread of interrelated good news and bad news, the time-swallowing Sunday night bowling league that has dominated my life for the past 30+ weeks just ended (yay!). The bad news is that that final roll (in which I performed horribly) coincided with…just a MASSIVE week’s worth of Major League Soccer…soccer. A suffocating, sadistic seventeen (17) games went from first to final whistle over the past week and, if you’re a guy trying to wrap all that up in a weekly post, that feels like loading 16 tons, and for just as little as the guy gets in the old song.
With one glaring exception, MLS Week 9 coughed up broadly predictable results, or, failing that, explicable ones. That exception was Sporting Kansas City’s utterly puzzling, thoroughly desperate 4-4 draw at home against a New England Revolution team that seems as dedicated to finding fresh arguments for firing Brad Friedel as they are at playing the game. Then again, with the injury bug biting SKC pretty hard, they fielded a thin/make-shift middle three in a 4-3-3, and maybe that, along with Matt Besler’s absence, and Ilie Sanchez’s absence explains how the Revs could easily play over and through them. New England committed heavily to the counter – to the tune of 537 passes to 184 – and with all the gaps left by the wounded, that worked for them. In a testament to the talent they still have left on the table, SKC battled back twice, and Krizstian Nemeth hadhimselfanothergame. Best case, this becomes a game they rally around, like the Alamo, only with fewer in-game fatalities.
[* I’m taking a station break for a short, by very important caveat. Any week time is tight, all I have time to check with each of these games is the box score (yes, I know it can be one word, but I hate it like that) and the shortened highlights. For what it’s worth, the box scores are useful so long as you don’t read too much into them; with those, I mostly scout for oddities – e.g., the numbers Real Salt Lake put up against the Los Angeles Galaxy in LA. I’m on firmer footing with the two games I watched in full, Red Bull New York’s hideous win over FC Cincinnati (see my extended notes) and the Portland Timbers’ gentle throttling of Toronto FC (see my extended notes). Moving on…]
With most of the other results, two things stood out: 1) the scores are generally tightening, which suggests a general, collective finding of feet for most teams in MLS; and 2) most of the surprises happened for a fairly specific reason. A larger sub-plot dominated the week: 10 teams played two games in MLS Week 9, and that gave it a dose of nitrous. In last week’s post, while I failed to give a “full list” of those teams (apologies to D.C. United and the Seattle Sounders), I did provide thumbnail theories as to what I expected each team to pick up during Week 9. I’ll at least note all the results before wrapping up, but measuring last week’s expectations against what actually happened will stand most teams in MLS against the ruler to see how they stack up. For no particular reason, I’ve decided the list those 10 teams according to the descending order of how much they suffered over Week 9.
Prediction: “2 points would impress me and that says a lot.” Actual Results: 0 points, two 0-1 road losses, one at New York City FC, the other at the Montreal Impact, zero points, and no goals scored, but, hey! Thin margins! Notes: Both games looked like low-opportunity affairs, and both turned on moments the Fire would almost certainly rather forget. The Fire, specifically, had few memorable chances in either game (Djordje Mihailovic had a decent rip against NYCFC, and they managed to miss a bunch of different ways against Montreal), and that’s why the hype-train for the Fire should stay put until it has a few more miles behind it.
Columbus Crew SC
Prediction: “higher than three points would be great.” Actual Results: That’d be 0 points again. A 0-1 loss to D.C. in Columbus, followed by a less surprising 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo in Houston. Notes: I heard some kind words for Columbus even during the highlights (“some of the best passing we’ve seen out of Columbus this year”), and, per the numbers, they played pretty even against both teams, Pedro Santos had some good looks, etc. No matter how you slice it, though, getting zero points out of this swing hurts – especially when you give up goals like this, which very much runs against type for Columbus in 2019.
Seattle Sounders FC
Prediction: Didn’t, um, make one, but both I and they would have expected four points at a minimum. Actual Results: 2 points from two draws in as many home games, one a 2-2 against the San Jose Earthquakes that they rescued and almost lost over 10-15 minute period, the other a bitter, red-tainted 1-1 draw against Los Angeles FC. Notes: Kelvin Leerdam had himself a very full week, what with all that two-waydueling against Shea Salinas and (I think) getting hosed (but how?) by Diego Rossi to set up the assist for LAFC’s (puzzling) lone goal. I hereby hold up Harry Shipp’s equalizer as proof that Seattle can still ball, but these were two home games, one of them against a comparative minnow, and two points can’t be enough.
New England Revolution
Prediction: “I can see zero, I can see four; two would be good.” Actual Results: They surprised me with one point, the one they earned against SKC. The other was a 0-3 cringe-fest at Montreal, brutal in every dimension. Notes: I decided they felt less pain over the weekend than Seattle on the grounds they should be used to it by now, but that loss to Montreal was devastating. First, Cody Cropper, a rare, reliable bright spot for them, bobbled a free kick, but the real pain comes with the fact that they put zero (0) shots on goal in that game. After fail-investing in a defense, this is a team in profound trouble.
Prediction: Had I guessed, I would have called it between three and four points. Actual Results: 3 points, better than a kick in the head. A 1-0 road win over Columbus that I could have called, but would never have predicted and a 1-0 loss at Minnesota that reverses that argument. Notes: Not bad for a two-game road swing, obviously, even if they got the results in the wrong place. They looked about as sharp on paperin both cases, at which point it becomes a question of whether or not, say, Wayne Rooney nails a free kick, or whether Chris Durkin (as in, not Bill Hamid) saves a goal.
Los Angeles Galaxy
Prediction: “4 points minimum.” Actual Results: Of course they did it, and on the back of a goal-less draw in Minnesota and an arguably fortunate (and weirdly angry) 2-1 win over RSL in LA. Notes: The Zlatan Show always gets lots of press, but I was impressed by the way Minnesota’s Ike Opara matched him in that game, maybe even topped him. He poked home the winner against RSL, of course, but do check the box score because 22 shots against, 7 on goal is not what you expect from a home team with LA’s record. When you see that, and hear they’re on shaky ground, it starts to add up.
San Jose Earthquakes
Prediction: “getting tested in real time; anything above 2 is real.” Actual Results: 2 solid points on what looked like a genuinely unremarkable draw at FC Dallas, preceded by a gutsy 2-2 draw at Seattle that truly looked like it could end either way. Notes: It took 10 totally chaotic moments for Seattle to undo San Jose’s 2-0 lead, and I took that to mean they took the kind of chances that nearly allowed San Jose to retake the lead. As noted above, Shea Salinas stole the show, but Cristian Espinoza has looked good-to-menacing often as I’ve seen him lately (again, not often). Even if they fell short of my threshold to declare them interesting (e.g., 3 or more points), San Jose picked up two draws on the road against their alleged betters. Watch them.
Minnesota United FC
Prediction: “as many as they can get, but it better be 4.” Actual Results: Yep, 4 points, courtesy of that goal-less draw against LA, and a thieving 1-0 win over D.C. United in Minnesota. Notes: The numbers say they didn’t front-foot either game – and D.C. even had a goal called back – but positives ranged from enough points collected to Angelo Rodriguez racking up a respectableset of chances (and one goal), to Opara putting shots on goal that score, oh, 7 times out of 10. The only warning sign is that their heretofore reliable attack struggled a bit. Just something to watch.
New York City FC
Prediction: “All 6; [then in all caps, there, not here]: this would be one of the bigger deals of the week.” Actual Results: 4 points, by beating Chicago in New York, then drawing Orlando City SC 1-1 at the same venue. Notes: They didn’t stall against Orlando for lack of trying – surely, it’s significant that Orlando only topped them in fouls, yellow cards, clearances and saves – but Nani lived up to his billing (while Dom Dwyer did not) and NYCFC failed to bury their key chances. Chicago played them very tight (a theme with the Fire), and that makes the Orlando draw feel like the bigger blown opportunity. Still, a decent week for a team looking to turn around its season, and Heber looks pretty damn real.
Prediction: “6 would say a ton, but anything 3 and north is fine.” Actual results: 6 points, aka, they said a ton, with a 3-0 precision-guided whuppin’ at New England, followed up by a narrow win over Chicago won by an inspired goal from Omar Browne. Notes: Look, it’s late and I snuck them into the prediction frame, like a twit. The most impressive thing is that they beat New England away, and by quite a bit. Now that I’ve given serious thought to Chicago, they present as a fairly tough nut to crack. Good week for Daniel Lovitz, though, and who needs Ignacio Piatti when you’ve got Anthony Jackson-Hamel? (While I’m here, the defending on that shot is New England in a nutshell.) (I’m kidding, obviously, any team in MLS needs Piatti until his legs give out.)
OK, that’s everyone. And, if I haven’t apologized already, sorry to make all the above so bullet-point driven. Hopefully, the absence of bowling and light yard grooming will open up more time to tell a better story next week. To wrap up the results I haven’t covered yet, let’s see…Portland’s win over Toronto was really something, and mostly because the way TFC totally lost the “intensity battle” says a lot about how much they trust their own defense. Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Union picked up a respectable 1-1 draw at the Vancouver Whitecaps; that’s a solid result for Philly, but Vancouver does look better – Jordy Reyna, in particular looks saucy. Uh, no one should care about Atlanta United FC beating the Colorado Rapids in the season’s first Toilet Bowl because, 1) that’s the minimum expectation, and 2) they still don’t look like 2018 Atlanta, and that still matters till something changes.
I guess that just leaves the Red Bulls “hideous win” over FC Cincinnati, but that was depressingly, decidedly uneventful – and for both teams.
OK, that’s all for this week. I’ll aspire to something prettier next time around.