FC Cincinnati: Midseason Pause, Wildebeest Migration, and the Wooden Spoon

FC Cincinnati reaches the midpoint of their inaugural MLS season. Are they more likely to reach the playoffs or earn the Wooden Spoon award?

Image: Joe Craven

As we enter the CONCACAF Gold Cup break and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth-round action, FC Cincinnati looks to regroup on a challenging inaugural MLS season. Through 16 matches, just under the midpoint mark, FCC has only 11 points. Since starting the season with two promising wins and a draw in the first four matches, they are presently on a 1-10-1 skid.

Insert any metaphorical phrase you’d like—the train is off the tracks, the wheels have come off the wagon, and so on. What comes to mind for me is a a circle-of-life moment my family and I experienced two years ago this month —the great Wildebeest Migration across the Mara River on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. Over two million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles move through the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems in search of green pasture in an annual pattern.

Although we knew the likely outcome, our eyes were still fixed upon the famished crocodiles picking off the weakest wildebeest and zebras migrating the river. Now, this may seem a bit graphic of an analogy to the Orange & Blue’s 2019 season. However, the search for greener pasture is clearly where this team sits mid-season. The question remains how and if the team can navigate the remainder of the season without further peril. Possibly the Dirty River Derby Wednesday is an opportunity to jump-start the team like 2017?

The original plan for this mid-season piece was to share how close our local squad was to chasing their preseason goal—an Eastern Conference playoff spot. As FCC has not been mathematically eliminated yet, we’ll still bring you the playoff goods and throw in a spoon for good measure.

Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

Earlier this season we highlighted the marks FCC need to hit to reach the MLS postseason. Based on recent historical trends, the playoff waterline mark (seventh place) is likely 1.30 points per game (PPG), or 44 total points.

Looking at the current Eastern Conference standings below, this playoff waterline is right on target with Toronto FC currently sitting in seventh place on 1.27 PPG (as is the last playoff team in the West, currently).

Eastern Conference Standings

Sitting in last place, FCC has a wide and deep river to cross to reach the 2019 playoffs. With eighteen matches remaining, they will need to earn a points clip of 1.83 PPG (a rate that’s higher than any Eastern team currently has this season), or roughly 33 more points. This translates to a second-half record of 9-3-6 or similar. It will certainly help playing 11 of these final 18 games at Nippert.

Realistically though, it’s highly unlikely that FC Cincinnati can overcome the statistical odds and make the 2019 MLS playoffs. Therefore, we will wade into the waters of a different type of competition.

The Wooden Spoon

The “Wooden Spoon” is a prize for finishing last in a sporting event or other competition. It derives from a Cambridge University custom of presenting such a spoon to the person that finished last in the annual Faculty of Mathematics course.

The MLS version was created in 2015 by the Independent Supporter’s Council of MLS.  It is a satirical trophy and ignominious distinction given to the supporter’s group of the club that finishes last in the Supporters’ Shield (full league table) race.

Here are the most recent winners of the Wooden Spoon award—or should we say last-place losers—of the of the 2015-2018 MLS Supporter’s Shield races.

At present, the 2019 Wooden Spoon appears to have a slight Orange & Blue hue. The “fight for the spoon” standings below include the nine MLS teams currently with a 1.2 PPG or worse record.

Wooden Spoon Standings

The recent loss at Colorado certainly did not help matters out. However, if there is a glimpse of hope, FCC plays six of their remaining 18 matches against Orlando City, Chicago, Columbus, and the Bruce Arena-led Revolution. The 2019 version of the “Hell is Real” Derby may have inauspicious hardware implications.

Also of note, the last three Wooden Spoon recipients have either gone on to make the playoffs the following season (Chicago in 2017) or were in the hunt for the last playoff spot in their conference (Galaxy in 2018 and Earthquakes this season). There is hope, Orange & Blue fans!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for all your Wooden Spoon updates and FC Cincinnati coverage.

New York City FC 5 – 2 FC Cincinnati

It was all New York City FC on Thursday in FC Cincinnati’s last match before the CONCACAF Gold Cup break. The hosts were up…

Graphic: Connor Paquette

It was all New York City FC on Thursday in FC Cincinnati’s last match before the CONCACAF Gold Cup break. The hosts were up three goals by the 29th minute and went into cruise control thereafter. The Orange & Blue got on the board near the end of the first half courtesy of an Héber own goal. The hosts then added two more goals in the second half and yet another own goal. Maxi Moralez was a man possessed for NYCFC, tallying three assists and a goal on the night.

FC Cincinnati remains in the cellar of the Eastern Conference with the result, five points adrift from then next closest team. New York City FC remains in sixth despite the win, now with 25 points total.

New York City FC 5, FC Cincinnati 2

Yankee Stadium | Bronx, N.Y. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

SCORING SUMMARY

NYC – Alexandru Mitrita (Maxi Moralez) 11’

NYC – Héber (Anton Tinnerholm, Maxi Moralez) 17’

NYC – Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Anton Tinnerholm) 29’

CIN – Héber (own goal) 37’

NYC – Héber (Maxi Moralez) 49’

CIN – Sebastien Ibeagha (own goal) 76’

NYC – Maxi Moralez (Valentín Castellanos) 90’

FC Cincinnati: Spencer Richey, Mathieu Deplagne, Nick Hagglund, Forrest Lasso, Justin Hoyte ©, Caleb Stanko, Victor Ulloa (Leonardo Bertone HT), Corben Bone (Frankie Amaya 56’), Roland Lamah (Kekuta Manneh 60’), Emmanuel Ledesma, Fanendo Adi

Bench: Przemysław Tytoń, Tommy McCabe, Eric Alexander, Rashawn Dally,

Stats: Shots 15, Shots on goal 4, Saves 4, Corner kicks 4, Offsides 3, Fouls 4, Possession 39.8%, Passes 363 (74.4%)

New York City FC: Brad Stuver, Maxime Chanot, Tony Rocha, James Sands (Sebastien Ibeagha 57’), Alexander Ring ©, Alexandru Mitrita (Justin Haak 86’), Valentin Castellanos, Anton Tinnerholm, Maxi Moralez, Héber, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Keaton Parks 63’)

Bench: Luis Barraza, Juan Torres, Daniel Bedoya, Jesus Medina

Stats: Shots 20, Shots on goal 9, Saves 4, Corner kicks 5, Offsides 2, Fouls 12, Possession 60.2%, Passes 582 (85.4%)

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

NYC – Maxi Moralez (caution) 45’+1’

CIN – Forrest Lasso (caution) 71’

CIN – Mathieu Deplagne (caution) 83’

CIN – Nick Hagglund (caution) 88’

NYC – Keaton Parks (caution) 89’

CIN – Justin Hoyte (caution) 90+4’

Referee: Allen Chapman

Assistant Referees: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho, Benjamin Hall-Volpenhein

4th Official: Robert Sibiga

VAR: Jorge Gonzalez

Weather: 81 degrees and cloudy

Attendance: 18,597

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at New York City FC

FC Cincinnati concludes a two-match road trip on Thursday with a visit to Yankee Stadium to face New York City FC. The Orange & Blue come into…

Graphic: CSDIV

FC Cincinnati concludes a two-match road trip on Thursday with a visit to Yankee Stadium to face New York City FC. The Orange & Blue come into the match on the heels of a 3-1 defeat to the Colorado Rapids, their third consecutive loss. Despite tying that contest 1-1 in the 72nd minute, two late goals from Colorado sunk FCC yet again. Yoann Damet’s team comes into the match in last place in the Eastern Conference after losing eight of their last nine matches.

NYCFC enters the contest in decent form — the draw specialists of MLS are in 6th place on 20 points. They have two more draws than anyone else in the league — 8 total on the season. They are undefeated in their last nine played and most recently tied the Crew at Mapfre Stadium in a game that ended with a 2-2 scoreline.

Kendall Waston, Allan Cruz, Alvas Powell, and Darren Mattocks are on Gold Cup duty and will miss the match. Fatai Alashe, Leo Bertone, and Kenny Saief are still listed as questionable, all due to hamstring injuries.

NYCFC will be without USMNT keeper Sean Johnson, Tico Mataritta, and Alexander Callens because of international call-ups.

Kickoff is at 7:00pm Eastern.

Fast Facts

  • Yankee Stadium will be a tough venue for FCC to implement its newly-adopted possession-based style under Yoann Damet. New York City FC is second overall in MLS in possession at home with an average of 57.5%. Only Atlanta United does it better.
  • This is battle of two of the bottom five teams in MLS in terms of goals scored. FC Cincinnati has 12 total on the season, worst in the league and 4 fewer than any other team. NYCFC has 18 total goals which is fifth worst.
  • Former Dayton Dutch Lions and Columbus Crew goalkeeper Brad Stuver should get the call between the pipes for NYCFC in the absence of Sean Johnson.
  • After FC Cincinnati plays in the Bronx, they will not play another MLS match for 16 days, when the LA Galaxy come to Nippert on Saturday, June 22.
  • Nick Hagglund is likely to make his 100th MLS appearance against NYCFC on Thursday.

All stats via mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati at New York City FC on Thursday.

Deeper Cuts: Possession in the Final Third, Captain Hoyte, Cup Competitions Loom

A two-game road trip before the Gold Cup break started with a thud for FC Cincinnati. A 3-1 loss in the Centennial State…

Photo Credit: Paul-Michael Ochoa / FC Cincinnati

A two-game road trip before the Gold Cup break started with a thud for FC Cincinnati on Saturday. A 3-1 loss to Colorado in the Centennial State leaves the Orange & Blue with the lowest point total in MLS as they near the midway point of the 2019 season.

Possession in the Final Third

Some may be surprised that FCC maintained a 60%-40% possession* advantage over the Rapids Saturday, their highest possession total this season. However, a closer look suggests that not all possession numbers are created equal, and a more telling metric is possession in the final (offensive) third of the field.

The chart below shows total passes by each team split between the defensive, middle, and offensive thirds of the field. Colorado’s numbers are on the left (orange) and FC Cincinnati’s are on the right (blue).

Graphic via whoscored.com

The Rapids actually completed one more pass than FC Cincinnati in the final third over the 90+ minutes. These numbers highlight that, despite FC Cincinnati’s overall possession advantage, Colorado actually had slightly more possession in their offensive third. 77% of FCC’s possession was held in the non-threatening defensive and middle third.

In another match on Saturday, the New York Red Bulls had a clear advantage in overall possession as well, 62% against Real Salt Lake. However, New York registered a much higher 39% of their possession in the final third in comparison to FC Cincinnati’s 23%. FCC created 8 non-blocked shots against Colorado with that 23%, and only 1 of the 4 on target was a goal. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls created 16 non-blocked shots against RSL, and 4 out of the 9 on target found the back of the net.

Possession even in non-threatening positions does limit the time the opponent has with the ball, which is obviously a good thing. It’s also the platform for the attack, but a team still has to create the chances and convert them.

To keep the short story short, overall possession doesn’t tell much on its own without assessing where possession was held and whether it led to a proportionate number of goal-scoring opportunities.

Hoyte as Captain

Justin Hoyte wore the armband on Saturday in place of the suspended Kendall Waston, who is now on his way to Gold Cup duty for Costa Rica. Hoyte tallied the third-most passes on the team (74) and completed them with a remarkable 96% passing accuracy.

While his passing numbers are nice, the defense’s primary role is to keep the ball out of the back of the net, and that didn’t go so well. Hoyte reflected those sentiments in his post-match comments.

“It’s just disappointing. First half, we’ve done okay in the first 15, 20 minutes, and then we are not sure what happened. Second half, we gave away some silly goals. It was good to come back one-one, and then to concede a goal straight away after we have scored is not good enough. It is just disappointing. We just have to reflect on our performance and we must do better as a team.”

The directness of Hoyte’s comments are refreshing, and they ring more true than narratives about the team being unlucky or not getting rewarded for hard work.

Cup Competitions Looming

The CONCACAF Gold Cup starts in less than two weeks. The group stage begins on June 15th and lasts until the 28th. The knockout stage then extends from June 29th to July 7th.

Key members of the Orange & Blue, including Kendall Waston, Allan Cruz, Darren Mattocks and Alvas Powell, will therefore be unavailable, as soon as Thursday’s contest against NYCFC.

Yoann Damet will have to roll out some makeshift squads during that time-period especially if the injury list doesn’t getter shorter soon. Leo Bertone, Fatai Alashe, Kenny Saief, Przemysław Tytoń, and Greg Garza have all been injuried or ill for multiple games and there’s no clear indication they will return soon.

Of course, these roster limitation will impact FCC for the start of their participation in the U.S. Open Cup. Given the thin squad, it stands to reason that fans will see some of the less-experienced faces for the matchup with rival Louisville City FC, maybe even appearances by SuperDraft picks like Rashawn Dally and Tommy McCabe. That contest is scheduled for Wednesday, June 12th.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS season.

*Possession definition – During the game, the passes for each team are totaled. Then each team’s total is divided by the game total to produce a percentage figure which shows the percentage of the game that each team has accrued in possession of the ball.

Colorado Rapids 3 – 1 FC Cincinnati

After a late first-half Colorado goal, Kekuta Manneh leveled the score for FC Cincinnati in the 73rd minute. The stalemate lasted for…

After a late first-half Colorado goal, Kekuta Manneh leveled the score for FC Cincinnati in the 73rd minute. The stalemate lasted for less than a minute though, as Nicholas Mezquida scored in the 74th minute, and Diego Rubio added a final goal for the Rapids 9 minutes later. The loss is FC Cincinnati’s third consecutive and their tenth defeat in 15 matches.

Colorado Rapids 3, FC Cincinnati 1

Dick’s Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colo.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

SCORING SUMMARY

COL –  Andre Shinyashiki (Sam Nicholson, Cole Bassett) 43’

CIN –  Kekuta Manneh (Roland Lamah) 72’

COL – Nicolás Mezquida (Diego Rubio) 73’

COL – Diego Rubio (Jack Price) 82’

FC Cincinnati: Spencer Richey, Mathieu Deplagne, Justin Hoyte ©, Nick Hagglund, Alvas Powell, Caleb Stanko, Victor Ulloa, Frankie Amaya (Corben Bone 60’), Allan Cruz (Kekuta Manneh 70’), Roland Lamah  Darren Mattocks 84’), Fanendo Adi

Bench: Jimmy Hague, Forrest Lasso, Emmanuel Ledesma, Eric Alexander

Stats: Shots 11, Shots on goal 3, Saves 3, Corner kicks 2, Offsides 1, Fouls 5, Possession 60%, Passes 548(84.1%)

Colorado Rapids: Tim Howard ©, Keegan Rosenberry, Deklan Wynne (Sam Vines 18’), Lalas Abubakar, Tommy Smith, Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett (Nicolás Mezquida 60’), Sam Nicholson, Andre Shinyashiki (Diego Rubio 68’), Jack Price, Kei Kamara

Bench: Clint Irwin, Danny Wilson, Dillon Serna, Sebastian Anderson

Stats: Shots 12, Shots on goal 6 , Saves 2, Corner kicks 4, Offsides 2, Fouls 6, Possession 40%, Passes 361(77.3%)

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

COL – None

CIN –   None

REF: Ted Unkel

AR: Ian Anderson, Andrew Bigelow

4TH: Farhad Dadkho

VAR: Younes Marrakchi

AVAR: Jozef Batko

Weather: 71 degrees and clear

Attendance: 16,998

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Colorado Rapids

Graphic: CSDIV

FC Cincinnati opens a two-match road trip against the Colorado Rapids in the Centennial State on Saturday. The Orange & Blue come into the match following a 2-0 home defeat to the New York Red Bulls last weekend. After a promising but goalless first half in that contest, a defensive error by typically-reliable fullback Mathieu Deplagne led to FCC’s demise.

The Rapids are the not-so-proud owners of the worst points total in all of MLS, with just 9 total. However, they have been resurgent lately, earning two wins and a draw in their last three matches played. Their most recent result came on Wednesday, when they drew 1-1 with the Philadelphia Union in Pennsylvania.

This match is the second “Toilet Bowl” of the 2019 MLS season — a meeting between the last place teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences. On April 27th, Atlanta United was the last place team in the Eastern Conference and defeated the same Colorado Rapids 1-0 in the first toilet bowl.

FC Cincinnati is currently plagued with minor injuries. Fatai Alashe, Leo Bertone, Corben Bone, Greg Garza, Allan Cruz, and Darren Mattocks are all listed as questionable for this contest.

Rookie midfielder Tommy McCabe was recalled from loan this week and is available for selection in this match. McCabe made nine appearances, including eight starts and scored two goals while with North Carolina FC in the USL.

Kendall Waston will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation and therefore left early on Friday for Gold Cup duty with Costa Rica.

Kickoff is at 8:30pm Eastern.

Fast Facts

  • Frankie Amaya leads all players from both teams in passing accuracy, at 88.5%. This stat excludes players that have logged less than 300 minutes of playing time this season.
  • The Rapids are led by veteran striker Kei Kamara, who has seven goals on the season. Interestingly, Kamara was drafted by FC Cincinnati in the expansion draft last December but was promptly traded to Colorado for an international roster spot.
  • This match features the only two current interim head coaches in MLS: Yoann Damet and Colorado’s Connor Casey. Casey took the reins for the Rapids on May 1st when Anthony Hudson was fired.
  • The Rapids average 5 more shots per game than FCC (14.6 to 9.6) and have scored 10 more goals (21 to 11). 43% of their tallies are from set pieces or the penalty spot.
  • The Colorado Rapids lead the league in red cards with 5. In contrast, FC Cincinnati has yet to receive a red card this season.

All stats via mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati at the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Photos: FC Cincinnati 0 – 2 New York Red Bulls

Here are images from FC Cincinnati’s 0-2 loss against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, May 25, 2019.

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Joe Craven

Here are images from FC Cincinnati’s 0-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, May 25, 2019.

When browsing the gallery below, after clicking on any given image, a high-resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.” All images are courtesy of Joe Craven.

All images are copyright protected to safeguard the creative rights of our photographers. We’re very open to sharing our work with those who want to show support for FC Cincinnati. We simply request that you ask (via DM on Twitter or email) and give credit where it’s due. Thanks!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS season.

FC Cincinnati 0 – 2 New York Red Bulls

After 45 minutes of hard work and rough play, FC Cincinnati let New York Red Bulls escape from the Queen City with a 2-0 victory, …

Graphic: Connor Paquette

After 45 minutes of hard work and rough play, FC Cincinnati let New York Red Bulls escape from the Queen City with a 2-0 victory, sending the Orange & Blue to their eighth loss in their last ten games. While the team managed to hold an advantage in shots on target and kept possession largely 50/50, the second half was again a letdown. A turnover by Matthew Deplagne led to a swiped goal by Kaku in the 78th minute, and Omir Fernandez’s first MLS goal punctuated the loss in stoppage time.

While FCC’s roster was depleted from nine injuries and illnesses, the game featured the MLS debut of Nazmi Albadawi in the late stages of the game.

FC Cincinnati 0, New York Red Bulls 2

Nippert Stadium | Cincinnati, OH

Saturday, May 25, 2019

SCORING SUMMARY

RBNY – Kaku 78’

RBNY – Omir Fernandez (Brian White) 90+1’

FC Cincinnati: Spencer Richey; Alvas Powell, Justin Hoyte, Kendall Waston ©, Mathieu Deplagne; Caleb Stanko, Victor Ulloa (Nazmi Albadawi 81’) , Frankie Amaya; Emmanuel Ledesma (Kekuta Manneh 81’), Roland Lamah, Fanendo Adi.

Bench: Jimmy Hague, Nick Hagglund, Forrest Lasso, Eric Alexander, Rashawn Dally

Stats: Shots 12, Shots on goal 4, Saves 0, Corner kicks 8, Offsides 3, Fouls 12, Possession 49.5%, Passes 338 (70%)

New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles ©; Kemar Lawrence, Tim Parker, Amro Tarek, Michael Murillo; Marc Rzatkowski, Sean Davis; Andres Ivan (Omir Fernandez 79’), Cristian Casseres Jr. (Kaku 59’), Alex Muyl; Tom Barlow (Brian White 58’).

Bench: Ryan Meara, Derrick Etienne, Connor Lade, Sean Nealis.

Stats: Shots 8, Shots on goal 2, Saves 4, Corner kicks 4, Offsides 1, Fouls 10, Possession 50.5%, Passes 349 (68%)

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

RBNY – Michael Murillo (caution) – 39’

CIN – Kendall Waston (caution) – 58’

REF: Fotis Bazakos

AR: Nick Uranga, Cory Richardson

4TH: Ted Unkel

VAR: Chico Grajeda

Weather: Cloudy

Attendance: 28,290 (reported)

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs New York Red Bulls

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 …

Graphic: CSDIV

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.

Fast Facts

  • 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.

All stats via mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati versus New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

MLS Weekly, Week 12: History and Storylines (People)

Image: Joe Craven

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 more brave loses 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 boner parade (I got to use the word “boner!”) – but both teams 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 lowprobability goals 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…

We are getting MLS trend-lines people, momentum(/season?) altering turns of events, some of them with Games of Thrones-esque blood-letting (timely)...