What FC Cincinnati Needs to Improve for RSL Win

As FC Cincinnati looks to Friday night’s clash versus Real Salt Lake, Alan Koch’s squad understands they must improve a few key aspects…

Image:Joe Craven

As FC Cincinnati looks to Friday night’s clash versus Real Salt Lake, Alan Koch’s squad understands they must improve key aspects of their game in order to take all three points.

Cincinnati (2-3-2) finds themselves hovering mid-table in a balanced Eastern Conference after a defeat to league-leaders Los Angeles Football Club.

“To keep them [LAFC] to 1-0 until the 90th minute was a testament to the defensive work we did out there,” said Victor Ulloa. “It was unfortunate to give up that first goal on a set piece, something that we can control.”

“We created chances,” Ulloa continued. “We created clear chances and you have to put them away. I think we could be talking today about walking away with a point, but we take the positives and we grow.”

The attitude that FCC must acknowledge and move on from last Saturday’s shortcomings is prevalent throughout the team.

“I thought we were very unfortunate not to get a result,” said Kekuta Manneh. “We had our chances and we didn’t take them. It’s something to build on.”

The next game week occurs at a time in which both Cincinnati and Real Salt Lake reside on the fringes of a playoff picture that is just starting to emerge. Real Salt Lake (2-4-1) travels to Nippert Stadium looking for two wins in a row following a home victory against Orlando City SC. The opening run of games has not been kind to RSL overall, as they have fallen to 2019 title-contenders such as Seattle Sounders, D.C. United, and LAFC.

“They’re a tough team that works really hard,” Victor Ulloa said. “They are going to come in here and try to get a result away. So, we have to get back to our winning ways at home and give the fans what they deserve and that’s three points.”

Although not expected to earn a result away to LAFC, arguably the hottest team in MLS, the same cannot be said for the upcoming home matchup against RSL. Alan Koch’s side should attempt to dictate the tempo against a Real Salt Lake side that often concedes possession.

“It’s interesting,” Koch said, “because when I say possess the ball better, people criticize it and say, ‘You’re a transition team. Why are you trying to possess the ball?’ But when we do possess the ball, then it doesn’t give the opposition a chance to try to break us down.”

“Yeah, of course we’re going to focus on transitioning moments because we’re good at those when we attack,” Koch continued. “We want to reinforce being good in attacking transition, but I do think that if we can possess the ball more, it takes away from the team that we play against too.”

Determining the appropriate balance between possession and counterattacking football is essential in ensuring Koch can set up his team to succeed.

From there, it is up to Cincinnati’s attacking threats to be clinical in front of goal.

FC Cincinnati Looking to Take Chances Without Adi

Image: Ryan Meyer

Seven games into their season, FC Cincinnati has now played more games without forward Fanendo Adi than with him. They are surviving so far by relying on a goals-by-committee approach and a system that emphasizes the team.

Kekuta Manneh is helping to fill the void left by FC Cincinnati’s primary Designated Player. He has a goal and an assist since March 17th when Adi was injured.

“I think the team has responded well,” Manneh explained. “We’ve scored a few goals while (Adi) was away. Obviously, he’s a big part of our team. He’s our DP and a starter on our team. We miss him. He brings something different for our game. I’ve always said this though, that we have a system in place and we’re going to do that. Adi’s definitely a big miss. We’d be glad to welcome him back in the next week or so.”

Adi didn’t find the back of the net in the three games that he started before his injury, so FCC wasn’t relying on him early in the season. Alan Koch’s side has scored 8 goals total (tied for 5th best in the Eastern Conference) and boasts eight different goalscorers. Five of their eight goals have come without Adi in the lineup.

Times have been tougher recently, however. They’ve only scored once in the past three matches. The good news is that they are still creating enough high-quality chances.

“Obviously he’s a big piece of our attack and our main focus,” said midfielder Victor Ulloa about Adi’s absence. “But I think that Darren (Mattocks) has stepped up really well and I think we have the players and the group to fill that spot and I think they’ve done a great job. We’re missing the goal a little bit right now, but we’re creating chances and that’s the most important thing.”

Based on expected goals (xG) metrics, FC Cincinnati should have scored 1-2 more goals than the single goal they netted against Sporting Kansas City two weeks ago. They also should have bagged at least one against LAFC last week, but were shut out instead. LAFC’s Tyler Miller produced a highlight-reel save in that match to deny Darren Mattocks a goal in first-half stoppage time.

Although the timeline for Adi’s return still remains unclear, he is back in Cincinnati and is now training alongside the team. However, he cannot fully participate until further notice from MLS.

“He’s still doing some rehab, at this time, and we’re still waiting for his situation to be resolved before we can move forward with planning with him,” said Koch. “It’s such a grey area, we’re waiting for any situation to get resolved first before we can do any preparations with him.”

The short story of Adi’s absence so far is that FC Cincinnati is both creating chances and scoring goals without him. They are underachieving recently on their expected goals, however, and need to show that they can finish their chances on home turf this Friday against Real Salt Lake.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Sporting Kansas City

Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program provides and infographic and the fast facts you need to ready for FC Cincinnati versus Sporking KC this Sunday.

Design: CSDIV / Image: Joe Craven

After a sunny start to the season, reality delivered a damper to FC Cincinnati last week. The 2-0 loss to Philadelphia left the Orange & Blue in 5th place in the East with a depleted lineup and a potentially dangerous opponent on Sunday.

The first of three straight Western Conference opponents, Sporting Kansas City come to Cincinnati with momentum in league play. SKC feasted on the Montreal Impact last Saturday, 7-1. SKC are also the only MLS club remaining in the current edition of the CONCACAF Champions League. However, Peter Vermes and company suffered a demoralizing 5-0 defeat to Monterrey in Mexico on Thursday and come into Sunday’s match wounded and looking to rebound.

Both teams come into the match with some injury concerns. FCC will definitely be without Fanendo Adi (ankle/suspension) and could also be without forward Kekuta Manneh and midfielder Emmanuel Ledesma (hamstring). SKC will be without right back Jaylen Lindsey (knee), while Dániel Sallói (ankle) is questionable.

Fast Facts

Here are five facts for FC Cincinnati’s first match against the team once called the “Kansas City Wiz”.

  • Although much of their offense came last week, Sporting Kansas City’s attack has been bolstered by Krisztián Németh’s resurgence. Over all competitions, the Hungarian forward has scored eight goals in seven matches.
  • FC Cincinnati have had to tap into their roster depth early. 19 players have received starts over the first five matches. Only Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls have started more in the Eastern Conference, as both have played 20 players. Two additional FCC players, Caleb Stanko and Frankie Amaya, have made appearances coming off the bench as substitutes.
  • SKC manager Peter Vermes is currently the longest-tenured head coach in Major League Soccer (314 games). He is the all-time leader in games coached with one club in league history and is fourth in all-time wins as a coach (133). Additionally, Vermes has won four major trophies as a manager—three US Open Cups and one MLS Cup—the second most of all active coaches in MLS.
  • With FCC potentially missing three attackers (Adi, Ledesma, Manneh), it’s likely that midfielder Kenny Saief sees his second start of the season. Even though he has only been on the pitch for 125 minutes, Saief leads the team in combined points with one goal and two assists.
  • SKC demolished Montreal Impact 7-1 at home last week, matching the biggest win in their 23-plus-year history. However, history has shown that the next game is not a guaranteed win. In April 2018, SKC defeated Vancouver 6-0 at home, only to lose at New England the next week 1-0. Also, in June 1999, back when they were known as the Kansas City Wizards, the team beat the New York Metrostars 6-0, only to lose 3-0 to D.C. United the following week.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press as FC Cincinnati tries to weather another storm at Nippert Stadium this weekend.

Three Things Kekuta Manneh Brings to FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati signed Kekuta Manneh on a free transfer from FC St. Gallen 1869. “Scooter” brings pace, connections, and American ambitions to FCC.

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Age: 24
Position: Left Winger
From: Madiba Kunda, Gambia (U.S. citizen)
Former team: FC St. Gallen (SUI)
Value: $900K
Deal: Free transfer from St. Gallen and a trade with Columbus Crew for his MLS rights, including $250K in TAM and $50K in GAM. FCC could pay an additional $100K in allocation money based on Manneh’s performance.
Transfermarkt Profile

FC Cincinnati signed left winger Kekuta Manneh on a free transfer from Swiss Super League outfit FC St. Gallen 1869. The Gambian is 24 years old but comes with a wealth of first division experience, including 124 MLS appearances (74 starts) for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew. He scored 26 goals and delivered 14 assists between 2013 and 2017 while in the American first division. His standout MLS season came in 2015 when he made 32 appearances for the Whitecaps, scoring 7 goals and creating 5 assists. He also can boast eight MLS Cup playoff appearances, mostly as a substitute during his time with the Crew.

Manneh left MLS in 2017 after a season with the Crew and hasn’t found a great deal of playing time since his departure. He landed at powerhouse Pachuca of Liga MX during the 2018 Clausura, but only featured in 1 league match and 5 cup games. In the fall of last year he moved to Switzerland, but only featured in six of 20 Super League matches for FC St. Gallen 1869 during the 18/19 season. Kekuta Manneh arrives in Cincinnati looking to reignite his career in MLS where he has found success in seasons past.

Three Things Kekuta Manneh Brings to FC Cincinnati

FCC Connections

As a former Whitecap, Manneh has established connections with Alan Koch, Kendall Waston, Darren Mattocks, and especially FCC assistant coach and fellow Gambian Pa-Modou Kah. Manneh and Kah played together in Vancouver during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The video below kicks-off with a goal created by both players and highlights their relationship. It also features cameos by Kendall Waston and Darren Mattocks.

“Scooter” Has Pace and Finishing Ability

Former Whitecap teammate Darren Mattocks gave him the nickname “Scooter” in Vancouver because “he’s always buzzing around the pitch.” Apparently, Manneh wasn’t a fan of the nickname at first but has embraced it since. The moniker will likely be reinstated now that he’s joined the Orange & Blue.

Kakuta Manneh is a burner. He has pace. He can beat opposition players on the dribble, and can finish what he started. In the video above, Pa-Modou Kah comments. “He’s faster with the ball than without the ball . . . He’ll be one of the best Gambian players to have played this game.”

FC Cincinnati is not currently well-stocked with pacey players. Manneh certainly checks that box. He’s also a welcome addition to bolster FC Cincinnati’s attack. With Lamah and now Manneh on the left, that side of the Orange & Blue’s offense looks a lot more potent.

American Ambitions

Although Manneh is Gambian, and lived there until the age of 16, he is also a product of the American soccer development system. He moved to Texas upon his arrival in 2010 and played with U.S. Development Academy clubs as well as the famous PDL side Austin Aztecs. Manneh has aspirations to play for the USMNT and established residence in Washington during his time in Vancouver to pursue citizenship.

Kakuta Manneh realized his goal and became an American in the fall of 2016. Shortly thereafter, he was called up to the USMNT January camp under Bruce Arena. He hasn’t been capped yet but he’s another player on Alan Koch’s roster that could be in the mix for a national team call-up if he performs well for FC Cincinnati.

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