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Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS season.
After a tumultuous week where FC Cincinnati fired head coach Alan Koch, the team attempts to regroup on home turf against the Montréal Impact
After a tumultuous week where FC Cincinnati fired head coach Alan Koch, the team attempts to regroup on home turf against the Montréal Impact. Interim head coach Yoann Damet now leads the team, and interestingly, he was an academy coach with the Montréal Impact for three years prior to joining FC Cincinnati in 2017.
The Orange & Blue have lost five straight matches and have not scored a goal in that timeframe. Their most recent disappointment was in San Jose where they suffered a 1-0 defeat despite having a man advantage for most of the second half.
Montréal arrives in the Queen City buzzing after a 2-1 midweek win over the Red Bulls in New Jersey. They were without star playmaker Ignacio Piatti and rotated their roster, but still won. As a result, they occupy third place in the Eastern Conference. Further, they are tied on points with the two leaders in the East, but a -3 goal differential leaves them in a lower position. Piatti will also miss the match against FC Cincinnati on Saturday.
Greg Garza, Corben Bone, and Alvas Powell are all listed as questionable for this contest, although Garza did return to practice this week. Kickoff is at 1 pm Eastern Time.
FC Cincinnati is second in the league in aerial duels won, with 19.4 per game. Only the New York Red Bulls can boast a higher rate.
FC Cincinnati and Montréal Impact have the second and third worst shots per game averages in MLS. However, Montréal at 10.6 shots per game have scored 14 goals and FC Cincinnati, at 10.2 shots per game have netted only 8.
The Montreal Impact have scored twice as many goals from open play, 10, as FC Cincinnati have, 5, this season. FCC ranks last in the league in this category.
The Impact lead MLS in successful dribbles with 148. In comparison, FC Cincinnati are 15th with 102 total. Keep in mind that Montréal has played one additional game at this point in the season.
For some insights on this week’s opponent, we reached out to our friends in Montréal for perspective on FC Cincinnati’s new head coach, Yoann Damet and Saturday’s matchup.
Antony de Varennes, co-editor in chief of culturesoccer.com, shared the following on Damet’s philosophy as a coach.
“Yoann Damet is a coach that likes to be close to his players. He strongly believes that the human side of the players is as important as the tactical approach. On the pitch, he focuses on the players as a group and not as individuals as he thinks that a well-balanced group will enhance individual performance.”
For additional insights on Damet, check out the article below from Culture Soccer (you’ll need a browser translator if you don’t speak French).
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.
Jeff Bull gives you a luxurious and link-laden look at MLS Week 2, and the five games that are most worthy of your undivided attention.
There’s only one high-level point I want to flesh-out during Major League Soccer’s Week 3, and it’s on the nature of trends – how they develop, how far back they can go, and the kinds of things that make them as undeniably irrelevant as Iggy Azalea. Also, let that be your official warning that weeks are about to get weird – e.g., next week can’t really be Week 4, right? – and my naming convention around the phrase “MLS Week [X]” will go nuts as a result. Back to it…
A handful of teams underlined meaningful personal narratives in Week 3, but not all of them followed the same logic. With that in mind, I sorted all…dammit, how many teams are there now? At any rate, I sorted all the teams in MLS into four vague categories down below, all of them reputation-based, as opposed to any kind of ranking. I’ll hang a super-short narrative on each team after listing them in the relevant category. Hope this makes sense…feeling good.
Reputation Carried Over, for Good or Ill:
Seattle Sounders: The team that ended 2018 with a kicking-ass, naming names winning streak. Columbus Crew SC: Efficient in a way that feels boring, also effective! New York City FC: Glamor team some kind of chops, but it’s imperfect. Houston Dynamo: Good at home! (Where they’ve been all season! Against weak(ish) teams!) FC Dallas: We are good… New York Red Bulls: We will be good. C’mon, you see it. Sporting Kansas City: See above.
…this is where it gets dark…
Orlando City SC: Did you say the worst defense in league history (wait, was that someone else?) Chicago Fire: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chicago. San Jose Earthquakes: The horror. The horror.
Vancouver Whitecaps: Radical rebuild, date of completion: unknown. Portland Timbers: don’t even…fine, it’s the goddamn defense. Maybe more. (Send help!) Atlanta United FC: doesn’t know what they Hell they’re doing and it’s Frank de Boer’s fault. FC Cincinnati: can’t help but be new, but pretty damn awesome so far. Toronto FC: No, two wins can’t erase that past. Also, good start. Los Angeles FC: Wait. Are they that good? Will Carlos Vela win the MVP?
Real Salt Lake: Pretty terrible away from home (but…does that really…? (see below)). New England Revolution: They played all right (see below), but you can’t erase the results. Philadelphia Union: Not awful, but that home loss to TFC really lingers. Colorado Rapids: Better? Or just low-key racking up another solid “C”?
Messy and Intriguing
Los Angeles Galaxy: Mostly, see below. But, on thin data, they have potential. Minnesota United FC: Again, see below, but I see an unquestionably better team. Montreal Impact: Another see below (sensing a theme), but they’re winning games they should. DC United: They haven’t given up one goal. In three games. And they played away. Against NYCFC.
That’s as short as I could make it, and I hope that’s more clarifying than the “games that didn’t count” bit that I used last time. My basic point is that I can defend steady narratives – i.e., ones that I’d trust – for ten (10) teams in MLS at this point. That leaves fourteen teams in some kind of flux, some of them more anchored than others, some made out of some kind of hoo-doo coming together in my head that, to return to the original point, I can’t necessarily defend.
All the theories above come from the reference post I call the “Form Guide ULTRA (Week 3 Ed.)” and my observations and notes on the five games listed below. While all of the games not mentioned below didn’t matter, I hereby confess my regret that I didn’t go deeper on Houston’s home win over Vancouver. Vancouver feels like the real story right now, and that’s where I might have barked up the wrong tree. Anyway, that’s the first nine. The back nine is the five games I dug into, right or wrong. Enjoy!
In a moment that says something about how I view Toronto right now – and I think most people would get this, or at least accept it – when I saw Jay Chapman slip through with tons of space down the Revs’ right side, my first thought was, “he’ll piss all over this one.” Something weirder happened in the end (this matches my understanding of the rule(s), yours? tough break regardless), and that’s not the last li’l piece of quirk in this game. I thought Carles Gil’s second goal made particularly little sense, but he got that one plus one more on Sunday, so credit to New England for a good early return on investment for the Spaniard. After that, when I look at the box score, I see a competitive road game (you?), so that’s good (while also being bad for FC Cincy). I also saw Laurent Ciman find Jonathan Osorio in a literally stupid amount of space in the area on a free kick (no highlight, but he should have done better), while also seeing Teal Bunbury – who, noted, made 2018 one of his better years – cause some trouble, while also seeing the Revs call Cristian Penilla, Juan Agudelo and Juan Fernando Caicedo come off the bench. Going the other way, who did they face? Even if they came out the wrong way, TFC has two decent wins so far. Moreover, they’ve got Jozy Altidore back (the run and the finish are both non-obviously very good), and Ayo Akindola (19, academy kid) scored an attention worthy goal, even if Revolution defenders generally adjusted to him. Call this one a grab bag, and one that speaks reasonably well of both teams.
Orlando ‘keeper, Brian Rowe, was the one thing that stopped them from giving away goals like Oprah. It wasn’t all highlight reel material (see Maximiliano Urruti’s soft-serve attempt), but Rowe put in what can only be called a face–savingshift. Otherwise, it would have been you get a goal (Orji Okwonko; too much space), you get a goal (Ignacio Piatti; flustered by a one-man press), and you get a goal (Piatti, again; another gift, and it made Sacha Kljestan look stupid). This game announced to the league that Orlando’s defense panics when pressed (credit to Urruti, one of the league’s most relentless forwards), but, judging by the condensed game, Orlando struggled with bad passes and long touches all day – and from just about every player. The box score underscores the comprehensive blow-out theory, and Orlando started 2019 by assuring fans across the league that, yes, they really are that bad. They had a least one visible bright spot, Chris Mueller looked active and savvy, but Dom Dwyer shanking two gilded opportunities (before sliding one in late, andassholing up a red card on Montreal’s Zakaria Diallo) sums up their day. That said, don’t read too deep into Montreal’s hot start: they’ve only shown they can boss the kiddie pool so far (before Orlando, San Jose). But two road wins, a player to watch in Okwonko (fast, smart, good skillz), and some very good pieces around him (you know them; Piatti, Saphir Tadir), and there’s no reason to write off L’Impact.
From what I remember from MLS’s ExtraTime wrap-up (mostly pretty colors and annoying men, but also), the panel agreed to allow RSL to write this one off and, apparently, go get blackout drunk (what? they said it). Based on what I saw, this game fell apart for RSL like a Matryoshka doll with each figure getting made of successively grosser stuff (that’s your strained metaphor for the week). After holding up…reasonably well through the first half, unraveled completely over 20 minutes: first Jefferson Savarino sees red for trying to kick off Luciano Acosta’s face (fair call; he should have seen Acosta), followed by DC forcing a turnover/third goal, and wrapped up by Marcelo Silva getting sent off for an entirely justified yellow card. Is now a good time to admit that I accidentally only watched the plain-old highlights? On the plus side, that allowed me to catch both of RSL’s brightest moments without wasting too much time (no video; sorry); red cards or no, the box score suggests a rout, and that’s good enough for me…crap, knew I should have reviewed Houston v. Vancouver. The one thing noticed that feels worth mentioning is how ruthlessly DC worked its press to set up their second goal (and nice finish by Rooney); also, does the soul good to see an academy kid (Lucas Rodriguez) score a first-time, one-touch beauty. As for RSL, this carries over the “crap road team” narrative from 2018, which I can’t imagine they’d want. Call this one half-reviewed, and did I mention the fatigue? Julius Caesar, I am wiped out.
As I watched this game, I was reminded of all the fun players both teams have – without going nuts, Maxi Moralez (for NYFCFC) and Diego Rossi (for LAFC) – and, for all that, a promoter could boil this match-up down to Carlos Vela versus Alexandriu Mitrita, and their respective support systems. Measured on that specific level (e.g., star-power), between the way he used his body to make his first goal a lose/lose option and the way he wrung all the life he could out of the attack to make the second goal possible, Vela won the duel. That said, Mitrira is one hell of a player, seriously, watch him play, it is a blast. All the same, even if he’s nearly as talented and probably faster, Mitrita is not David Villa – by which I mean, through no fault of his own, Mitrita plays a different role (one similar to Gil’s as it happens). NYCFC will need to figure out how to weaponize…well, the rest of that (which is a lot). From a higher level, framing this as one player against another goes against what made this such a fun game to watch (2/9ths of), because, to sum it up in one player, a lot of defenders thwart plays, but Maxime Chanot could be rounding into my favorite central defender in MLS for all the times I see him make a play in the best possible way – and precisely because it’s the one option that nobody expects. In pure paper terms, NYCFC has less to love about this result, but they played really well top-to-bottom (equipoised in the damnation and salvation of “Sweaty” Ben Sweat), and these both remain teams to watch…though maybe LAFC more than NYCFC, because Vela plays closer to the same spot Villa did and he looks really good this season, the end.
The fact that LA won this game without having a “name” guy on the field – e.g., Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or even Romain Alessandrini – will mean more or less to you to the rough extent that you believe in Minnesota’s defensive reformation. Sadly, The Mothership (aka, MLSSoccer.com) didn’t include the precise highlight I wanted to isolate, but Uriel Antuna got very free at one point and lofted a second ball off a corner into the proverbial mixer and, with two Galaxy defenders fairly open at the back post, Minnesota defenders made a damned solid rotation to stuff the first order threat (while allowing a second, for the record). The growing collection of signs like that make liking the Loons’ chances reasonable. All the same, lacking a true (or trusted) forward, LA started Antuna at forward; Antuna showed how better suited he is to the wing with his combo/assist on Sebastian Lletget’s game-winner – and that’s not even your best starting point for flagging LA’s present potential. The Galaxy’s second was the goal to rightly terrify Timbers fans. Unless you count the accidental diagonal channel through which Emanuel Boateng threaded the secondary assist, there’s not much to dissect on that goal from a defensive stand-point: all those openings weren’t just counter-intuitive, they didn’t open up for long. The question then becomes how much you downgrade Minnesota’s defense not just for the loss, but for giving LA as many chances as they did (hold that thought*), no matter how much LA squandered them. On the still-rawer-data side, Minnesota put up respectable numbers – more than New England’s at Toronto – but, when you measure them all against the condensed game, the numbers that feel like your best guide to the game are total passing, passing accuracy and possession. If I had to flag one detail, I’d say LA looked better and more dangerous on the ball. On Minnesota’s side, their defense held the game together until Jan Gregus gave them hope with the kind of shot opposing scouts should flag in their training sessions (Gregus has been good generally, maybe even better). And they’re too-late comeback goal was pretty good, and they’re still on the road. Overall, I’d say Minnesota got measured, and LA came out on top.
All right, that’s me tapping out. Tonight, I’ll dream of bricks, Krogers, and a head full of regret that I saw Lake Erie for less than one minute (literally) and never got freshly prepared Skyline Chili. If someone could buy a couple of 5-ways on my behalf, I’d appreciate the gesture/love for Skyline.
A look at FC Cincinnati and last year’s Eastern Conference teams that missed the MLS playoffs, to see how they finished, transfers, and their playoff odds.
A common adage is that a season in any sport “isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon”. That could also apply to soccer, but perhaps the more appropriate description for this region of the country is that “it’s not a drag race; it’s an Indy 500”.
We’ve gotten used to that feeling here in Cincinnati, except that now the pit-stop in the middle of the season involves less home friendlies and more transfer-window panic. Yes, there’s an All-Star Break somewhere in the middle, but for the most part, unless the wheels have come off, the vehicle can still be repaired and sent out again.
But what do these sports-car clubs have under the hood to start the race? This is no longer a league where Cincinnati can be content to take its time out of the gate and cruise into the playoffs. The competition is harder, and the trips are now to Los Angeles and New York City, not Louisville and New Jersey. This is the big time that calls for monster trucks, not Micro Machines.
Of course, all of these racers are looking to compete from the wave of the starting flag. Let’s take a look at last year’s non-playoff wreckages (and FCC’s own entry) to see how they finished last year, the major pieces they added in the offseason, and their chances at making the Winner’s Circle.
2018 Finish Line: 1st in USL Eastern Conference (23-3-8), 74 pts. 72 goals for, 34 goals against.
The regular-season USL champions only made it to the conference semifinals, but the team set USL regular-season records for their consecutive-wins streak (10) and unbeaten streak (23) during the regular season. (We swear we won’t talk about the individual accolades and attendance records, even though there were many.)
OUT: Half of the 2018 regular-season USL champion team
IN: The other half of the 2018 regular-season USL championship team, as well as 5 trades, 4 transfers, 4 expansion draftees, 5 Superdraft draftees, and GK Przemyslaw Tyton
Can you call an expansion season an “overhaul”? Perhaps you can, considering 11 players were kept from last year’s USL squad. It almost feels that head coach Alan Koch took his Best XI with him to the MLS team. Many of the holes have been filled with international talent (too much to hold within the allotted amount), and the defense has been beefed-up with stronger defenders in Kendall Waston and Greg Garza. The offense hasn’t had much of a facelift (but the arrival of winger Kekuta Manneh could provide a boost).
There still needs to be a little work done to figure out who
goes where and if any of the Superdraft or ex-USL players get loaned out. Most
importantly, it will be interesting to hear and see who the vocal leader will
be on this team. No captain has been announced yet, but there’s a good
possibility that Waston takes the mantle.
Many dice have been rolled for Cincinnati’s first MLS season. Not much time has been allotted to get a strong squad together, and some voids appear to still exist (attacking midfielder, second capable striker next to Fanendo Adi), but that possibly keeps the cards available for a mid-season transfer. This team should be potent on defense, but it will be interesting to see if Jack Stern’s “GK Union” can be restructured and fine-tuned to combat MLS-level offenses.
The hardest pill to swallow will be the starting schedule. Nine of the first 10 matches will be against teams that made the playoffs last year. While it’s good to be positive, a playoff finish might be just out of reach if they cannot start strong.
Orlando City SC
2018 Finish Line: 11th in Eastern Conference (8-22-4), 28 pts. 43 goals for, 74 goals against.
An early-season 6-game winning streak was followed by a
devastating 9-game losing streak which ultimately cost head coach Jason Kreis
his job. The team went on to give up 74 goals, an MLS single-season record, and
their -31 goal differential was worst in the league.
OUT: M Yoshimar Yotun, GK Joe Bendik, D Mohamed El-Munir, D Jonathan
Spector, F Stefano Pinho
IN: F Tesho Akindele, D Joao Moutinho, D Danilo Acosta, M
Sebastian Mendez, GK Greg Ranjitsingh
Head coach James O’Connor now gets to build this team from Day One, responsible with translating his success at Louisville to Orlando. 15 players from last year were either let go or traded, including most of the D-line. Acosta and Moutinho are young resets on defense, and Mendez should be the key defensive midfielder the Lions needed. However, the team is rolling the dice with Greg Ranjitsingh given the keys to the net.
Supposedly, this team still operates around Dom Dwyer’s offensive skill and Sacha Kljestan’s distribution, but both were shells of their former selves last year. The defense can’t possibly get worse, but the release of Spector also means that the team is without an assigned captain, and Ranjitsingh has not played a single MLS minute. Midfielders Chris Mueller and Josue Colman will solidify next to Kljestan, but will it matter if Orlando can’t get a striker to complement Dwyer? It’s hard to see this team making a run at the top and probably need another season to mature.
2018 Finish Line: 10th in Eastern Conference (8-18-8), 32 pts. 48 goals for, 61 goals against.
Chicago suffered a mid-season 8-game losing streak that
doomed their season, forcing them to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in
six seasons. Had the team not had the lowest number of shots (341) and shots-on-goal (129) in the conference, perhaps their -13 goal
differential would have been better.
D Matt Polster, D Brandon Vincent, F Alan Gordon,
D Marcelo, F Fabian Herbers, M Przemyslaw Frankowski, M Amando Moreno
The Fire had a headscratcher of a season last year. Midfielder Aleksander Katai was an instant success with 12 goals and 5 assists, but there wasn’t much else that contributed. The team could not put two straight wins together and were sunk by midseason. That didn’t discourage the team’s confidence in their squad, as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Johan Kappelhof were re-signed in the offseason. The addition of Marcelo should make the defense stronger and push Schweinsteiger up higher, but Fire fans might also wonder what would have happened if they kept homegrown talent Andrew Gutman.
While Orlando has traded everything but the kitchen sink, Chicago has been content with just letting contracts expire. The Fire will be rolling with a lot of experience in the offensive end now that Schweinsteiger can push upward, but that also means an older offense. The other question area is in net—Richard Sanchez returns after only 3 shutouts and 13 losses last season, and backup David Ousted might not be at 100%. It’s hard to see this team keeping up with faster and younger squads, so the playoffs might be another miss for Chicago.
2018 Finish Line: 9th in Eastern Conference (10-18-6), 36 pts. 59 goals for, 64 goals against. Canadian Cup champions.
The defending MLS Cup champions almost defeated Mexican side Guadalajara in the CONCACAF Champions League final. However, the congested schedule also led to only 3 wins and 10 points in their first 11 games. They also had the distinct honor to have the worst penalty-kick conversion rate, missing 4 out of 9 attempts.
OUT: F Sebastian Giovinco, M Victor Vasquez, F Tosaint
Ricketts, D Nick Hagglund
IN: D Laurent Ciman, F Terrence Boyd, D/M Nick DeLeon, M Tsubasa Endoh
The offensive machine had some issues in Toronto, but the 64 goals against indicated that there were major concerns in the defense. Perhaps the rough CCL schedule hurt them early, or perhaps the thin USL reserve team presented weaknesses in squad depth, but the team just wasn’t the 2017 championship squad anymore. This forced a need to sacrifice offense—the team trimmed 36% of their goals and 39% of their assists by transferring Giovinco and Vasquez to Middle Eastern teams. While Laurent Ciman and Nick DeLeon are big defensive additions, the team has the top spot in the Allocation Order and may be hunting for more DPs.
The Reds might have a difficult season ahead of them, if the demoralizing 5-1 preseason loss against Las Vegas Lights is any indicator. Toronto again has the CCL ahead of them, but they may opt to focus more on the MLS season. It will be important to see if Jozy Altidore can stay healthy after a difficult 2018 and work in tandem with fellow national-teamer Boyd. It’s hard to envision this team getting to the same level in 2017, but if midfielder Jonathan Osorio surpasses his 2018 numbers (10 goals, 7 assists), they can cash in a spot in the playoffs.
2018 Finish Line: 8th in Eastern Conference (10-13-11), 41 pts. 49 goals for, 55 goals against.
The rebuild in head coach Brad Friedel’s first year wasn’t
too painful, and their pressing football forced the most corner kicks in the
league (224). However, the Revs still couldn’t perform well on the road. New
England have only won five away games in the past three seasons.
OUT: M Kelyn Rowe, D Claude Dielna, D Chris Tierney
IN: D Edgar Castillo, F Carles Gil, F Juan Fernando Caicedo,
F Tajon Buchanan
In his first year, Friedel almost took New England back into the playoffs, but the team failed to score a positive goal-differential for the third straight season. While defense has been the Revs’ weakness, the team stacked more offense in place, claiming Juan Caicedo on a transfer and promoting more homegrown talent. However, Carles Gil may be the biggest pickup, as the Revs have needed an attacking midfielder after the departure of Lee Nguyen in early 2018. The defense has been tooled, but the loss of Tierney to retirement may be hard to replace with just Castillo.
There is suddenly a lot of offense on a team that doesn’t have a USL reserve squad. The Revs have eight forwards on their current roster, and all could benefit from Gil’s playmaking. However, that also means that there could be unrest and demands for more minutes—forward Diego Fagundez has already stated his desire to be traded. If the midfield can effectively connect the front and back thirds, Friedel can hide the lack of adjustments to the back line and get the Revs in the playoffs.
2018 Finish Line: 7th in Eastern Conference (14-16-4), 46 pts. 47 goals for, 53 goals against.
The Impact went cold to start the season, losing 10 of their
first 13 games. While they bounced back behind Ignacio Piatti’s 16 goals, the
team could not succeed on the road enough to make the playoffs (3-12-2). The -6
goal differential is a bit deceptive, as the team was +15 at home and -21 away.
OUT: M/F Alexandro Silva, F Matteo Mancosu, D Chris Duvall, M
IN: F Maxi Urruti, F Harry Novillo, D Zachary Brault-Guillard
The above listing may not show it, but Montreal opted to decline, trade, and transfer a lot of contracts. 14 players were dealt, while only six (including only one from the Superdraft) were pulled in. However, the trade to pick up Max Urruti (8 goals, 11 assists) from FC Dallas at least fills the loss of Silva to Paraguayan club Olimpia. The offensive pieces may be a good addition to Piatti in his last contract year, while the addition of Brault-Guillard could be a good counter to left back Daniel Lovitz.
Not many changes have been made to Montreal’s defense, which might have been the difference between making the playoffs and barely missing them. A lot of trust is being placed in Evan Bush’s gloved hands and his defensive line to do better than last year. The Impact dealt USL stud goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau to Vancouver. While the front office and coaching staff is depending on a thin forward line for offense, the harshest reality might be the Impact’s schedule. They will play 10 road games in their first 13 matches, including the first six alone. Montreal can’t let their road woes extend into the 2019 season, but perhaps their strong home form could push them into the playoffs.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more preseason and preview coverage. Next time, we’ll take a look at the Western Conference.
*NOTE: The Offseason Overhaul does not include every move made by the team in the offseason, only those the author chose to highlight.
After four days of training at IMG Academy, Alan Koch shares his thoughts before FC Cincinnati embarks on its preseason schedule against Impact de Montréal.
After four days of training at IMG Academy, FC Cincinnati embarks on its seven-game preseason schedule on Wednesday against Impact de Montréal. FC Cincinnati does not currently have plans to stream the 7pm kickoff, so social media will be the only outlet to keep up with the action. In a press conference on Tuesday, Alan Koch stressed the importance of “taking advantage of each one of the opportunities” that these preseason games offer.
Overload of Information
MLS mandated a January 21st date for the start of preseason camps, so FCC’s camp started later than last year. In addition, the MLS season starts earlier than USL. The short story is that the coaching staff doesn’t have the luxury of time in 2019. Koch said he’s spent the past four days “overloading” his players with information about how they want to play. “We wanted to give them a lot of information. Sometimes it clarifies things, and sometimes it confuses them, but regardless it’s part of the process.”
Game One Strategy
Alan Koch shared his roster plans for the tomorrow’s match. The strategy is similar to how the technical staff approached last year’s early preseason games in terms of full-squad rotation.
“We’re going to play 2 groups for 45 minutes. So 20 players, if everyone is healthy, will get 45 minutes each. There will be a few guys who won’t be able to get minutes tomorrow, and we’ll do some extra work with them to compensate for that. We plan on playing Tyton for 90 minutes in the game in goal.”
He noted that Spencer Richey is “not at 100% yet” and that goalkeeper Ben Lundt, drafted 37th overall by FC Cincinnati, has a minor injury which will keep him out. Therefore, Jimmy Hague, also drafted in the SuperDraft, will be the backup goalkeeper against Montréal. Koch commented that Hague has done very well so far during preseason,
Greg Garza is still out with a quadriceps strain, but he trained for the first time with a ball Tuesday. “It’s not too far away until he’s fully integrated into training,” Koch said.
Heavy Physical Workload
Continuing on the theme of making the most of preseason time, Koch confirmed that they would need to push the team physically over the next four-and-a-half weeks before the Seattle season opener.
“We’ll push them more than we did last year because we have less time to get ready. Many players had heavy legs and were a little stiff and fatigued today, and that’s expected. If we were in-season, there’s no way we would push them this hard right before a game. Part of it is getting yourself fit and getting ready. Last year we extended our preseason…we didn’t have to push them as much. This year we have to maximize every day.”
So what is the technical staff looking to see tomorrow? Koch gave us a list, which included no injuries, gaining match fitness, developing relationships, seeing some players exceed expectations, and mistakes. That’s right. “We want to see some mistakes. It’s ok to make mistakes at this stage” said Koch.
MLS Kit Fever
Back in Cincinnati, FC Cincinnati fans have been screaming for new kits since the brand-reveal last November, and news finally came on Tuesday. The team’s inaugural uniforms will be unveiled at Cincinnati’s Music Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11. The event will be ticketed with all proceeds going to the newly-launched FC Cincinnati Foundation. The tickets are on pre-sale now to Season Ticket Members, and a select number will be available to the general public starting at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30th.
The new FCC kit will also be available for pre-sale purchase at the event and online at the MLS Store later that evening. Those who attend will receive a 10 percent discount on merch, including pre-ordered kits. See the linked article for official details.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.