MLS Weekly, Week 13: East vs West, and Sub-Text

Some people agonize over which tie to wear to the annual Christmas Party, other people do the blogging equivalent of 52 Pick-Up..

Credit: Porsche997SBS / License

To answer the first question, of course, I’ll be tinkering with the format this week. Some people agonize over which tie to wear to the annual Christmas Party, other people do the blogging equivalent of 52 Pick-Up…

In order to make sure I get to everything, I’m going to start by covering all the results, noting memorable details, etc. Those will be divided between (first) the results worth talking about, then (second) the results that tracked a reasonable person’s expectations (or just mine). I’ll close out by highlighting some broader trends – including the “the West Owns The East” idea, which both does and doesn’t have merit – and precisely because it follows from another discussion about the Eastern Conference especially. Anyway, all things in their time. Let’s run down the results for Major League Soccer Week 13, starting with the games that really mattered.

The Games That Really Mattered, A Narrative

The biggest result of the weekend happened when the Portland Timbers orchestrated a multi-bank heist against the Philadelphia Union with a 3-1 win. A lot of the talk will focus on Brian Fernandez – who, sure, appears to be very, very good, and he deserves full credit for starting and ending the game-winner – but all the kids, fresh and familiar, made this win happen. I wrote about this game on Conifers & Citrus and, as I didn’t stop saying there, Philly played well. And Portland still won. Timbers’ fans are giddy today, but the games ahead will find the line between confidence and hubris. (Full Disclosure: I have drank the Kool-Aid. You’ll see that in the post).

The rest of the big results include the mind-meld between Cristian Espinoza and Chris “Back for One More Score” Wondolowski that delivered the San Jose Earthquakes a 2-1 win at Toronto FC; I have dubbed this one, The Lamentation of Drew Moor, in honor of his multiple melt-downs – which are earned, because TFC aren’t good right now. Sporting Kansas City’s 3-2 home win over the Seattle Sounders, while wholly remarkable for Johnny Russell beating Seattle with the rest of Sporting KC tied behind his back (I kid, I kid; also, see “behind” for the GOTW), doesn’t mean much either way. Getting the odd necessary win – something SKC has managed twice in its last 10 games – doesn’t paper over going 0-3-5 around those wins, and, just to note it, being winless on the road. Injuries of unknown seriousness to SKC’s Matt Besler and Seattle’s Kim Kee Hee make the sum of this result relevant – doubly for Seattle now that Chad Marshall has retired. A similar cloud hangs over the Vancouver Whitecaps’…respectable 2-1 win at home over FC Dallas (Dallas played them a lot better than even and created chances), but Ali Adnan, who has been stellar for them, limped off early. The simple fact of the loss matters more, though, to Dallas, who have picked up just two points from the last 18 available. True, that’s selective slicing that puts Dallas in the worst possible light, but they’re also 3-5-2 over their last 10 games and 0-4-2 over their last six games, and suddenly that doesn’t feel selective. Oof, time to start another paragraph…

Los Angeles FC’s (more or less) annihilation of the Montreal Impact in LA is noteworthy as a clean demonstration of how LAFC dismantles teams – something I’ll elaborate on down below – but Montreal…that team can lose in any venue, and win in about half as many. Real Salt Lake topping Atlanta United FC 2-1 in Sandy, UT ranks as the second most significant result of Week 13, after Portland’s. At the moment, RSL operates in a space between being a strong home team, and being a team that loses to good ones. Putting two goals past a heretofore solid Atlanta defense (7 goals allowed in their last 10 games), and doing it from range, having the wherewithal to find the lanes to make those shots answers the question of how RSL has succeeded without a steady starting forward. This, with the loss to the New York Red Bulls behind it, sees Atlanta in the tiniest of slumps. Just mind it doesn’t get wider…and, now that I’ve brought up the Red Bulls, let’s wave away the results that didn’t matter with as little respect as possible…sorry if your team is in there…

Leftovers

The fact the Chicago Fire drew New York City FC 1-1 in Chicago has the juicy local angle of the Fire having two games to play before the Gold Cup break, and they’re both on the road where Chicago is…not good. For NYCFC, this was just the latest draw. Wayne Rooney getting run over (and Matt Turner getting a deserved red card) feels like the second kick-off to the New England Revolution’s 1-1 draw at home against D.C. United. New England looks better without Friedel (could a cat do it better?), and DC’s looking dodgy on the road, and that’s about it. A lofted turd of a goal sealed the Houston Dynamo’s fate at Minnesota United FC, and Houston had their chances, and that’s one more reason to hold off on the “Houston-is-terrible-on-the-road” narrative. Even over just the past 10 games, they’ve played your tougher teams every time they’ve traveled. After that, the Colorado Rapids underlined the incredible awfulness of Columbus Crew SC by beating them 3-2 in Commerce City, and the Los Angeles Galaxy stole three points from Orlando City SC on the back of a Jonathan dos Santos goal (good one too), and Nani “DP, Right?” being terrible at penalty kicks. Ugly as that last game looked, it was eating caviar and watching world-class synchronized swimming compared to the Red Bulls drunk-mugging on the road against FC Cincinnati. The fact that FC Cincy played (reasonably) well only makes it feel worse…or that’s probably just the weight of my extended notes on this game, and FC Cincy’s personnel limitations, sinking in a little further.

I think that’s all the results – and let’s hear it for those glorious weeks when every team plays just one game! Let’s keep the tour going with some trend spotting!

West Over East?

Six games from MLS Week 13 pitted inter-conference rivals against one another. It didn’t go unnoticed that the Western Conference teams won all six games. The question, though, is whether anything actually surprising happened. The short answer, yes, but I only count Portland’s win at Philly a clear surprise. I can pull the rest out of a pure “West > East” narrative without much trouble. As noted above, RSL beating Atlanta is up there when it comes to shocking results, but RSL has a history of playing strong at home and, between things like having Michael Parkhurst at right back for Atlanta (which, only arguably) lead to Bofo Saucedo’s goal and RSL keeping them unsettled with (quality) shots from range, RSL essentially used the artillery to beat Atlanta. Atlanta took them to them all the way to the ref inhaling before calling the game over…and the winner came in from range as well. It’s debatably relevant that Atlanta didn’t start Pity Martinez, but, because RSL won this game in midfield, nah. None of that takes anything away from the win, it’s a big one, but I think you can achieve clarity by asking one question: do you think RSL is better than Atlanta more often than not, regardless of venue?

Either form or form-plus-location explains the four remaining games. Orlando hasn’t achieved good for three seasons, so how does the Galaxy beating them surprise anyone? That’s one game down. TFC has struggled in recent weeks – seriously, a goal-less draw against D.C. at home is as good as it gets over its past five games – and, lacking about…3/5th of its forward momentum (neither Bradley nor Pozuelo), Toronto had to rely on its defense, which responded by giving Wondo a pair of openings. Columbus, meanwhile, has lost to everyone lately, so why not the Rapids…wherever? Finally, who takes Montreal beating LAFC in LA without exorbitant odds? (No one, because no one takes 30-1 on any sporting event outside horse racing and expects to win.) Before talking about why the Eastern Conference kinda sucks, let me finish my thought on LAFC.

Caught In the Ropes

Christian Ramirez’s stuff/goal on Evan Bush’s ludicrous attempt at a clearance foreshadowed what the rest of the afternoon would look like for Montreal. Think a game of dodgeball that can’t end until the kid in a fetal crouch gets hit with the ball 50 times. That exaggerates what happened by a rough order of three (LAFC took only 17 shots all game), but LAFC did to Montreal what I’ve seen them do against both Portland and Cincinnati: they pin teams in with a second-wave half press of Mark-Anthony Kaye, Eduardo Atuesta, and Latif Blessing, which basically confines the game to a half-court set-up where they attack over and over and over until they score. So long as Atuesta can feed line-splitters up the gut to Carlos Vela, this will give them result after result. The other thing: Vela deserves the hype, and not just by the numbers, officially crazy as they are. He’s as fast and as strong as any forward in MLS, and he ranks with the best on the technical side, and that’s just hell for the rest of MLS. It’s the Timbers’ turn in the barrel next weekend. I’m happy that it’s Portland’s barrel, if nothing else, but I’m definitely anxious that LAFC will run Portland through the paddle-wheel. And if they do…seriously, look out.

The Truth About the Eastern Conference

To get back to the West versus East conversation, the conversation actually cuts both ways – a detail that’s both useful and interesting. On the one hand, the Eastern Conference’s currently steadiest teams played amongst themselves this weekend – e.g., D.C., the Red Bulls, NYCFC, even Chicago. Now, for those who really want to get confused, look at the bottom four teams in the Eastern Conference – that’s Cincinnati, New England, Orlando and Columbus – and ask yourself whether you see any of those teams replacing the top 7 teams in the East. My answer to that is, maybe Columbus, New England, but only if the Exorcism of Brad Friedel was the necessary act; going the other way, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see Montreal falling out of the Top 7, which is neat and all, but…that’s just, like, one spot, and with five teams chasing it.

Move over to the Western Conference, and you’ve got a very different picture. When I look at the current standings, I can see any one of the teams currently at 3rd through 7th getting overtaken by any team currently at 8th through 11th, with no offense intended to Colorado, who, to my mind, has a little more to prove. Some of it’s just quirks in the schedule (e.g., Portland opening with tons of games on the road, while Houston does the opposite), but other parts included a process of feet-finding (Vancouver? Dallas? RSL?), on-boarding new players (Portland), being awesome (LAFC), over-shooting your talent (Galaxy), surviving a(n annual) plague of injuries or a CCL hangover (SKC), or even the long-term health of your squad (Seattle).

I’m not the first person to suggest that the East is more hierarchical than the West, and I understand at least one theory as to why that matters – i.e., because every team in MLS plays two intra-conference games for every one inter-conference, the best teams in the East will inflate their records by picking up easy points from a larger pool of patsies. While that theory makes sense, I took a closer look at the past week’s East-v-West duels to scrub for false signals. And, as noted above, one can make good arguments that other factors could be at work. In the here and now, I can’t think of a way to keep track of East-v-West results that won’t lead to madness, so I’ll have to settle for pricking up my ears any time someone else talks about it. I’m just wary of it as a talking point – and mostly because it feels like a short-cut, sort of like Houston getting dismissed as a bad road team, when the issue really boils down to playing the toughest teams in the league on the road one after the other.

And that’s everything this week. Hope the new layout didn’t throw anyone or give them too much chaff to sort through before getting to the sweet, sweet wheat. I want to wrap up with some odds and ends, stray thoughts that came to me while watching way too much damn soccer this weekend.

– New York City FC has picked up 7 points of nine on a three-game road trip. They have a real chance to make that 10 points out of 12 when they wrap up the four-game road-trip against Columbus.

– It bears noting that Dallas has traveled the Valley of the Shadow of Death for, I’d argue, their last seven games. Recent away games include, Philadelphia, Atlanta (which they won!), Houston, LAFC, and, lately, Vancouver. Small wonder, basically, that they’re 2-4-0 on the road during that time. Meanwhile, at home they’ve played (again) LAFC, the grind-gods (aka, the Red Bulls), and a much-improved San Jose side. Strength of schedule matters…

– D.C. has endured the opposite road record from NYCFC, picking up just two points of 12 from their last four road games – and against arguably softer opposition. Related, they have two home games coming up, and they need the padding.

– Finally, both the LA Galaxy and SKC won this weekend, but broad circumstances make both results immediately irrelevant. Like SKC, LA isn’t winning nearly often enough to make a road win over Orlando interesting. On a deeper level, LA has lost to everyone everywhere in recent weeks – e.g., a yes-then-dreadful Columbus team on the road, and the Rapids in LA. The rule of thumb here is, make them prove they love you (which, I’m told, means taking you to the drive-in). Dammit.

– To flag an interesting trend going in the other direction, the only bad loss I see for RSL in its past 10 games was their Week 10 loss to Portland at home. Everything else makes sense and points to a reasonably bright future.

We’ll see how that goes. We’ll see how everything goes. Till next week.

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)...

Deeper Cuts: Deplagne, xG, Adi & International Absentees

Image: Ryan Meyer

This week’s edition of Deeper Cuts focuses on topics that were meaningful from Sunday’s match but didn’t quite make the headlines. The story starts with Cincinnati’s favorite French fullback.

Mathieu Deplagne

Deplagne influenced Sunday’s match even though he didn’t earn Team of the Week or Man of the Match honors. The Montpellier native posted an 87% passing accuracy, 3 shots on goal, 1 key pass, scored the final goal and helped secure a first MLS clean sheet for FCC.

His Audi Index score was higher than any player in the match and he was the man of the match based on statistics tracked by Whoscored.com.

Deplagne’s influence has been important in each of the first three matches. The 27-year-old had a good performance in Atlanta and secured the side of the field where Julian Gressel roamed. Additionally, his interplay with Lamah in Seattle was one of only a few bright spots in that match. What is more impressive is that Deplagne is not a natural left back, although Koch highlighted his versatility when he signed. Deplagne spoke after Tuesday’s practice about his first experience at Nippert Stadium.

Expected Goals (xG) — #CINvPOR

The xG from Sunday’s match shows that FC Cincinnati slightly outperformed their expected goal metric of 2.49, while the Timbers underperformed on their xG of 1.15. Thus, the final tally was a little flattering for FC Cincinnati, but the xG metric reinforces that a win was well deserved based on the chances FCC created.

Portland’s expected goal graphic below also highlights Spencer Richey’s work to keep a clean sheet, especially considering the big chance that Dairon Asprilla had in the 32nd minute (the big blue circle on the left).

If you’re not familiar with Opta’s expected goals metric, it measures how many goals each team should have scored based on the quality of the chances they created. While the calculation of the metric is complex, the concept is straightforward and you can read more about it here if interested.

Adi Injury, International Absentees and New England

The prognosis doesn’t look good for Fanendo Adi after suffering a leg injury during the first half of Sunday’s match. Alan Koch did not provide specifics but said today that “it’s almost certain he won’t be good to go” for New England this weekend. Another medical evaluation on Tuesday afternoon should reveal more about the severity of the forward’s injury.

This upcoming Sunday will be a big test of FC Cincinnati’s depth. Aside from Adi, five players will miss the New England match due to international duty including Kendall Waston, Allan Cruz, Darren Mattocks, Alvas Powell, and Frankie Amaya.

Alan Koch was positive about the situation at Tuesday’s practice. He said the competition is intense for a spot in starting 11 amongst the players still with the squad.

“It’s a great opportunity for the other guys in the group to show what they can do. In some respects, it makes my job a little bit easier as a manager, because the guys have played well the last 2 games. We probably would not have made any more changes, but now the players get an opportunity. I have to make some changes, and now they are fighting for opportunities to see who can step up to the plate this weekend.”

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

Photos: FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 Portland Timbers

Images of FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in their MLS home opener on Sunday, March 17, 2019

Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in their MLS home opener on Sunday, March 17, 2019. Captain Kendall Waston scored the opener in the 15th minute. Second half goals by Allan Cruz and Mathieu Deplagne sealed the victory.

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

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs. Portland Timbers

Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program provides an infographic and the fast facts you need to get ready for FC Cincinnati vs Portland Timbers.

Graphics: CSDIV

I may not speak for everyone, but I’m guilty of letting my mind jump directly to this Sunday’s match against the Timbers when FC Cincinnati’s schedule was released. The stands will be packed, and the Bailey will be roaring.

The Cincinnati faithful grabbed the nation’s attention, earning the title of Soccer City, USA, during FCC’s magical U.S. Open Cup run. Ultimately, the supporters are the reason FCC hosts Portland in their MLS home debut this weekend. Now, for the first time, fans have the chance to reap the rewards and enjoy the highest level of professional soccer right in their own backyard.

Portland, of course, will be looking to spoil the party and both sides are eager to tally their first win of the season. However, the Timbers will be without Colombian midfielder Diego Chará, who collected two yellows last weekend against LAFC. If you’re at Nippert Stadium, bundle up and enjoy the electric atmosphere. If you’re watching at home, FS1 will carry the game.

Fast Facts

  • The main storyline of the week: Fanendo Adi and Alvas Powell square-off against their former club for the first time. With 247 combined games in the Portland green and white since 2013, these two are known well by the opposition. Also of note: Darren Mattocks (49 games) and Eric Alexander (31 games) also are former Timbers, but further removed.
  • FCC’s 1-1 draw against Atlanta United on Sunday was possible thanks to an improved defensive shape from Alan Koch’s side. That defensive progress must continue, as Portland are averaging 18 shots per game, led by Sebastian Blanco with 5.5 shots per game.
  • Newly acquired midfielder Kenny Saief already has one game and one assist under his belt in Major League Soccer. With Saief’s Europa League and Champions League experience at their disposal, Alan Koch’s staff is hoping Saief is fit to start this weekend. The player says he’s ready.
  • Portland are currently last in the league with 8.5 aerial duels won per game. This could spell good news for Adi up top. His first goal of the year, a header, was disallowed in Atlanta after being called offside by just a whisker.
  • The Timbers attack could spell danger for the expansion side, as Portland have three set-piece goals in two games already. The team from the Northwest is already dangerous from the run of play, so FCC must stay alert if they want to get a result.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus Portland Timbers this Sunday.

2019 MLS Western Conference Preview: Part 2 – Winners, Winners, Chicken Dinner

A look at last year’s MLS Western Conference playoff teams – how they finished, offseason business, and their 2019 playoff odds.


Having picked through the ruined seasons of the undesirable end of Major League Soccer’s Western Conference last week, let us now turn to the happier end, the West’s Best in 2018. As with the previous, sadder post, I relied on two main sources for this one: the regularly updated Transfer Tracker, which one can find under New, then League News, followed by the Transactions tab. (No, please, check my math.) MLSSoccer.com has another article they pop onto the front page now and again and the added analysis gives people a contextual frame for all the swapping of bodies and talents.

To recap the top of the Western Conference in 2018, it turned out to be less plainly hierarchical than the Eastern Conference; Atlanta United FC and the New York Red Bulls dominated that side of the league, and more or less from start to finish. Sporting Kansas City had the best season in the West, the Seattle Sounders finished very (very, very) strong, and more people cooed over Los Angeles FC than they deserved, but it was the (and my) Portland Timbers that sucker-punched their way to MLS Cup, where they lost narrowly, but deservedly, to Atlanta. Still, that run was enough to make at least one grown man cry (ahem), but it also subtly revised one of the more reliable truisms about MLS. While the playoffs really do give every team that reaches them a clean slate, “peaking” at the right time (timing) ultimately comes second to having a well-built, well-drilled team. The Timbers looked like a strong cup team for most of 2018, and that’s what they turned out to be.

For what it’s worth, I think of MLS Cup less as the league’s championship, and more as a cup tournament tacked onto the end of a “normal” soccer season – and give me the Supporters’ Shield over MLS Cup any day. Draw that distinction to meet your personal needs, but all fans want the same thing: to see their team win trophies. With that, let’s see how the best teams in the Western Conference helped or hurt their chances for 2019.

Sporting Kansas City

2018 Finish Line: 1st in the Western Conference (18-8-8), 62 pts. 65 goals for, 40 goals against

They stayed in the Supporters’ Shield race longer than their record would suggest, but that arguably underlines the uncomplicated truth that both the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United FC were better teams in 2018. All the same, a team doesn’t build a +25 goal differential on anything but a good season, and Sporting KC did that. While that was good enough to keep them near or at the top the West through the regular season, they suffered a dip in form and confidence at exactly the wrong point – e.g., the post-season – and there is nothing more MLS than having a great season undone at the end.

Offseason Overhaul:

OUT: A series of wild stabs in the dark, then, D Ike Opara, F Khiry Shelton, F Diego Rubio

IN: D Rodney Wallace, M Kelyn Rowe, D Botond Barath, D Abdul Rwatubyaye, F Erik Hurtado

By dealing Opara to Minnesota Untied FC, SKC takes a step into the unknown, but with Barath and Rwatubyaye coming in, SKC felt confident enough to take it. They did some high-end scavenging around the league too (wait…it’s “high-end scavenging” here, but “moneyball” when I talk about the bad teams?), with Wallace coming in from New York City FC and, a more exciting stretch, Rowe from the New England Revolution. Hurtado came down from Vancouver as well, but, meh. The important thing is that the West’s best didn’t stand pat for 2019.

2019 Forecast:

Opara is a big hole to fill, no question, but a player with Barath’s pedigree should come through and I’ve heard Rwatubyaye described as a potential sleeper. I keep seeing the name Andreu Fontas pop up, as well, sometimes as a straight replacement for Opara outright, so, barring terrible choices, the depth looks very much in place at centerback. Those are just the additions: who knows what last year’s hope, Felipe Gutierrez, will do after his “adjustment year,” or the size of the step Gianluco Busio takes, or what fresh terrors Johnny Russell has for opposing defenders. They remain the West’s team to beat in my mind.


Seattle Sounders

2018 Finish Line: 2nd in the Western Conference (18-11-5), 59 pts. 52 goals for, 37 goals against

In the previous, depressing portion of these previews, I talked about the idea of “runs,” mostly in the context of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ false signals, but Seattle…they also went on a run. Only theirs burned through all of MLS for the second half of 2018, just teeing up every ass they saw and kicking it. The Los Angeles Galaxy all but patented the “slow start, reanimated monster season” during the mid-2000s, but Seattle has owned it for the past two seasons at least. The Sounders built last year’s model on a fortress of a defense, only to see the floor fall out against the Timbers, of all teams. Holy crap, was that game epic.

Offseason Overhaul:

OUT: M Lamar Neagle, M Osvaldo Alonso, D Aaron Kovar, D Waylon Francis

IN: D Jonathan Campbell, GK Trey Muse. That’s it.

They didn’t really do one. Apart from bringing in Campbell, a cast-off defender from the Chicago Fire (pause) and calling up a kid named Trey Muse in goal (who sounds like he moonlights in a boy band), Seattle has so far opted to stand pat. Or, probably more accurately, that they’d done enough last season to carry them through to the summer, aka, when Seattle makes its annual major, momentum-altering acquisition – e.g., Raul Ruidiaz last season, Nicolas Lodeiro the season before. Letting go of Alonso was a big deal for the team, though more from a team culture perspective than a playing one. They got value for him when they could.

2019 Forecast:

Seattle has a very sound team, and probably for two more years. Even if Marshall went down, the Sounders are fine between Kim Kee-hee and Roman Torres. And now there’s Campbell. Their roster is a list of players who are not league-best in their position (Kevin Leerdam, Jordan Morris, and Cristian Roldan), and yet other teams would trade large sums and useful bodies to have them. That’s what allows Seattle to flip the script with those mid-summer acquisitions. The real question is how well Jordan Morris reintegrates into the team, against what parts, if any, breakdown, whether by strain or injury. Barring bad luck, the bastards…er, Seattle should be fine.


Los Angeles FC

2018 Finish Line: 3rd in the Western Conference (16-9-9), 57 pts. 68 goals for, 52 goals against

LAFC came out of the gate looking exciting, even exotic. Diego Rossi built a reputation before the season really started and Carlos Vela lived up to his hype. There was that forward-tilting midfield as well – who plays Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen just ahead of the defense? – but that forward tilt left a glass jaw behind it, and that kept LAFC from looking like real contenders. They had the talent to bully weak teams, and that bought them third place, but the league’s better teams reliably reminded them of where they stood. There could be a theory that a team can’t sit at the big kid’s table without some kind of functioning defensive midfield scheme, or I could be making that up. Still, exciting, flashy, and unbalanced: that was LAFC in 2018.

Offseason Overhaul:

OUT: A lot of who’s that, then M Callum Mallace, F Marco Urena, M Benny Feilhaber, and, why not? (see above), D Aaron Kovar (I don’t make the rules, people)

IN: D Eddie Segura, D Mohamed El-Munir, F Rodolfo Zelaya

Their big drops included Feilhaber and Urena – players more or less expendable – while picking up what strikes me as a nifty throw-back to MLS 1.[X]. Seeing any MLS team sign, Zelaya, one of the best forwards in El Salvador, maybe even all Central America, took me all the way back to Raul Diaz Arce. Some high profile Salvadorans have passed through MLS since him (e.g., Ronald Cerritos and Mauricio Cienfuegos), but the other end of the talent pipeline feeding MLS has by and large shifted to South America in recent seasons. In less retro news, LAFC also added Segura from Colombia and El-Munir from Orlando City SC.

2019 Forecast:

LAFC has some interesting-to-great parts, but there is something really wrong with its player acquisition process. Mark Anthony-Kaye appears to be the only true defensive midfielder on their roster…and so they add two defenders (one 22 years old, the other, an escapee from the horrors of Orlando City SC’s 2018), and a forward? Excited as I am about the latter (clearly, see above), I’m struggling to see a better 2019 for LAFC until they add players where they need them. At the same time, there’s no reason last season’s formula of having the talent to bully weak teams won’t hold up this season, and that’s good enough for the playoffs.


FC Dallas

2018 Finish Line: 4th in the Western Conference (16-9-9), 57 pts. 52 goals for, 44 goals against

Dallas started 2018 strong enough to top the Western Conference (off and on) till the end of July. And then, as if it’s etched onto this team’s motherboard, they fell apart down the stretch, losing the last three regular season games – including a loss in Dallas against Sporting KC that all but announced they would never make MLS Cup, not these guys. Sure, enough, it was the Portland Timbers, in Dallas, just one game later with a 2-1 win. They had the opposite problem of LAFC: a solid defense, but no reliable way to score. The decision to play Maxmiliano Urruti as a No. 10 gives at least one of the reasons.

Offseason Overhaul:

OUT: M Roland Lamah (hello, Cincy!), F Tesho Akindele, F Maxi Urruti, D Chris Richards, M Victor Ulloa (hello, Cincy!)

IN: F Zdenek Ondrasek, D Bressan, D…sure, John Nelson

After nearly five years of stalling in the same general time and place, FC Dallas parted ways with long-time head coach Oscar Pareja. In a move that underscores Dallas’ investment in its academy, they promoted FC Dallas Academy Director/U-16 Academy team head coach, Luchi Gonzalez to head coach. They like to keep teachers and students together down in Dallas.

Dallas very quietly cut some losses after 2018 – e.g., your Urrutis, your Lamahs, your Akindeles – but otherwise kept faith in what they have on hand. For the past several years – maybe even for the length of its frustrated existence – Dallas has produced sound, well-constructed team after sound, well-constructed team. Last year was no different, but it was always a matter of when they would die, not if. Dallas has made MLS Cup just once, and the universe showed its sense humor by having them lose to the Colorado Rapids. (Colorado was not favored.) So far, all they’ve done to change that was sign the three players named above.

2019 Forecast:

Of all their pick-ups, Ondrasek, a forward from Poland, has plausible potential to change that. Dallas hasn’t had a forward since Blas Perez, and Ondrasek has the scoring history (1 goal every three games, or thereabouts), and in multiple countries that says he can do the same in MLS. It’s not like the Brazilian, Bressan, will hurt them, but a central defender won’t help them fix their biggest weakness – i.e., a permanent failure to find a higher gear. They’ve relied on players like Mauro Diaz to do that, and his replacement has yet to materialize. If there’s a worry, it’s that Ondrasek doesn’t make up for everything Dallas’s F.O. subtracted.


Portland Timbers

2018 Finish Line: 5th in the Western Conference (15-10-9), 54 pts, 54 goals for, 48 goals against

To speak as someone who watched from the front row, taking notes all the while, Portland’s 2018 shouldn’t have felt like a credit card binge, but it still does. The team rode The Holy Trinity – Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Diego Chara – and thin margins all the way to MLS Cup. They enjoyed two great runs – a 15-game unbeaten streak from April through July, then a methodical march through the Western Conference playoffs (steely dans, to the last man) – and without a reliable option at forward and back-stopped by a defense that looked more suspect than it was. If the Timbers have a strength – across two coaches now – it’s what Dallas lacks: a knack for finding a higher gear.

Offseason Overhaul:

OUT: D Alvas Powell (hello, Cincy!), D Liam Ridgewell, M Lawrence Olum, GK Jake Gleeson

IN: GK Aljaz Ivacic, D Claude Dielna. M Marvin Loria, M Renzo Zambrano, D Jorge Moreira

The Timbers let a couple anchors float away – e.g., Liam Ridgewell for sure, but maybe even Alvas Powell and Lawrence Olum (not the best, but a supreme known quantity). Portland brought in Claude Dielna from the New England Revolution to deal with the loss of Ridgewell. The ambition finally showed up in the most recent acquisitions, attempted and otherwise. It looks like Portland will acquire Paraguayan right back Moreira, thereby filling the hole left by Powell. They’ve also made a very expensive approach toward Eduardo Vargas, a forward currently signed to Tigres in Mexico. They also signed Slovenian ‘keeper Ivacic on top of calling up Loria and Zambrano from Timbers2.

2019 Forecast:

If all those signings land, Portland should be very competitive next year, if not in 2020. Dielna looks like the key signing at time of writing, but the Timbers will be a very different team with a 15+ goals per year forward – which obviously assumes the team can land Vargas and that he can hit that number. If the Timbers can just work the same defense in 2019 as they did in 2018 – something that relies depressingly heavily on a healthy Diego Chara – that’ll be enough to keep them in the mix on its own. As noted above, this is my first team, so I know more about them than any team in the league, and they have some potential that could come good as well – I mean beyond Loria (who I’ve seen, and not bad) and Zambrano. The list starts with Lucas Melano, but he’s got a lot of company, especially in central midfield.


Real Salt Lake

2018 Finish Line: 6th in the Western Conference (14-13-7), 49 pts, 55 goals for, 58 goals against

Speaking of the Timbers, they really should have ended RSL’s 2018 early by dropping two losses in a late season home-and-home series that saw RSL outscored 1-7; that they gave up four goals at home, where they’d been great all season, twisted the knife. They ultimately backed into the playoffs on the back of the Galaxy’s baffling Decision Day choke against the Houston Dynamo. While RSL has the talent to beat anyone, it took that gift to get them to the post-season.

Offseason Overhaul:

OUT: D Demar Phillips, D David Horst, M Sunday “Sunny” Stephen, F Luis Silva

IN: F Sam Johnson, M Everton Luiz, D Danny Toia, and a literal handful of homegrown players

To give positions to that clutch of homegrowns, they include Julian Vazquez (F), David Ochoa (GK), Luis Arriaga (M), Tate Schmitt (F), and Erik Holt (D), but RSL did two smart things besides that. First, they brought in Everton Luiz to (perhaps permanently) spell all-around legend Kyle Beckerman, but they also signed Liberian international Sam Johnson at forward. Those were enormous positions of need for this team.

2019 Forecast:

RSL has a decent history with homegrown players, even as Aaron Maund and Justen Glad have become something close to cautionary tales; I think Maund just got cut loose by Vancouver, but Glad’s still with RSL, but neither is exactly thriving in the moment. Based on that, I present the list above as (again) a handful of unknowns, a list of names waiting on context (that may never come). The thing with RSL is that a good forward can carry them a long way. They’re one of you more pure academy teams in MLS and, as such, it might take a while to see how far their foundation carries them. That said, I’d expect another marginal season in 2019.


And, between the two articles, that’s everyone in MLS’s Western Conference. Now, if I were a betting man (I am, and I lose frequently), I’d name RSL, FC Dallas and maybe LAFC as the teams likeliest to fall out of this, the Winner’s Bracket. At the same time, I’ll be damned if I can figure out which teams from last year’s wrong end of the West takes however many places become available. The Galaxy feels like a good bet, maybe the Vancouver Whitecaps, but after that…yeah, it’s gonna be a weird one out west. Buckle up, buttercups.

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

TRADE: “Tricky” Alvas Powell Brings Experience and Potential to the Queen City

Alvas Powell brings deep first team MLS experience to FC Cincinnati’s squad at right back at the tender age of 24. Can he live up to his full Portland potential in Cincinnati?

Photo Credit: Ytoyoda License

Age: 24
Position: Defender -Right Back
From: Danvers Pen, Saint Thomas, Jamaica (domestic player, holds green card)
Former team: Portland Timbers
Value: $905K
Deal: Traded to FC Cincinnati for $250K in General Allocation Money (GAM). The Timbers also retain a sell-on fee of 25%.
Tranfermarkt Profile

Saint Thomas, Jamaica native Alvas Powell joins FC Cincinnati as a 24-year-old with significant MLS and international experience. The right-sided defender has racked up 122 MLS appearances with the Portland Timbers since 2013. He also has 35 senior caps for the Reggae Boyz, including appeances in 12 World Cup qualifying matches.

Orange & Blue Press checked in with Jeff Bull, our writer and correspondent in Portland who is also a Cincinnati native and pens the Timbers blog Conifers and Citrus. He served up some vital details on Powell for our readers. Bull describes himself as a “full-time, modern-era Timbers fan (i.e., no NASL)” who speaks highly of Powell’s talents but also describes him as a “tricky” player. Here’s why.

Bull says that Powell “defends well because his speed contains the overwhelming majority of his mistakes. When he directs that speed toward the opposition goal, the emotions you feel will be complicated.” Here’s a look at the kind of damage Powell can do going forward.

Bull noted the highs and lows of Powell’s play. “Powell can weave his way through an entire damn defense and score a goal. Three weeks later, though, I’m slipping this parenthetical into a match report: (How many times can one man make the wrong pass to the same wrong spot?)”

Powell’s talents have been evident since he burst on to the scene in Portland in 2013. However, some Timbers fans feel he hasn’t realized his full potential in the American first division. He was perhaps suffering under the weight of the fan’s expectations after six seasons in the Rose City. Bull says “I don’t know how many Timbers fans have accepted Powell as he is at this point. What I do strongly suspect, is that Powell will drop that baggage if and when he moves to Cincinnati.”

Powell made strong bonds during his six years, but the evolution of the Western Conference champion’s defense meant the end of Powell’s time in Portland. Two weeks ago, several Oregon news outlets reported an emotional meeting between Powell, head coach Giovanni Savarese, and Timbers General Manager Gavin Wilkinson. At that meeting, the trio sat down to discuss a potential trade dealing the Jamaican away from Oregon. Wilkinson shared the following sentiments after the meet-up.

It was very upsetting, and I think everyone walked away from it just realizing how special Alvas is as a person and how much he means to the group in the locker room, and it’s probably one of the hardest meetings I’ve ever had to be a part of. [Stumptown Footy]

Powell perhaps became expendable after the arrival of left fullback Jorge Villafaña from Mexican side Santos Laguna in August. That acquisition precipitated the shift of defender Zarek Valentin to a right-back role, where he started for most of the latter part of the Timbers 2018 season.

It’s clear that Powell has the experience and skill set to be an asset to FC Cincinnati’s inaugural MLS campaign. He also appears to be a character guy that made some strong bonds with the squad in Portland. He’ll, of course, now be reunited with former Timber Fanendo Adi in Cincinnati. The question now is whether Powell can realize his full potential under Alan Koch’s guidance in the Queen City.

Another interesting aspect of this trade is what it means positionally for Mathieu Deplagne, who also plays at right back. Taylor Twellman speculated on Twitter on Christmas that the move means the Frenchman may be converted to a center back.

A big thanks to Jeff Bull for his time and insights. Look for more contributions from Jeff in the near future on Orange & Blue Press, and check out his blog at Conifers and Citrus. Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s MLS roster build. 

Photo Credit: Ytoyoda License

What Fanendo Adi Brings to FC Cincinnati

Reports indicate that Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe are heading to FC Cincinnati as the team’s first two MLS signings. Here’s what Adi will add to FCC’s roster.

Fanendo_Adi_Portland_Timbers_vs_RSL_2016-09-10_(29613845965)
Photo Credit: Ray Terrill via Creative Commons

On Sunday afternoon, ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman reported that FC Cincinnati will imminently announce the signing of striker Fanendo Adi and midfielder Fatai Alashe as the club’s first two MLS signings.

Update: The transfer of both Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe was officially announced by FC Cincinnati on Monday July 30th. Adi’s rights were exchanged for $450,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and $400,000 in MLS Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). Portland can also receive up to $100,000 in future TAM for Adi’s on-field performance, as well as future transfer value through the 2020 summer transfer window.

Adi, a 27 year-old Nigerian forward currently with the Portland Timbers, is a Designated Player, and would presumably have the same designation for FC Cincinnati. Following the departure of coach Caleb Porter at the end of 2017, Adi wasn’t getting the starts he’s seen the past few years in Portland. He reportedly requested a trade earlier in July.

Fatai Alashe is 24 year-old defensive midfielder and a U.S. U-23 International. He’s been with the Quakes since 2015 when he was the fourth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Similar to Adi, Alashe fell out of favor when the Earthquakes changed coaches and has made only two starts this season. He now appears to be on the move to the Queen City.

As an added benefit, both Adi and Alashe will reportedly play the rest of the 2018 USL season with the club.

FC Cincinnati is holding a noon press conference on Monday to officially introduce two MLS signings. Assuming things play-out as Twellman advertised, here are some thoughts about what Adi will bring to FC Cincinnati as a player.

What Fanendo Adi Brings to FC Cincinnati

A Mobile Power Center Forward

If you’re looking for a physical presence and clinical finishing ability, Fanendo Adi is the striker for you. He’s 6’4” tall, but in addition to his size and physicality, he’s known for his mobility, the quality and timing of his runs, dribbling ability, and having a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Here is his match-winning goal Saturday evening versus the Houston Dynamo.

He’s been described as “one of the best natural finishers in the league” and well-respected Crew and Sounders center back Chad Marshall said the following about him.

“Even as a big guy, he’s not afraid to hit you with a move and create space for himself. He’s a complete player and he’s a handful.” [Four Four Two]

Proven MLS Credentials

The Lagos, Nigeria native netted 54 regular season goals in 126 regular season MLS appearances with Portland. He ranks second in all time goals scored for the Timbers, behind only Diego Valeri. He holds the Timbers club record with 13 career braces, including one in his first Portland appearance.

Adi hit double-digit goals for three consecutive seasons prior to 2018, and helped the Timbers claim the 2015 MLS Cup, starting every playoff match. He netted two goals in that playoff run.

Ace Card in FCC’s USL Campaign

The Orange & Blue already boast one of the most powerful offenses in the USL. They have the second most total goals, the best goal difference in the Eastern Confernce, and are tied for first in conversion rate. Both Danni König and Emmanuel Ledesma are in the top 10 for goals scored, and now they add a proven MLS-caliber striker in Adi.

If FCC wasn’t the favorite for the USL Cup already, and arguably Real Monarchs and Pittsburgh have had great seasons too, they are certainly the favorites now.

The following MLS Insider feature on Adi from 2017 provides some good insights into the player.

Fits the FCC Mold

Not only is Adi a proven #9 that will immediately add DP-level MLS talent to FCC’s roster, he fits the character type that Alan Koch has pursued over the past year. A fan favorite, Portland provided Adi with a home tribute Saturday evening against the Houston Dynamo. Adi entered the match as a substitute in the 75th minute and went on to score the winning goal in the 80th minute. The admiration from his fellow teammates, the Timbers Army, and the Portland fans was palpable in his send off.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more on Fatai Alashe and coverage of the announcement of FC Cincinnati’s first two MLS player signings.

Fanendo_Adi_Portland_Timbers_vs_RSL_2016-09-10_(29613845965)
Photo Credit: Ray Terrill via Creative Commons