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Game 15: Here Come the Newbies

FC Cincy is coming to town this weekend.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that wonderful time of year again when the Colorado Rapids play, for the very first time, a newcomer to MLS. When we can set a precedent for the future, and make a statement against them about why they should fear the ‘Pids. FC Cincinnati is coming to town this Saturday, and their story this year has been a rather unique one.

FCC was a highlight amongst the USL last year, with the league’s highest attendance and placing at the top of the Eastern Conference. As they entered 2019 and thus the major leagues, they decided to go with a questionable choice for their roster, as they brought a very large USL-focused squad with them. Combined with a lot of signings from the Expansion Draft and trades with Atlanta, Dallas, Vancouver, Toronto, and Portland, they’ve had to essentially pick up the scraps of the rest of MLS to make their squad.

As the season started, they didn’t look too shabby. They had strong victories over Portland at home and against New England Revolution on the road with a combined 5-0 score, but then had a 4-1 loss against Seattle and a 1-1 tie with Atlanta. For a first-time team in MLS, a tie against the MLS Cup winners and a victory over the cup runners-up isn’t too bad. However, following that, the team started to show their lack of experience. From April 13th to May 4th, they lost five games in a row without scoring a single goal. Rough. Even though we went for a longer run of losses, we were at least scoring—and consistently at that. A combined loss of nine goals and earning zero points out of a possible 15 is hard to come back from.

An even bigger indication that things are (or were) going wrong with Cincinnati is the fact that they have already fired their head coach. Alan Koch was their head coach in their USL years from 2017-2018 and was also the head coach for the start of the MLS season. He was fired following the May 4th game, with a 2-7-2 record. Their GM Jeff Berding claimed that it was due to a deteriorating club culture and not the record, but I remain skeptical. So, with that, much like how I consider the games that we had under Hudson no longer applicable to the Rapids right now, I think it is hard to say FCC will be the same as they were a few weeks ago.

In the meantime, interim coach Yoann Damet has been putting out a 4-3-3 formation. Earlier in the season, they were playing in a 4-2-2-2, a 4-4-2, and a 4-2-3-1, so also like the Rapids, the formation has been a little bit fluid. Expect players to still be adjusting to the new paradigm as well. Their back line includes MLS veterans Kendall Waston and Greg Garza, their midfield has top draft pick Frankie Amaya, ex-FC Dallas homegrown player Victor Ulloa, and various others I’ve never heard of, like Leonardo Bertone, Eric Alexander, and Caleb Stanko.

The more interesting side of their play has to be their offense. This is where their two DPs, ex-Timbers DP Fanendi Adi, and the Costa Rican national team player Allan Cruz, were brought in to make sure they were putting the best offense possible out on the field. They also have ex-Timbers striker Darren Mattocks, and—again—a bunch of other players I’ve never heard of before. So what has this experienced, high-cash offense brought so far?

Eleven goals.

Yeah. Over their 14 MLS games, they have only scored 11 goals. Even after our dismal start, we’ve nearly got double their goals with 21. Their defense is also not doing very well, having allowed 25 so far. They are just behind New England Revolution (and the Rapids) for worst defense in the league. This means that while we still have the most goals allowed in the league, FCC still has a worse goal differential.

My takeaway from this game is that we shouldn’t underestimate the team, but if we come out with a solid lineup this absolutely should be a 3-point game. A weak defense and weak offense are coming to our town, whereas we just tied the second-best team in the east with a mostly B-team lineup? That spells disaster for the orange and blue.

There is also something very important on the line for this game. Something that would be comparatively epic for us to do, which seemed astronomically impossible just a few weeks ago. If we beat FCC, we’ll get three points and they’ll get zero, putting us a point above them and thus putting them in first place for the “coveted” Wooden Spoon award.

Let’s all cheer on the Burgundy Boys this weekend, and watch them take us to the lofty heights of “Not the Worst Team in the League”!