FC Cincinnati burst on the American soccer scene in 2016 playing the USL (now USL Championship). There, they dominated every measure. Six of their players won First Team USL honors. Coach Alan Koch won the 2018 Coach of the Year as they won the Commissioner’s Cup. FCC’s attendance started off on par with lower tier MLS sides. It ended with a USL record average of 25,717 — better than all but three teams (the last three champions, it so happens). Everything about Cinci’s life in USL was great. Now they step up to MLS and will attempt to carry their banner into a league with better players.
Seattle Sounders host Cinci in their first ever MLS match. The 7:00 PM (FS1, FSD) match will show the Lions the most successful promotion from lower divisions into the league. It will show them a crowd upon which they cannot look down.
It will also show them a team that is among the preseason favorites to win trophies. Cinci will not be welcomed to the 2019 MLS season with soft arms, but with the scowl of Chad Marshall, the shoe-phone of Nicolas Lodeiro, and the boom-boom clap that sounds like thunder.
SaH: Is the offense focused on Adi and Adi alone?
CST: Even though Fanendo Adi is a DP and will play a predominant role in the attack, the belief that Adi is somehow FC Cincinnati’s only attacking threat is a misnomer. In 7 preseason matches, FC Cincinnati has seen 6 different players find the back of the net. Darren Mattocks has been a bright spot with 3 goals and an assist after coming off a 10 goal season with DC United. He should provide so help as Adi’s partner up top or off the bench. Also, watch out for set pieces. A back 3 of Kendall Waston, Nick Hagglund and potentially Forrest Lasso would be one if not the tallest in MLS. Lasso and Hagglund both have goals off set pieces this preseason and that trio with Adi will be tough to mark in the box.
SaH: How will FCC find width?
CST: When building the club Coach Alan Koch highlighted from day 1 that he wanted wingbacks to get up and down the pitch to provide width. With that in mind, it made sense for the club to go out and get two fullbacks who like to push into the attack in Greg Garza and Alvas Powell. Unfortunately for FC Cincinnati, Garza picked up a knock in the USMNT January camp and looks more likely to make his debut in Week 3 against Portland. His replacement Justin Hoyte has provided quality service in the USL the past two seasons but at 34, he’s not going to be blowing by anybody at this level. Also missing will be the pacey winger Kekuta Manneh who just completed a move from FC St. Gallen and is recovering from a minor ankle injury. A lot of pressure will be on Powell along with left winger Roland Lamah to get into wide areas in the counter-attack. If these two can’t find a way to get into the attack, you might see FC Cincinnati having to resort to long balls up to Adi to spur any kind of attack.
SaH: What’s the basic formation and system Cincinnati is using?
CST: Coach Koch has rolled out the 3-4-3 in each of the 7 preseason matches so it would be a shock if he rolled out anything else. With the team still building chemistry and a couple of crucial members out for the match, you might see the 3 man backline evolve into more of a back 5 with Hoyte and Powell dropping deeper. In doing so, FC Cincinnati had a tough time breaking down a full strength Columbus team in their final preseason match but Powell, Adi, and Lamah did find several dangerous opportunities playing on the counter. If FC Cincinnati is to succeed on Saturday, they will need to midfield of Victor Ulloa and Leo Bertone to disrupt Lodiero and Adi will have to put his chances away when they present themselves.
Projected starting lineup
Lamah, Adi, Alexander
Hoyte Bl.Smith, Ulloa, Bertone, Powell
Waston, Deplagne, Hagglund
Early this morning Brad sent the following update.
It looks like Justin Hoyte picked up a knock this week and didn’t make the trip leaving last year’s USL starter Blake Smith as his likely replacement in the Starting XI. He was in Montreal a couple of seasons ago as a winger but made the switch to LB in 2017 with Miami. He was pretty much with the 2nd team this preseason and has shown to be vulnerable against players with speed.
Yes, that’s a left back vulnerable to speed on the right side. Seattle’s projected lineup includes a right-sided attacker with speed.
Sounders projected lineup
4-2-3-1: Frei; Br.Smith, Marshall, Kim, Leerdam; Svensson, C.Roldan; Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Morris; Ruidiaz