Orlando City has six games left in the season, and is looking to close out the season strong and make the playoffs. The home stretch begins with a road trip to FC Cincinnati.
Ahead of this one, I once again spoke to Bryan Weigel, one of the contributors over at Cincinnati Soccer Talk. As usual, Bryan did an excellent job of bringing us up to speed on Cincy.
Let’s start off by looking at the bigger picture, specifically the firings of Jaap Stam and General Manager Gerard Nijkamp. Do you think those moves were the correct decision?
Bryan Weigel: The move to mutually agree to part ways with GM Gerard Nijkamp and the dismissal of head coach Jaap Stam, while panned in the national media, were 100% necessary. I would like to refer your readers to CST’s roster tracker where we analyze the 2021 roster budget. (https://cincinnatisoccertalk.com/fc-cincinnati-salary-budget-tracker/). When viewing this metric, you will notice how egregious the 2020 and 2021 roster builds were, between Nijkamp’s reckless overspending on average-at-best internationals to not having a true No. 6, left wing or right back on the roster.
Can players do those roles? Certainly, but none of them are truly at home in those roles, or perform to what I would deem league average. Stam is a bit more uncertain in the short term. Could he have seen the season out and left in a more respectable manner? Yes, but while the players reportedly liked Jaap, his minute management and tactical acumen, especially when reviewing the Philly match this weekend, were rightfully questioned.
Tyrone Marshall is the interim head coach while new GM Chris Albright searches for Stam’s replacement. How has the team looked under him?
BW: Marshall has three losses in his short tenure, but I do not believe it’s an accurate representation of his ability as head coach. He came into a scenario where the club had to travel mid-week to Toronto and then another home match on short rest. His minute management already appears better with some “bench” players seeing more minutes. This weekend was probably the best and most dynamic the offense looked all season, with more creative plays coming from a variety of positions. If Cincy would have finished their chances, I believe it would have been a win. Overall I have been impressed and if the remaining games look like last weekend, he will certainly earn himself an interview.
What do you think the goals should be for this team as the season comes to a close? Is there anything particular that you are looking to see from FCC?
BW: The goals are fairly easy. Figure out who is a part of the team for (beyond) 2021. Unfortunately some huge contracts are still on the books for 2022, but Albright should be able to make decisions on a decent chunk of depth roles and who will be sold or bought out. Another goal would be for Brenner, the $13 million Young Designated Player to find better form. The striker has had plenty of chances, but his decision making and end product have been lacking. Brenner finds himself in good spaces and his relationship with Luciano Acosta is great, but he simply needs to find the back of the net. This off-season needs to be about finding a wing with playmaking abilities to get more balls in to Brenner and help shoulder the load.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?
BW: The only player who was announced to be out is backup left back Edgar Castillo due to yellow card suspension. Converted right back Joe Gyau and newly signed midfielder Kyle Scott (Newcastle) are building up their fitness and could return in bench roles.
Unfortunately, DP Yuya Kubo experienced an ankle injury and starting center back Gustavo Vallecilla (hamstring) left the match last week in the 31st minute. I doubt that they will go. Starting left back Ronald Matarrita will likely have to play after returning from the international window, but you could see a surprise youngster at left back. Without Kubo, starting right wing Alvaro Barreal may slide to the left, but he also left the match prematurely (muscle cramps). I predict a 2-1 loss as Cincy also has the worst home record in the league.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Przemysław Tyton; Ronald Matarrita, Tyler Blackett, Geoff Cameron, Zico Bailey; Haris Medjunanin, Kamohelo Mokojko; Alvaro Barreal, Luciano Acosta, Isaac Atanga; Brenner.
Thank you again to Bryan for the excellent insight into Cincy. Vamos Orlando!