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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati

Get the goods on Cincy as Orlando looks to get its first win of 2021.

MLS: Orlando City SC at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Last year Orlando City had to wait until its third game to notch a victory, and hopefully that pattern repeats itself this year. The Lions will look to remain undefeated against FC Cincinnati, and hopefully can get their first win of the 2021 season.

With FCC coming to town, I spoke with Bryan Weigel of Cincinnati Soccer Talk to get us all brought up to speed on a team we haven’t faced since 2019. Big thanks to Bryan as he provided some excellent insight on this week’s opponent.

The team had two very different results in its opening pair of games. FCC went on the road in Week 1 and earned a gutsy draw in Nashville, but fell to NYCFC 5-0 last week. Obviously it’s a bit too early to draw major conclusions from results, but does last week’s performance concern you or do you think it will stand out as an outlier in a few month’s time?

Bryan Weigel: FC Cincinnati’s first two matches were certainly interesting. On matchday one at Nashville, the Orange & Blue dictated play in the first 15-20 minutes, resulting in a 2-0 scoreline early. Their vulnerabilities came to the forefront shortly after with the midfield conceding possession and the defense reverting to 2020 emergency defending. Due to the heroics of Przemysław Tytoń, Cincinnati was able to come away with a point while allowing 31 shots. Both Brenner (de Souza) and Luciano Acosta were able to get on the scoresheet, but struggled to generate chances later in the match due to the midfield’s inability to move the ball forward.

NYCFC was an absolute drubbing, yet FCC did not allow any goals in the run of play. Injuries to Tyton and Acosta set Cincinnati back and the makeshift playmaker Allan Cruz was ineffective. NYCFC scored all five goals off set pieces, with two going in the net off FCC center back Nick Hagglund. Cincinnati’s center backs (Hagglund and Tom Pettersson) are starting by default due to an injury to starter Maikel van der Werff and the quarantine of newcomer Gustavo Vallecilla. With two healthy center backs, who in all likelihood would be the third or fourth best CB on an average MLS side, Cincy is going to struggle. With that in mind, I think this last result was a one off that likely won’t repeat itself.

The return of Luciano Acosta to Major League Soccer was one of the biggest pieces of off-season news in the league. How has he looked so far?

BW: Lucho Acosta provided one of the best moments of brilliance vs. Nashville in his opening goal of the season. Cincinnati has missed a true playmaker for the past two seasons in MLS and Acosta was expected to shore up the league’s worst attack. He dazzled in preseason and the sky was the limit after week one. Unfortunately, Acosta injured his elbow last week in training and, while coach Jaap Stam stated he is day-to-day, Acosta is expected to miss two to four weeks. The whole attack was supposed to run through the Argentine and I am disappointed he is not able to develop relationships on the field early this season. The third DP, Brighton loanee Jurgen Locadia, will likely be called upon after building back fitness after a preseason injury and will need to create should he start on the left or right wing.

The other big name FCC brought in was Brenner, who might not be as familiar to the average fan as Acosta just yet. What role has he played for the team so far, and what do you expect to see from him this year?

BW: Brenner is the player that excites me the most for 2021. While young Designated Players have a mixed track record in MLS, Brenner scored a penalty in week one and was denied a goal on an amazing save by Sean Johnson last week. The young Brazilian should be as successful as the service that is provided to him. He ranks near the bottom of touches by forwards and wingers through two weeks after barely getting any looks in New York. Carrying a poor FCC attack without Acosta is a lot to ask a youngster, but I am optimistic with what I have seen. Brenner is not an imposing figure and will rely on his positioning and timing of runs. If this match becomes a game of long ball up to Brenner, Cincinnati will struggle. I hope he will assert himself better than last week, but the shock loss of Acosta and unfamiliarity with others will take time to overcome. I expect the new TQL Stadium to be referred to as “The House that Brenner Built” quickly.

Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

BW: Starters Maikel van der Werff (CB) and Luciano Acota (central attacking midfielder) will likely be out with goalkeeper Tyton probably 50/50 at best. New U-22 designation players Isaac Atanga (winger) and Gustavo Vallecilla (CB) are unlikely as well with Vallevilla in his quarantine period and Atanga beginning training on Monday. Both players arrive in Cincinnati with seven-figure transfers looming, so I expect them to perform at a high level later in the season.

Some other key notes: Joe Gyau (right back) and Alvaro Barreal (U-22 right wing) are still working on a successful partnership. While they had their moments, Ronald Matarrita (left back) and first round draft pick Calvin Harris (left wing) have generated the most opportunities up the left flank. Locadia may start over Harris this week, but the youngster was probably the best player vs. NYCFC. Former forward/winger Yuya Kubo is transitioning to a box-to-box midfielder with mixed results. Kamohelo Mokojo and Kubo looked nervy in their defending last week and I would drive right at them this week.

Formation (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Any of Przemysław Tyton, Cody Cropper or Ben Lundt.

Defenders: Ronald Matarrita, Nick Hagglund, Tom Pettersson, Joe Gyau.

Midfielders: Kamohelo Mokotjo, Allan Cruz, Yuya Kubo.

Forwards: Calvin Harris/Jürgen Locadia, Brenner, Alvaro Barreal.

Prediction: Orlando 2 - Cincinnati 0.

Thanks to Bryan for bringing us up to date on FC Cincinnati.