Happy Friday, everyone! Another match day is almost upon us in what has been another crowded week of games for Orlando City. Tomorrow, the Lions will travel north to Ohio, where they will take on FC Cincinnati for the second time this year.
Ahead of the match, I once again spoke to Bryan Weigel of Cincinnati Soccer Talk, and he again provided some great insight into FCC.
FCC seems to be a bit inconsistent defensively, alternating between holding opponents to one goal at most and giving up anywhere from three to five. What do you think is the reason for the wild swings in defensive performances?
Bryan Weigel: I think we can all agree that FC Cincinnati has not been the standard bearer on what to do when it comes to building a competitive MLS roster. Current GM Gerard Nijkamp was unable to bring in much defensive help prior to the start of the season and his signings from 2020 struggle to make any improvement. Head Coach Jaap Stam was in a difficult position starting the year with two center backs that would rate as the fourth or fifth best on most rosters and no great option at defensive midfielder.
Stam moved left winger Yuya Kubo (remember the Nani goal) to the starting d-mid/6 position. Kubo struggled early, but has recently been a revelation. Nijkamp then brought in young Ecuadorian center back Gustavo Vallecilla and Queens Park Rangers defender Geoff Cameron beginning for the Miami match while Stam dropped high-priced Kamohelo Mokojko for one-time DP Allan Cruz. The defensive results have since been pretty good outside of the Montreal match, where we were missing several players, including Cameron to visa issues.
Speaking of Geoff Cameron, how has he settled into the team?
BW: Cincinnati has changed dramatically since the last match in Orlando. Cameron has provided a calming presence and the former QPR & Stoke defender’s passing has led to two assists. I have yet to see a CB play better this season and honestly believe that if FCC was higher on the table, Cameron would be an MLS All-Star. Cincinnati is still easily taken on the counter, where Nashville punished FCC for two of their three goals, but those goals had more to do with poor midfield play and little to do with Cameron. His composure helped FCC deal well with the high press in their midweek match vs. the Red Bulls and most signs show that his leadership is having a great impact.
Cincy is only nine points out of the final playoff place and has a game in hand on every team but two that are currently above it in the standings. Does FCC have what it takes to make a push for the playoffs?
BW: Ask me on Friday after the transfer window closes. Cincinnati needs a left winger to help Lucho Acosta create chances. Our $13-15 million striker, the Brazilian, Brenner, has been inconsistent and I think more moves to help unlock his potential are needed. Lately FCC has been forced to move Joe Gyau from right back to left wing due to the poor performances of newcomer Isaac Atanga, leading to center back Nick Hagglund moving to the right. I would hope a right back is also added as Hagglund is purely defensive. Stam has prioritized defensive shape lately and until a move or two is made, I think the Orange & Blue are destined for another low-table finish.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
BW: FCC will miss the injured Generation Adidas winger Calvin Harris and backup center back Maikel van der Werff. Cincinnati just added midfielder Florian Valot from the New York Red Bulls via trade and I am not sure if he will be ready to come off the bench for Saturday. Jaap Stam does seem to have a clear-cut preferred group at the moment. He strays little from this preferred bunch even when it comes to substitutions. His player management has been terrible in my opinion as he has not subbed many players in matches (one vs. D.C. and two vs. New York). I would bet that the same XI is run out on Saturday that was played last weekend and on Wednesday.
Kenneth Vermeer; Ronald Mataritta, Gustavo Vallecilla, Geoff Cameron, Nick Hagglund; Yuya Kubo, Allan Cruz, Luciano Acosta; Joe Gyau, Brenner, Alvaro Barreal.
I predict a 2-0 loss at home for FCC.
Big thanks to Bryan for all of the great insight into FC Cincinnati. Vamos Orlando!