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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati

Get caught up on FC Cincinnati as the Lions return to Exploria Stadium.

SOCCER: MAY 01 MLS - FC Cincinnati at Orlando City SC Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Friday once again, party people, and that means an Orlando City game is just around the corner. This week, the Lions return to Exploria Stadium to try to sustain their unbeaten start to the season against FC Cincinnati.

A visit from FCC means I spoke with Bryan Weigel of Cincinnati Soccer Talk. As has become his custom, Bryan did an excellent job of getting us up to speed on FC Cincinnati.

A new year has brought a new coach to FC Cincinnati, with Pat Noonan now at the helm. What are some of the differences in tactics and style you’ve seen so far under him as opposed to Jaap Stam?

Bryan Weigel: FC Cincinnati’s fourth season in Major League Soccer brings its fourth “official” head coach. FCC has struggled to find an identity in its short time in the top division, but there is hope Noonan and GM Chris Albright will implement something similar to the 4-4-2 diamond of the Philadelphia Union. Their most pressing need is to find a way to maximize the output of the $13 million Brazilian forward Brenner. The 22-year-old struggled to create chances in 2021 and Noonan plans to add a second striker next to him this season compared to the lone striker role he was playing in Stam’s 4-3-3. The width of the formation is mostly provided by the fullbacks, whereas Stam relied on inverted wingers to support Brenner. Zero goals through two matches, but there have certainly been good chances.

Obviously things didn’t go as planned in the 5-0 season-opening loss to Austin FC, but for 90 minutes last week things went much better, only for an unfortunate handball and subsequent penalty to give D.C. United a late winner. What did Cincy do better last week as opposed to the season opener?

BW: Cincinnati had to roll out a 5-3-2 formation vs. D.C. due to injuries to both left backs, Ronald Matarrita and Johnny Nelson. It is likely that Mata could be out again this weekend, so look for Noonan to roll the same group out. The 5-0 scoreline two weeks ago was not indicative of the match. While Austin was the superior team, abysmal mistakes on routine plays cost FCC three of the goals. The midfield played much better vs. D.C. and Cincy was able to get numbers into the attack. In Austin, FCC relied on line-splitting balls to the forward while they were able to get good numbers into a sustained attack. FCC had many players injured or arrive late in preseason and chemistry issues have shown. Players seemed to have a better understanding on the field at home last weekend.

Alec Kann came over from Atlanta United in the off-season and has started both games in goal for Cincy. Orlando fans might remember him for a number of excellent saves he made against the Lions at Exploria Stadium last year. How does he look so far?

BW: Kann had numbers running at him time and time again in Austin. He had several deflections or downright mistakes in front of him and was unable to make much of an impact. At home he made several good saves, but still looked a little nervy. Kann will have a long leash as he has Kenneth Vermeer and Generation Adidas signee Roman Celentano behind him. FCC had the worst goalkeeping group in 2021 and Kann should bring at worst a league-average type appearance in 2022. Very hopeful for Kann, but if the midfield does not stop easy balls in, he will produce similar results to now Ajax goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń.

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

BW: Matarrita and Johnny Nelson should both be out on Saturday, while it appears center back Nick Hagglund will be cleared to go. Brenner and U-22 player Alvaro Barreal arrived a week before the season after being in their home countries to receive their U.S. green card documents. The both played at home vs. D.C. and could factor in more in Orlando. Cincinnati needs Brenner to get familiar with new forward Dom Badji, so it is possible that he could see his first start.

Projected Lineup: 5-3-2

Alec Kann; Raymon Gaddis, Tyler Blackett, Geoff Cameron, Nick Hagglund, Alvas Powell; Yuya Kubo, Luciano Acosta, Junior Moreno; Brenner, Dominique Badji.

I predict a 2-1 defeat in Orlando. FCC looked competent last week and I hope they can make it a close match two weeks in a row.

Big thank you to Bryan for getting us caught up on Cincinnati. Vamos Orlando!