2020 Season Preview and Predictions
With a roller coaster off season in Cincinnati, the expectations for the 2020 season are difficult to set. On one hand, it's tempting to say that with the new attacking talent and overall roster rework, this team ought to be challenging for a playoff spot. But on the other, losing your manager a week before the season starts is usually a sign for punting on a season.
I find myself much more in the first camp than in the second. There is no reason for FC Cincinnati fans to not expect a good season from the team. I am also very allergic to opinions that a season should ever be considered lost or given up on at the start. Frankly, that's a very Reds or Bengals move that is an insult to the fans.
So far, FC Cincinnati has built a solid attacking front. In fact on paper FCC should have a top 5 offense this year. Locadia, de Jong, Kubo, Regattin, and Medunjanin all make up a fearsome pass and move offense that when paired with a ball-winning midfielder as good as Alan Cruz should be able to do some damage.
While FCC's defense was often the focus of what went wrong last year, it was the lack of offensive firepower that really doomed the team. Opposing teams knew they could sit back and absorb the pitiful attack before making a single pass to break through the midfield and immediately pressure the beleaguered center backs. It happened time and time again. With new attacking options up front, that exact script ought to be harder to pull off. Teams will have to commit more men back on defense which should help balance out the game more.
Now that being said, the defense is probably the weakest unit on this team. Thankfully, the depth isn't nearly as shallow in 2020. While a player like Saad Abdul-Salaam doesn't jump off the page as a lock-down starter, the MLS veteran provides much needed MLS experience as depth, as opposed to last year where Justin Hoyte had to fill in at right back or Forrest Lasso at center back. Similarly, having Andrew Gutman the entire year ought to keep Deplange on his natural side instead of moving to the left like he did last year. And speaking of Gutman, we can all hope Greg Garza stays healthy enough to prove he's the best left back in the league, because when he's healthy, he is.
At center back, Kendal Waston, Maikel van der Werff, and newcomer Tom Pettersson will likely rotate in and out until the eventual manager finds a pairing they prefer. All three are huge, big bodied players who are maybe not the fastest. If the defense is able to set itself up and not get beat on the break over and over again, they'll be fine. If there is a quick counter attack, a lot is going to rely on the midfield to offer cover.
Which brings me to FC Cincinnati's biggest weakness on paper. Right now the defensive midfield position is a bit, confusing. It's not exactly lacking, as Cruz, Stanko, McCabe, and Alashe can all play there. The confusing part comes from who you take out of the lineup to get more than one of them in. If you assume de Jong and Medunjanin are in the midfield, that leaves you one spot. And those two are not to be relied on for defensive cover. If you decided to add both Cruz and Stanko for example, you'd have to drop one of Kubo, Locadia, or Regattin. Maybe we see a 4-4-2 formation with Kubo and Locadia up top with de Jong, Cruz, Stanko, and Medunjanin in the midfield. But everything we've seen or heard suggests this team will be playing a 4-3-3.
That would really be a decision by the manager. If FC Cincinnati had one. With Ron Jans leaving a wake of terrible fan reactions and Damet coming in, the team is in flux right now. I hope, and assume, the team is moving very quickly on a new manager. There is no reason why this should take months to solve. There are no long term managers in soccer. Holding out for the right guy is telling fans you don't care about winning and you don't care about the team. And if the front office doesn't want to care about the team, then why should the fans.
A new manager ought to be able to get a lot out of this roster.
Here are my predictions:
FC Cincinnati finishes 7th in the Eastern Conference, just barely making it into the playoffs. I think Miami, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Orlando, and New York Red Bulls all end up lower on the table.
The FC Cincinnati ends the season with four players with 10 goals or more.
Alan Cruz is recognized as one of the best midfielders in MLS in an article on mlssoccer.com
Spencer Richey wins the goalkeeping job.
Frankie Amaya gets 5 assists or more.
FC Cincinnati earns more than 45 points on the season.
FC Cincinnati will concede over 55 goals.