About Last Night

FC Cincinnati lost 2-0 last night to the Colorado Rapids. Cincinnati is last in the league, have lost five matches this year, drawing one and winning one. Last night Cincinnati put in their best statistical performance of the season and still came away from the match with nothing to show for it. 

Not Great. 

In fact if you look a little closer at those statistics, they reveal how Colorado approached FCC this match. For one, Colorado was happy to get their first goal and settle to defend that slim lead. At halftime the Rapids subbed out their two best attackers, Diego Rubio and Michael Barrios. For FC Cincinnati’s part, almost all of the shots on the night came from Issac Atanga and Alvaro Barreal who forced many of their shots and were not picky with their shot selection. 

It’s the same game-script over and over for FCC: The match starts off well for Cincinnati, passing and shooting looks good and the defense is able to hold despite at least one shaky moment. Eventually the other team scores on a quick counter attack that breaks the team’s spirit. There is a little fight left in them, but their attacks still don’t produce goals. The other teams is happy to sit back and absorb the disjointed attack. As the match goes on, the other team sits deeper and deeper until FCC looks like a team putting it all together. But, another counter attack reveals FCC still can’t defend in transition, and now FCC is down 2-0. Then the weird substitutions start, pulling effective midfielders for slow veterans. A change at striker is made despite it being a massive downgrade in quality. Cincinnati loses the match but you feel like they were in it there at the end. 

But they aren’t. 

This is a team that, still a year on, plays exactly the way they did when Jaap Stam first took over this team. Chaotic defending, and absolutely no ideas going forward. Ask yourself this: what is our plan on offense? What is it? Because the answer is: put as many players forward as possible and hope individual moments of brilliance produce goals. 

This is not a very good plan.

The progress most people see in this team is the result of better players. This roster is much better than the 2019 team, that is a fact. But the way this team is being asked to play is identical to that team. There are no regular patterns of plan. It’s asking, on the night at least, Atanga, Barreal, and Acosta to play hero-ball and create a goal out of nothing all themselves. 

The team’s play on the field as no organization and is left to individual players. The perfect example of this is when Acosta missed a few matches. The team didn’t have a plan in the attack and was missing the one central midfielder who actually could create something out of nothing. There wasn’t an obvious replacement for Acosta at the time because there is no organization, there’s no way to tell a player to fill in this role and execute a specific gameplan. 

And this isn’t just an issue on offense. The defense, despite a revolving door of defenders coming in, always struggles to defend in transition. It appears the team plays zone defense on the break which is always leaving attackers open to receive the ball. It’s been the same problem for a year. 

It might be said that better players could execute this gameplan to perfection. The problem is MLS is a salary capped league. On paper this is about as an expensive roster as you can put together in the league. There’s no way to buy better and better players. This is by virtue of being in existence, the best roster Nijkamp can put together for Stam. And it’s not competitive with this gameplan.

There is talent on this roster. It needs to be deployed in a way that will get results. 

The pressure is starting to get to the management of this club though. Jaap Stam gave a very odd press conference after the match that consisted of just four questions that each took him what felt like five minutes to answer. During that time he placed most of the blame on “execution” and not taking their chances. He also was sure to tamp down expectations of the team playing like this, getting a lot of shots in, against Chicago (the next worst team in the league, mind you). Not for nothing, General Manager Gerrard Nijkamp sat in on the press conference. Maybe it was the first press conference in the new stadium, maybe someone’s job is getting a new critical eye. 

Last night’s performance could have come at any point last season and it would not have looked too out of place. And that’s the issue. The progress is nonexistent.