FC Cincinnati Won A Game!
FC Cincinnati's win yesterday was long overdue. This is a team that has won just five matches now since the start of the 2020 season. It doesn't happen often.
A change in tactics was needed to pull off the elusive win. In fact it was a very similar gameplan that produced two of the four wins last year. Defend in numbers, break on the counter, hope the creative attacking talent on the field is able to overwhelm the opposing defense. This worked in the "MISisBack" tournament in Orlando last year.
Before diving into the tactics themselves, can someone answer me this: why did FC Cincinnati go away from a gameplan that worked? You'd think the goal of playing the games was to win, get results, get into the playoffs, and hope for a little luck. But it's very possible
Pat Brennan had a solid piece the other day about that style of play in MLSisBack, and it included this line: "To date, that three match period was the most successful under Stam in terms of consistently archiving results, although it was clear that style of play wasn't what the club desired or would focus on".
"Although it was clear that style of play wasn't what the club desired or would focus on"
There is a commitment to a style of play that has, to date, produced some of the worst soccer MLS has ever seen. Maybe this makes sense if you're the type of person who hangs posters of Rinus Michels wearing suits on your bedroom walls, but to a simpleton like myself it's confusing.
You have to wonder if the gameplan that worked yesterday against Montreal will last longer than a lunar cycle, especially since FC Cincinnati leadership has indicated they despise having to play this way.
So yes, the tactics that finally won a game were a breath of fresh air for FC Cincinnati fans, but there's no reason to believe that right now the team is committed to trying to play for results in the long term.
As for those tactics, it was really clever. Stanko was brought into the backline as the right-sided centerback in a back 5. Stanko deputized at rigthback in 2019 but has largely been absent from the starting lineup. Cameron was in the center and Vallecilla to Cameron's left. Matarita and Gyau continued their roles as wingbacks on the outside. Kubo and Cruz played in the center of the field breaking up attacks and linking play. Brenner, Acosta, and Barreal played a front three that interchanged constantly. Acosta isn't nearly as entertaining out on the wing, his desire to nutmeg every single opposing player is a joy to watch, but he was effective.
Overall, Montreal had their chances. This was not a game where Cincinnati dominated and were the clearly superior team. In fact the, at least, two horrible misses from Montreal suggest this gameplan isn't bulletproof. And one of the goals coming off of a set piece doesn't really indicate the tactics are producing goals. But there's enough there to think it could get better over time. And thinking ahead, assuming Locadia's Designated Player spot opens up this summer, a proper defensive midfielder to play where Kubo is now, feels like it would make this setup really hum.
But then again, this style of play isn't likely to stay. But it should. You would think that when a recipe for results is discovered, you'd stick to it and add variations on it.