Matchday 1: Three Question Preview vs Nashville
After one of the longest offseasons in MLS history, the orange and blue are finally, mercifully, back. With two wooden spoons in two years, fans in Cincinnati have had nothing to listen to but national media and soccer pundits put down their team and city. Today is the first chance to rewrite that script.
The FC for their part spent a lot of money remaking parts of the roster. A lot of money. Some national writers even think too much money which is hilarious. The top-line takeaways are Brazillian wunderkind Brenner in at striker (for just shy of the all-time MLS transfer record) and returning MLS veteran Lucho Acosta in the attacking midfield role. Ronald Matarita, one of the best left backs in MLS the last two years, has also been recruited. Misdeason additions from 2020 will be looking to hit the ground running, with Barreal and Mokotjo expected to be major contributors to the team in 2021. All three DPs from last season return, Locadia, Cruz, and Kubo. Which makes half the roster either a DP this season or last season. That's, hopefully, a lot of talent on the field.
It is yet to be seen if fans will miss some of the departing players or if it is the case of addition by subtraction. Waston, Gutman, and Deplange each took their share of the blame for losses last year, and all three have been shown the door. Frankie Amaya, one of Cincinnati's best players the last two years, has been traded away to New York Redbull. While this isn't official official just yet, FC Cincinnati hasn't even officially announced their 2021 roster as of the time of this writing on April 17th, every indication is Frankie will not be playing in orange and blue this season. That defensive cover Frankie brought to the team will be sorely missed.
This roster was built around his skill set. And now he's gone. As scary as it is to write or think about, Yuya Kubo will likely be asked to do his best Frankie Amaya impression to start the season. Despite the fact that this role is perfectly suited for Allan Cruz, manager Jaap Stam appears to view Allan Cruz like you view Eric Alexander.
And while we're on the topic of players playing out of position, Joe Gyau is lining up to be FCC's right back this season. And everyone seems to be just fine with it. Gyau was a left winger in Germany for his entire career. Last year he was the only FCC attack who dared to dribble at opposing defenses. And now he's going to become a rightback? And nobody is worried about this? Considering how much money FCC spent upgrading the left outside back, it's crazy to think it's Joe Gyau and preteen Zico Bailey on the right side.
Overall, this roster is more talented than anything Cincinnati has been able to cheer for before. And with enough teams seemingly getting worse in the Eastern Conference (DC, Miami, and Chicago to name a few), FCC ought to be poised to make a run to the playoffs this year. Another pathetic season and dramatic changes are going to need to be made.
Stam, Njikamp, Freeman, Berding, Damet, Walker, and anyone else invovled in scouting/recruiting ought to be shown the door by year's end if another wooden spoon even feels possible. This city and this fanbase has been taken for granted for too long to let another poor season go by without punishments.
All of that was to say this: Here is your 3 question preview of FC Cincinnati at Nashville SC.
1) Is Acosta the Answer?
FCC took a big swing on bringing Acosta back to MLS. He's being paid a lot of money to fill a major need for the orange and blue. Tonight we should be able to see signs of him linking playing between the midfield and the attack. Ideally for FCC fans you want to see Brenner and Acosta get on the same page and cause problems for defenses. As Acosta goes, so goes Cincy.
2) Will there not be a draw?
FC Cincinnati and Nashville, going back to USL preseason, have only ever drawn when facing each other. Yes, yes, FCC advanced in that playoff match, but officially, technically, it goes down as a draw. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Once FCC fans finally accept that match was a draw, we can finally move on to hopefully better but certainly different results. Despite being located "next" to each other and both in the league last year, this is the first MLS match between these two teams.
3) How Does FCC Measure Up?
Overall, this match is between a re-tooled FCC and a Nashville team that barely made the expanded playoffs in the Eastern Conference last year and has largely held steady. Cincinnati had the unfortunate luxury of playing Columbus Crew 4 times while largely avoiding weaker teams in the conference like Nashville and Miami. This match will go a long way to determining the early narrative for both of these teams: are the in the middle of the pack or are they below average teams? Both teams will be looking at this match as a must-win.
And here is the best guess for the starting lineup we'll see tonight.