Roster Rebuild: Where We Stand as of 1.24.20
In the first of what will be a weekly post, we'll take a look at how the roster build is going for FC Cincinnati as we head into the 2020 MLS season. The idea is to get a sense of how this team is going to play, where reinforcements might be needed, and projecting the potential starting lineup in Match Week 1.
Let's start off this week with a couple of assumptions:
1) Ron Jans intend to plays a 4-3-3 formation.
2) The team still intends on moving Darren Mattocks
3) The team intends to sign a few more players
I don't want to judge the team, at least not too harshly too soon, about the state of the roster given there is plenty of time to be making moves. But with all of this in mind, this is where the team probably stands right now:
So right off the bat, we can see this team still needs some work.
Goalkeepers are a bit of a tossup. Tytoń gets the nod here since Jans seemed to go to him more at the end of last season, but a decent preseason from Richey could very propel him into the starting position. He's worked with Jack Sterns longer than anyone else now, so it will come down to if he can execute what Jans expects out of his keepers.
On defense, things appear to be set. As Charlie Hatch is quick to remind us, FC Cincinnati has fantastic depth at left back with Garza and Gutman. Garza's health may very well be the difference between being in the playoff hunt or being adrift at the bottom of the table, again. On the other side, Deplange will hopefully be able to play an entire season in his natural position on the right. Considering the fact that FCC often played him out of position on the left and put Justin Hoyte on the right side means this year has to be an upgrade by default.
Waston and van der Werff are a solid pairing that bring plenty of experience. Having an entire season of van der Werff is a huge lift to this team. Some in the local media here seem to be really high on Pettersson, and see him as a real rival to Waston for playing time. Something to keep an eye on as the preseason progresses. And Hagglund looks to be slotting into a serviceable rotation center back; much more in line with what the team should be getting out of him.
In the midfield we start to see potential problems. Cruz, Medunjanin, and Stanko are probably a perfectly fine MLS midfield. Medunjanin, being 34 and having played every minute last year for Philadelphia, seems likely to need rotation throughout the season. Everyone loves Frankie Amaya, but he is still a young, mistake prone, unproven professional. And just a little further back in the depth chart we have Fatai Alashe and Tommy McCabe. McCabe being this close to the starting lineup is probably not good for playoff hopes. He still needs time to mature, and a season on loan in the USL Championship would be ideal. Alashe is a bit of a wildcard here. He is someone that could very well develop into a serviceable midfielder under Jans and in the right system could very well shine. That being said, it's still not clear if he is going to be asked to be a defensive midfielder or more of a box-to-box type like Cruz has been. Either way, another signing, ideally two, will help sort out this line up. Though it's not clear exactly how a creative playmaker #10 would fit into this midfield right now.
Now we're on to the attack. This is the part of the roster that still requires the most amount of work and where the club has said it's focused on right now. First off, I think it's safe to assume Joe Gyau has the starting left winger position until the team signs an out-and-out left winger to compete with him.
And then there's Yuya Kubo.
Everyone I talk to inside of the club and those who are close to the team say FCC views him primarily as a right winger. And I don't know why. He's never really played that position professionally before. He has played on the right wing for Japan in the past, but infrequently, and he certainly isn't their starter at that position. Just a quick look at Kubo's profile in Transfermarkt helps fully paint this picture.
But for the sake of not starting any fights, I'll put Kubo on the right wing for now. From what I have seen of Kubo, I would expect him to be free-roaming in the attacking third, whether Jans tells him to or not. He's someone that wants to make his own chances and we'll see him all over the field. Backing Kubo up on the right, and Gyau on the left at this point, is Kekuta Manneh. Manneh is one of the fastest players in the league and played well last year all things considered. He can be the backup for one wing, but not both, so another signing on the wings is an absolute must before the season kicks off. This is the most important role to be signing right now to complete the roster.
And for strikers, that leaves us with Vazquez and Dally. Now maybe Vazquez turns out to be a diamond in the rough, having been stuck backing up one of the best strikers in MLS history in Atlanta for a few years. But he's unproven as the starter, until he isn't. And Memphis 901 legend (probably?) Rashawn Dally is the backup at this point. Like Tommy McCabe, I like him as a player, but I'd like to see him have a year in the USL Championship under his belt before rejoining the team. A proven goalscorer up top is what FC Cincinnati is really missing right now, and would be a great place to splash some cash int he form of a DP.
Overall, the team is in much better shape than it was last year. Ideally, three more signings are coming, two in the attack and one more in the midfield. Although, given that Mattocks is in the preseason camp with FCC, maybe everyone, including him, is convinced to keep him around for the season. There is still plenty of work to be done, but things are looking mostly up as we approach the end of the European transfer window.