Three Question Preview: Matchday Four
After a much needed week off The FC are back to MLS action today facing off against Inter Miami. In the fortnight between matches Cincinnati brought in two veterans on defense: former USMNTer Geoff Cameron and ex-LAFCer Keneeth Vermeer.
Outside of the first 15 minutes of the season opener against Nashville, FCC has not looked like a very competitive MLS side. In fact they've looked a bit more like a mediocre USL side. An offensive that can't score goals again and a defense that can't stop giving them up, FCC has looked lifeless in their last two matches. If there was ever a day to turn things around, this Sunday works well narratively.
FC Cincinnati will be opening up the West End Stadium in front of a limited capacity crowd of ~6,000 fans. It feels as though a poor showing in front of fans could really start to put pressure on the manager and even general manager to get results or get out. But in reality, we all know nobody's job is as risk this year.
As for the opponent, it's pretty cool to think there's a chance Gonzalo Higuain will be playing against a Cincinnati soccer team. This is one of those matches where you really appreciate being in MLS even if the Orange and Blue have first class tickets on the Struggle Bus (do buses have classes of tickets?). If we're going to have our dicks kicked in every week, at least we get to watch some of the greats do it. And yes you soccer hipster, Higuain is a soccer great.
Here are the three question's I am looking to have answered in Matchday 4.
Will Stam Stick to His System or Seek Results?
You'd think with a Dutch goalkeeper Stam worked with in the past and a new veteran centerback ready to roll, plus new signings Gustavo Vallecilla and Issac Atanga properly bedded in with the team, that "The System" finally has the players to execute it. Maybe. Or maybe ownership has gone to Nijkamp and Stam and said "get a result at home, however you do it, don't lose" and we see a return of MLSisBack bunker-ball.
There has always been a struggle between "system" and "results" and I gotta tell you, if you're deciding between trying to win games and trying to play a particular style that is unproven or otherwise shown not to win games... you should probably go try to win some games. Or at the very least try to stop losing games. But, and this should be noted, I'm a moron.
Can the Midfield and Attack Show Some Life?
An all too common occurrence for FCC is a sustained attack with lots of possession that goes right up to the opponent's 18 yard box before eventually cycling back to the keeper. It's so frustrating to watch it over and over again. Teams are willing to let Cincinnati have the ball since they know there is rarely a threat that comes along with it.
And when the ball is on the opponent's side of the field, there is never any movement. Three or four guys will stand next to defender and just watch the ball. There's never any movement, never an attempt to pull a defender out for another guy to run in behind, there's rarely showing to the ball. Nothing. It's like FCC's attack is on a foosball table and they're all just standing there waiting to be irresponsibly spun around in a desperate attempt to fling the ball towards goal.
One thing that has become apparent in watching FCC in 2021 is the lack of passing into space. Every single pass is to a players feet, and they do not move when that ball is headed their way. They stay right where they were when the ball was kicked, wait for the ball, collect the ball, look around for someone to pass it to, and pass it to them. There's rarely a give-and-go, never a pass into space where another player is expected to run into, rarely a pass down the touchline to release a winger, and never an incisive pass from midfield to an attacker making a clever run in behind the defense. It's just drab passing to feet without any real attempt to "beat" the other team. The team has had two week to train, maybe they'll have a few moves for us.
Can We See All of the New Guys Start?
It isn't impossible to have Atanga, Cameron, Vallecilla, Vermeer, Brenner, Acosta, and Mataritta all starting against Miami. Let's see it. Live a little. Sarcastically, at this point the less time anyone has had to train in "The System" the better I'd expect them to play. Let's just John Harkes this thing, put the best players on the field, and ask them to play the sport they've been playing their entire lives.
Specifically on offense, Brenner cost FC Cincinnati a cool $13 million transfer fee and Acosta is making over $2 million in salary this year alone. It would be really nice to see both of them playing soccer together at the same time. Against Nashville, because it's the only time the team looked good so I'll keep bringing it up, the Acosta-Brenner partnership looked dangerous. It looked like a combination that would give MLS defenses fits.
At least until Acosta suffered a mysterious arm injury the night before the NYCFC match that if you talk about you'll be Nikolai Yezhov-ed.
Here's a best guess for the starting lineup: