Three Question Preview: Nashville vs Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati fans have now suffered through three heart-breaking matches where victory was told “no thank you” by the Orange and Blue. Four, count them four, leads have been given up in the last three matches. Turning nine points into two is a new magic trick in The Gary’s bag of gags.
The positive fans among us will look at this and say, “hey, it takes a good team to get a lead in the first place” and while those people are right, we can all agree they’re assholes for bringing it up. Results on the field have been subpar this year for Jaap Stam and Gerrard Nijkamp who need to pick up the pace in picking up points if they want to finish what they’ve started here in Cincinnati.
Tonight, The FC travels to Nashville to take on a second year MLS team that made expansion look fairly easy. Nashville will be without some key contributors including Dom Badji, Anibal Godoy, Walker Zimmerman, Dan Lovitz, and Alistair Johnson. Nashville will be playing their sixth home match in a row (!!!) And have been undefeated in their home stand. They beat down Chicago Fire 5-1 on Saturday and played Columbus Crew to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday.
One thing for FC Cincinnati fans to mentally prepare themselves for: Nashville have been experts at coming back from losing positions. In fact, in the six times this season Nashville conceded first, they’ve come back to win or draw five of those matches, the only loss being a 3-2 contest against Toronto. And Cincinnati fans will not have forgotten the season opener where Acosta and Brenner’s brilliant start turned into shot stopping drills for Tyton and the Cincinnati defense.
So here are the three questions’s we’ll be looking to have answered by tonight’s match:
What is going on with Kamohelo Mokotjo?
If there was an ideal profile of a player FC Cincinnati could sign right now it would probably be something along the lines of: a football veteran, box-to-box midfielder who is used to taking control of games for his teams, has experience playing in a physically demanding league, and has been around MLS long enough to understand the league and the nuances that come with it; ideally such a highly talented individual would take allocation money to sign them. That’s Mokotjo, and yet he’s been mysteriously absent this season. Early on it was somewhat excusable that Acosta, Kubo, Cruz, and Medunjanin had potentially played their way in front of him in the depth chart. But against Atlanta, when Cruz and Kubo were both unavailable, when Medunjanin needed a sub, and when the game was calling out for someone to take charge in the midfield, “Kamo” wasn’t brought in. And I mean wasn’t brought into the match day roster; he didn’t even make the bench! It's not that he was tired, he didn't even travel to Montreal the previous weekend. There is speculation out there that he’s actually more hurt than the team would like to admit, which certainly seems possible. But again, the lack of communication from the club about Mokotjo, a player making nailed-on-starter money, is really really strange. So we’ll have to see how he is used in tonight's game to see what might be going on.
Can FC Cincinnati play with a lead?
A worrying new trend for The FC is their inability to play with a lead. Not keep a lead, that would certainly be a nice bonus at this point, but even look comfortable with a lead. There’s an aimlessness that comes with leads that is very disappointing to watch. Poor passing, slopping positioning, and half-hearted pressing lead to huge stretches of matches where the Orange and Blue don’t look capable of scoring a goal and look particulalrly vulnerable to giving one up. And it turns out, they do give up goals with the lead! Being able to slow the game down, maintain possession, and see out a match with a methodical attack and conservative defense is the antithesis of how manager Jaap Stam wants his team to play. Coincidentally, that is exactly how Nashville plays. And as mentioned before, Nashville are experts at coming back from losing positions. Is any lead safe tonight for Cincinnati?
Which version of Vermeer will play tonight?
You live by Vermeer’s sweeper-keeper act, you die by Vermeer’s sweeper-keeper act. In two matches Kenneth Vermeer has shown the highs and lows of his game. Winning team of the week honors for his performance against Atlanta, Vermeer looked unstoppable. Against Montreal, you wouldn’t be too far off blaming the loss on his goalkeeping. You would not expect a 35 year old veteran to be so wildly inconsistent, and yet that’s exactly what you get with Vermeer. Keep a close eye on his passing as well. Against Montreal, the goalkeeper had just a 40% pass completion rate. Against Atlanta? That number was 75%. Will the real Kenneth Vermeer please stand up?