Take two of the Hell is Real Derby will kick off on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. ET, as Columbus Crew SSC makes the trek down I-71 to face FC Cincinnati. The inaugural Major League Soccer battle between the two teams ended in a 2-2 draw, with Cincinnati controlling the first half and Columbus dominating the second half. After failing to capitalize on game-winning goal opportunities, the draw had the sting of a loss for Crew players, coaches and fans. What should the Black & Gold and fans expect from FC Cincy this go around?
FC Cincinnati at a glance
Leading scorer: Allan Cruz: 4 goals
Assist leaders: Darren Mattocks, Emmanuel Ledesma, Kekuta Manneh, Roland Lamah: 3 assists
FC Cincinnati Projected Starting XI
An Inaugural Season to Forget
FC Cincinnati has been the league punching bag all season long. Opposing teams salivate at the chance of playing against the newest MLS franchise. Given the team’s goal differential of -35 and 18 losses out of 26 matches, it has undoubtedly been a bumpy road in Year 1. The roster construction was ridiculed during the offseason, and rightfully so. The opening day squad was extremely midfield heavy and incredibly thin on the backline and up top. It comes as no surprise that the team has faltered.
Former head coach, Alan Koch was removed midway through his first MLS season and after an extended time period, FC Cincy management brought in former PEC Zwolle manager, Ron Jans, in what is essentially a glorified interim position after it was reported that Jans signed an 18-month contract. In his tryout for the role, a year and a half is a relatively minuscule amount of time for a new manager to establish and build his team.
Casual soccer fans may be curious as to why FC Cincy has struggled so mightily. Similar to building a house, a strong foundation is imperative for a team’s roster. Striker Fanendo Adi was brought to Cincinnati to score goals in bunches and give the new club relevancy in MLS. In other words, he was brought on to be a foundational player. To say the big man has been a disappointment would be a massive understatement.
Adi was expected to be a pillar of Cincinnati’s immediate and long-term future, but the investment has recouped only one goal in 12 appearances this season. He underwhelmed last year while the team competed in the United Soccer League, and his mediocre play continued this season thanks to varying issues. Adi’s work rate has been questioned, which has led to inefficiency around the goal, all of which has been compounded by his inability to stay healthy. It isn’t surprising that FC Cincy is amid a horrendous season, given its biggest offensive acquisition has yielded minimal return. Adi is listed as out for the Crew game, so his bounce-back match won’t be in this contest.
How FCC Play
In the squad’s first two matches under Jans, Cincinnati implemented a 4-2-3-1 formation, scraping out a draw with Columbus and a 4-1 defeat last week versus New York City FC. One positive under Jans, however, is FC Cincy has scored the opening goal in both games, even going up 2-0 against Columbus before squandering the lead and being lucky enough to eke out a point in the standings. Unless you have been living under a rock, Crew fans are aware that the first match being a draw on the scoreboard felt like a loss of two points in the standings for Columbus. FCC players and fans were thankful to come away with the tie, while Black & Gold faithful were crestfallen.
In their fixture last Saturday, FC Cincy went ahead in the 32nd minute against NYCFC thanks to a goal by Allan Cruz. A mere 70 seconds later, New York City tied the match and went on to score three more before the game concluded. That timeline of events is a perfect summation of Cincinnati’s season in a nutshell; excitement and a taste of success, as Cincy pulled off seven points in the team’ss first four matches of the season, followed by a dive bomb into reality and flaming out horribly.
Cincinnati isn’t particularly dangerous in any area of the field. While team captain Kendall Waston is a hulking presence, he is on the downside of a very solid defensive career. Forward Darren Mattocks possesses blazing speed but lacks a consistent finishing touch, though he did score against the Crew just two weeks ago. Przemyslaw Tyton mans the goal and has made several highlight reel saves in his seven matches this season, but he has given up more goals than he has made saves. The stat line is less indicative of his abilities and more an indictment on the deficiencies of the defensively.
How the Crew Win
Columbus can earn all three points in the standings by… Finishing. Its. Chances. The Crew outshot Cincinnati 19-7 in the first meeting. The team had multiple strikes hit the woodwork and another two shots denied thanks to miraculous saves by Tyton. Crew head coach Caleb Porter recently talked about the game being about “moments in the box” and he is spot on. Should the Crew take heed to Porter’s philosophy and clean up the errors in the penalty box on both sides of the ball, Columbus should most certainly come away with another road win.