While there are statistics and numbers to breakdown just about everything in modern sports, one area has remained unmeasurable: team chemistry. It is a tricky thing to nail down, but modern soccer has shown how it can one of the most important aspects of a team and their performance. And many of the issues with FC Cincinnati this season can, probably, be pinned on a lack of chemistry.
The easiest place to see where chemistry has made an impact this year is in the English Premier League. Right now the league leaders, Chelsea, have put forward the most consistent starting lineup compared to their competition. By February, Chelsea had only used 11 different starting lineups in the league, the fewest by far. In fact their lack of squad rotation has confused pundits this year. The team with the second fewest combinations was West Brom, who had used 16. The team that had used the most number of combinations turns out to be the league’s cellar-dwellers this year: Sunderland. Now in fairness to the Black Cats, many of their issues have been injury related, but the fact remains they are at the bottom of the table.
Now this is not to say that a consistent starting eleven is always a winning combination. But it might be why a team like Leicester was able to win the league last year. In fact their title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri’s nickname in Europe was “Tinkerman”, since we was infamous for not letting a team gel and always adjusting his lineup. And that’s what made Leicester’s run that much more improbable, they ended up as one of the most consistent teams in England.
And now we come to FC Cincinnati. While they are probably not going to be challenging for a premier league title anytime soon, we can still look at the lessons learned there to make some notes on our own team. Many people have not been happy with the sluggish start to the season, including some of the players. While the three game home-stand is off a great start with a decisive win over St. Louis and a chippy draw against Tampa, I have my concerns. This is a team that has not had an opportunity to gel or develop a cohesive identity yet, and a lack of constancy is our likely culprit.
It is no great secret that FC Cincinnati has not used the same lineup twice so far this year. This is a bit of a change from a team who’s starting eleven was pretty well nailed-on last year. But the lack of consistency from substitutions, and costly red cards, are causing problems. In fact between all five games so far this year, FCC has only played 23 minutes with a combination of players that they had in a previous game. That was 9 minutes in the game against Bethlehem Steel, and 14 minutes against the Rowdies.
It is important to note that both times the team had played with a combination that they had before, it was interrupted by a red card. A lack of discipline, and playing a man down, are bound to catch up with a team. And with a team as deep as FCC, squad rotation will be key in keeping guys fresh during times of the year when matches get congested (like three home games in eight days against the three best teams in the conference on the heels of starting the season on the road for three games. . . )
So let’s hope the team stays healthy, stays on the field, and can continue to grow into USL champions.