Wanna see someone make a fool of themselves? FC Cincinnati is going to get at least a point this Sunday. Boom. That’s right, bold prediction time; timidly calling for at least a draw; claiming two of the three possible outcomes like it takes some courage.
But for a lot of people, I'm going to look like a crazy person. And I get it, the Seattle game ended 4-1, an embarrassing scoreline no matter what the context. The defense looked completely bent out of shape and Adi touched the ball a whopping 37 times. It wasn't a great night. But then again, it never was going to be.
Seattle, on the road, your internal clock is telling you kickoff is at 10pm, you're against a team that not only hasn't lost any of their attacking players, but added one of the better ones in the league in Jordan Morris, a team with a consistent head coach, and a team with a known winning game plan. There are not many teams in the league that could have opened their season at Seattle last week and won. But we didn't do ourselves any favors either.
Stupidly, Koch built his 18-man match day squad around USL loyalty. There is no getting around this. In interviews this week, Koch admitted to leaving Allan Cruz, one of our two DPs mind you, back in Cincinnati in favor of keeping guys from the USL days on the bench instead. And while I could maybe understand Cruz not being up to speed to start in the first game, he apparently is still learning English for instance, to leave him back in Cincinnati in favor of giving someone like Blake Smith the chance to sit on the bench is damn near a fireable offense to me. Our head coach purposely made our team weaker to let someone sit on the bench. And given that Smith was a left back, makes this all that much more worse.
Remember, Greg Garza is supposed to be the starting left back when he is healthy, and it looks like this weekend could be his first game. Hooray. Garza is one of the best left backs in the league. Justin Hoyte, despite his age, has also deputized at left back in his day, and if memory serves me correctly was often the left back during the epic Open Cup run in 2017. Hoyte however, was also hurt for the Seattle game. Well, it's a good thing we gave Blake Smith a call-up huh? He's an accomplished lower division left back who beat both Lance Laing and Pa Konate out for the position last year. And who started at left back? Deplange did. A position he has rarely, if ever, played in his career.
To recap: we brought a fourth choice left back who we had absolutely no intention of playing to Seattle as a "thank-you" and left an exciting and expensive young player back at home for . . . reasons. Regardless of the game plan, regardless of in-game adjustments, this level of roster incompetence is unacceptable. I know a lot of Cincinnati fans were upset with Alexi Lalas asking "When does it become about the match?" on twitter, but, clearly FC Cincinnati didn't want to win this game. With MLS opening the door to legalized gambling, and given how the league suppresses wages with single entity shenanigans, this entire debacle should be a wakeup call to not only a city that has enough history in poorly managed teams for profit, but the entire league as well.
Now, there is a tiny, tiny part of me that is willing to give the team a pass. Single entity, for better or for worse, removes the consequences of losing from the sport of soccer, so we can afford one stupid "thank you" in form of an embarrassing loss that is an insult to the record number of traveling fans. But that comes down to Sunday in Atlanta.
Atlanta is not very good so far this year. Granted, they've played some of the best teams you can play in North America to start things off, but they have not looked like the runaway train they have been the last two years. Poor passing, attacking players left on islands, fullbacks that don't threaten, and a new possession system that is still trying to find its way into the minds of a free-flowing attacking team. They're struggling to find their identity at the moment.
So this is how I see the game playing out. Koch remembers he's here to win games, and runs out a competent, defensively sound lineup. Atlanta feels the need to impress in front of their massive home crowd and goes all-out, blaze of glory, offensive. Cincinnati sits back, absorbs the pressure, and hits them on the counter when they're exposed. Lamah and Manneh have a field day getting behind Atlanta's fullbacks, feeding Adi and Saief, and racking up scoring opportunities. Cincinnati takes points on the road and back to Nippert.
Or Atlanta beats FCC 5-0 as literally everyone expects. Either one really.
But I do think this FC Cincinnati roster is better than most pundits have given the team credit for. If Koch picks his best possible lineup and bench, then there is no reason why picking up points on the road against a struggling Atlanta team isn't possible.