In what has to be viewed as a bounce-back game, FC Cincinnati plays host to Eastern Conference opponents CF Montreal on Saturday at TQL Stadium.
Pat Noonan’s side struggled in their opportunity to win three games in a row for the first time as an MLS club, succumbing to Charlotte 2-0. The team endured a combination of failures, including not taking advantage of some decent chances, lacking crispness in the passing game and falling victim to a pair of well-taken goals from Charlotte forward Karol Swiderski.
Now the team returns home to meet a winless Montreal side. Noonan said in comments distributed by the club to media, that FCC will need to take the lessons from last weekend’s loss and apply them to the upcoming match, most notably converting possession and chances into goals.
“Again, there was disappointment with the result, and some of the things as far as our performance in Charlotte,” Noonan said. “But I think what’s important is the players, us as a staff, we recognize that we might have left some points out there in Charlotte, and recognizing it is important from the players perspective as we have these conversations, and guys that understand some of the things that we could have done better and, and having more decisiveness in how we attack and how we finish plays off, because we’ve left goals out there now, and as a result, left some points out there. So we need to improve in in that aspect. But I do think they recognize what we need to improve on going into Montréal.”
Montreal are winless in four league starts, dropping decisions to Orlando City, Philadelphia and NYCFC along with playing a 3-3 draw at Atlanta. Tied for last place in the Eastern Conference with Inter Miami, the team also experienced a short-lived involvement in the Concacaf Champions League as Canadian champions. They defeating Santos Laguna in the round of 16 before losing 2-1 on aggregate to Cruz Azul in the quarterfinal round.
The headline player for the club is undoubtedly attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, who led MLS in assists last season with 13. Considered to be on the fringe of the U.S. Men’s National Team squad, the former Chicago Fire player is especially adept at playing a killer through pass and has shown some appetite for scoring on his own, as well. Joaquin Torres Romell Quioto are also fixtures in a quick attacking unit.
Other regulars for Montreal this season are midfielder Victor Wanyama, defenders Alistair Johnston and Kamal Miller, and goalkeeper Sebastian Breza. Newly-minted 19-year-old Canadian international Ismael Kone is an emerging star in midfield for head coach Wilfried Nancy’s team.
Noonan feels the Quebec side is more talented than their record indicates.
“This is a team that, and I said this last week and in previous weeks, that their record isn’t indicative of the quality that they have, and the coach that they have,” he said. “It’s certainly challenging to compete early in the season, regular season and Champions League with the travel and the amount of minutes that you put on your first 11 and a couple depth pieces. They’re coming off of a tough draw, but if you see the game and how they executed in a lot of different ways against Atlanta that’s a dangerous team.”
The biggest question in the FCC starting lineup is who will play left wingback (or left back), with Ronald Matarrita facing a long spell on the sideline after suffering a foot injury on international duty for Costa Rica. Alvarao Barreal got the surprise nod there last weekend, with Ian Murphy and Ray Gaddis also possibilities (John Nelson is getting closer to match fitness as he recovers from a back injury).
Up front, Luciano Acosta should again play behind Brandon Vazquez in attack, but will Brazilian DP Brenner be named as the other starting striker for the first time this season, or will high-energy Dominque Badji continue his starting run? Yuya Kubo and Junior Moreno appear to be entrenched in midfield.
Some milestones are on tap for FCC players. Nick Hagglund and Yuya Kubo will each start their 50th league match for the club if selected by Noonan, making them the first to reach that threshold in franchise history. Hagglund and Geoff Cameron would each make their 150th overall MLS start.
4 p.m. Saturday, April 2, 2022, TQO Stadium, Cincinnati, OH.
TV: Star 64
National Video Stream: ESPN+
Local Radio: ESPN 1530
Audio Stream: IHeart Radio app