As FC Cincinnati’s emergent season unfolds, there is a tendency to view each match as an exercise in authentication. Every contest poses questions in a distinct accent, the answers to which will determine just how good a team Pat Noonan and company are putting together in the club’s fourth MLS season.
Saturday’s return home to host New England Revolution continues the theme. With FCC enjoying a four-match league winning streak, the game as a truism could mark the occasion where the winning run is ended. More pointedly, the Orange and Blue taking a heavy loss to this very opponent just 10 days earlier provides Saturday’s game an opportunity to vanquish one of the more conspicuous doubts as to the team’s overall improvement this season. Play better and get a result and it is the Open Cup game that will seem to be the outlier, not the recent stretch of wins.
The biggest variable between the two matches will be the FCC lineup. Noonan picked a lineup reflecting the matches prior to and after the Wednesday-night game. Saturday will instead feature the players who have started most of the league games for the hosts, including midfielders Obinna Nwobodo, Junior Moreno and Luciano Acosta. Yuya Kubo also is available after an injury layoff.
Noonan’s choice of formation and starters at forward are unknown, but Brandon Vazquez should be in the XI, with Dom Badji, Alvaro Barreal and possibly Brenner also in contention. Brenner was on the receiving end of what Noonan called short-term discipline this week during training, with his availability Saturday still undetermined.
Fullbacks Alvas Powell and John Nelson likely form a back line with center backs Ian Murphy and Nick Hagglund, with Tyler Blackett and Geoff Cameron also in the mix. Ray Gaddis returns to health following an injury layoff.
New England played a full strength lineup in the Open Cup match, and Noonan said in comments distributed to media by the club, that this can be both a learning aid and a motivation for Saturday.
“We did see some of their regular starters on the field and the quality that they have. You can use that as a learning tool where you face the team less than two weeks later in league play, and now we have a chance to try to improve on some of the areas where they were able to exploit us,” Noonan said. “I think our group is looking forward to being on the field against this opponent and trying to show that maybe they didn’t get our best on the evening. I think we still have a confident group to step on the field and continue our strong forming in league play in terms of results.”
For Bruce Arena’s Revolution, Adam Buksa is the leading scorer with six goals, the center forward proving to be a formidable presence in the air, having more headed shots (88) and goals (13) than anyone in MLS since 2020. Carles Gil is again the team’s creative leader, while outside back Brandon Bye is the team’s leading crosser of the ball.
Other regular starters for New England include goalkeeper Matt Turner, defender DeJuan Jones, Henry Kessler and Andrew Farrell and midfielders Tommy McNamara and Sebastian Lletget. Jozy Altidore is a high impact sub up front but is questionable with injury. Defender Matt Polster is a mainstay for the Revs but is suspended Saturday for yellow card accumulation.
Noonan hopes the team will reap the benefits of not having a midweek game, primarily in terms of a proper regimen of training.
“It’s nice to get into our routine of a four-day build and be able to push a few things in training where you really weren’t able to over the last 15 plus days, where those midweek games kind of take away from some of your midweek trainings that allow you to work on specific things,” he said. “It was nice to be able to work on a few things with the ball and hopefully we can see some improvement in that part of our game, and in terms of advancing with the ball and advancing with numbers and doing it in a more efficient way.”
Match 13: New England Revolution (3-3-5) at FC Cincinnati (6-1-5)
6 p.m. Saturday, May 21, 2022, TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, OH.
TV: Star 64
National Video Stream: ESPN+
Local Radio: ESPN 1530
Audio Stream: IHeart Radio app