FCC returns with trip to Philly

Photo courtesy Anders Saling. FC Cincinnati v Philadelphia Union April 9, 2023
Lucho Acosta challenges Philadelphia Union keeper Andre Blake for the ball. Photo Courtesy Anders Saling

The return of MLS games is here! After a two-week break thanks to international duty, FC Cincinnati resumes play with a trip to Eastern Conference foe Philadelphia Union in a challenge of two of the teams at the top of the standings.

While it will be a familiar trip for many of Cincinnati’s staff and players, it will be an uphill climb to return to the winning form that sustained the team into the Leagues Cup break. While the break has allowed for the squad to get healthy, they will be playing without MVP frontrunner Lucho Acosta after he picked up a yellow card in the first half against Orlando. 

However, it hasn’t dampened spirits in the squad as Pat Noonan talked about the team training this week.

“I think you see a group that’s ready to play a game and kick somebody else,” he said.

For Philadelphia, they come in having beaten the New York Red Bulls 4-1 two weeks ago. There is optimism in the Union camp as well, as their creative talisman Daniel Gazdag looks to be 100 percent healthy for this game. And while the Union will be missing team captain Alejandro Bedoya for this game, Gazdag’s inclusion is perhaps a bigger addition as it completes the three-headed monster at the front of the attack.

This year’s Union strike force of Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza and Gazdag have accounted for 31 goals and 17 assists in MLS play this season. And this potent attack has garnered pressure from other leagues to poach away these players, as Carranza was linked with several German and English teams this past window.

Knowing that Carranza’s departure may be imminent, the Union front office went out and bolstered the squad, and brought in Israeli international forward Tai Baribo during the summer window. While he is still getting settled with the squad, it shows an ambition from the club that they want to return to the MLS Cup in 2023.

While the attack will garner much of the headlines, the Union defense is also packed with MLS stalwarts and is protected by one of the best midfield destroyers in the league in Jose Martinez. In previous seasons, Martinez had largely sat at the bottom of a four-man midfield diamond, protecting a back four. But this season, coach Jim Curtin has swapped up the formation and is playing with five in the back, meaning we may see a mirroring of formations this weekend.

Ultimately, this is expected to be a tough match for an FCC team that will be looking to restart their early summer form. But with the MLS Cup Playoffs starting in six weeks, this may be a true test of an opponent they may face late in a postseason run.

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