FC Cincinnati looks to continue good form against NYCFC

The FC Cincinnati squad comes out to start the game. Photo courtesy of Saling Media.
The FC Cincinnati squad comes out to start the game. Photo courtesy of Saling Media.

Welcome to the International Break!

A time for the world to turn its eyes towards their respective national teams and watch their best and brightest compete without the pressures of their league season!

Unless you are MLS.

That’s right, in breaking the worldwide trend, MLS has continually decided to push forward with their season and schedule a nearly full slate of games for international weekends.

For some teams like FCC, they have come away fairly unscathed, missing only a single player to international call-usp. It is a talent miss as FCC will be playing their first game of the season without Miles Robinson, but they have been able to backfill the roster with MLS-ready talent as either Kipp Keller or Nick Hagglund should be poised to start.

For this weekend’s opponent, New York City FC, they have been less lucky, as they will be missing 4 players from their roster. Starting striker Mounsef Bakrar was called up to the Algerian squad, and exciting backup Jovan Mijatovic was called up to the Serbian U-19 team.

While missing two strikers is not ideal, their right-back situation is worse, as both their starting right back Mitja Ilenic and backup Tayvon Gray were called up to their respective national teams. This has left a fairly large hole in their roster as they will either be forced to move a center back out wide, call up a young player or require NYCFC manager Nick Cushing to change formations.

While Cushing has hinted at the expected replacements, he has noted the roster challenges and been open about his thinking of switching formations and playing in a back three.

“We have the opportunity to change the system,” he said. “We have the opportunity to give one of the guys who hasn’t played so much. And you know we’ve had Drew Baiera up this week and he’s really really impressed me.” 

And his decision to move to a back three may have been made easier, as starting defensive midfielder Keaton Parks was given a red card after a reckless tackle late on in their 2-1 win over Toronto FC. This likely puts a heavy burden on the midfield pairing of James Sands and Andres Perea to pick up the slack and protect a new-look backline.

However, despite the holes in the roster, there is still hope in NYC as their star central midfielder Santiago “Santi” Rodriguez will be playing and is beginning to warm up his production. He has scored his second goal in as many games and seems to be the target that play is being funneled through as multiple times NYCFC defenders were creating chances by driving long passes into the attacking runs Santi makes.

They will also have exciting newcomer Hannes Wolf up top as well. The 24-year-old Austrian joins the squad from German Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach and has shown a connection with Rodriguez. Thus far it has not resulted in many goal contributions, but the hope will be he can open his account as we all try to understand the March Madness of playing in international breaks.

When: Saturday, March 23, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, OH

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