FCC's less than Stellar Performance in Home Opener

First MLS game down, 33 more to go...

Aaron Boupendza #9 (R) of FC Cincinnati and Sigurd Rosted #...
Aaron Boupendza #9 (R) of FC Cincinnati and Sigurd Rosted #... / SOPA Images/GettyImages

FC Cincinnati started their 2024 MLS season at a sold-out TQL Stadium Sunday afternoon against Toronto FC. Based on their 2023 form, Toronto FC was coming into the match as one of the worst teams in MLS, while FCC is coming off of their Supporters' Shield winning campaign. Based on that information alone, one would think this would be an easy match for Cincinnati. This was not true.

The scenery for Sunday's match was beautiful, especially for February. Just a day earlier, the Cincinnati area was covered in snow with temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. But on Sunday, the footballing gods were kind as the temperatures reached 56 degrees, and was bright and sunny at kickoff. Unfortunately, the FC Cincinnati offense did not warm up enough to produce much offense.

FC took the field for the first time in front of 25,513 supporters on Sunday, and their performance was less than stellar. After winning 2-0 on Thursday night in the Concacaf Champions Cup, FC was looking to continue that form against lowly Toronto FC. TFC has hired a new manager, the former Canadian National Team Coach, John Herdman. Toronto was also looking to start their 2024 season stronger than when they lost 3-2 to DC United on the 2023 Opening weekend.

FC Cincy has had some new players come into the lineup for the 2024 season. Luca Orellano, and Pavel Bucha made their MLS debuts. Matt Miazga also was missing from the lineup due to suspension, but he will be back soon as the suspension was reduced to only one game. Despite the changes to the lineup, Cincinnati was solid and organized defensively. Their chemistry going forward left something to be desired.

New players, new positions

7 of the 11 starters were different from the 2023 first match. Only Roman Celentano, Lucho Acosta, Obinna Nwobodo, and Sergio Santos were in the lineup on opening matchday 2023 and 2024. Lots of changes for FCC. Finding replacements for the recently departed Brandon Vazquez and Alvaro Barreal might prove to be difficult. Both of these players had big roles in winning the Supporters' Shield in 2023. Corey Baird and Luca Orellano are the men who are going to try to fill these roles. Baird has been active up top for FC but has yet to score his first goal for the club. Luca has expressed comfortability with the club already as he had some advice and encouragement from countryman Alvaro Barreal before signing. Cincinnati has already gotten comfortable with Orellano playing left wingback as in the 1st half against Toronto FC as they built 42% of their attacks on the left-hand side. Alas, this was not enough to get a result.

FC Cincinnati played as if they had new players and were still developing their chemistry. For the game, FC only had 51% of the possession and only managed 5 shots on goal. There were many moments where it appeared players were not on the same page and some miscues caused losses of possession. From the small sample size of this game, FC's offense will have to produce more chances and better patterns of play to get results. But for now, Cincinnati's defense might be one of the best in the league and should improve on 39 goals against.

FC's expectations are going to be high after finishing 1st overall in the MLS in 2023, and their offense today did not have a stellar performance. The season is still new, so there will be time for the new players to settle in. But for now, Cincinnati will have to rely on their defense to not give goals away.