Preview: FC Cincinnati (a).
When? Friday June 25, 4.30 p.m. PT, 7.30 p.m. ET and 00:30 BST (26/6).
Where? TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, OH.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast live via MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of North America. Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV for residents of central Florida. Radio commentary on 96.9 The Game and Accion 97.9 FM. The game will be broadcast on FreeSports (FreeView channel 64 and via the FreeSports app) for us UK folk.
Orlando City head to TQL Stadium on Friday night for a match, against FC Cincinnati, that marks the start of a crucial run of 5 games in 19 days. A run that also includes a vital US Open Cup clash with Nashville SC. This is a run of games that will have a vitally important impact on the outcome of Orlando City's season. It feels too early to say this is a make or break stretch... But it just might be.
Cincinnati will be a tough test, which feels a bit weird to say, as they've been the perennial MLS whipping boys since their inception. However, they currently find themselves on the precipice of the eastern conference play-off places. Pat Noonan's team are more resolute than they've ever been. This will be a stern examination of Orlando City's credentials.
Try as they might, Cincinnati have just never figured out how to shore things up at the back. Even this season, where there's been visible improvement in other areas of the field, they are conceding goals at a rate of 1.7 per game, which is one of the worst records in the league (figure 1). They use a back 3, but they lack the pace and ability to read the game at the back which means they are often caught out in transition. For example, in figure 2, Montreal are easily able to get round the sides of the back 3 and work an opportunity. With the pace and trickery of Facundo Torres and Benji Michel, it's not hard to imagine Orlando having some joy on the counter.
All that being said, the home side do have some quality in attack. Alvaro Barreal and Luciano Acosta provide creativity through the middle, whilst Brandon Vazquez has proved his worth in attack so far this season. The former Tijuana and 5 shites... Sorry! 5 stripes*. Sorry, the former Tijuana frontman has hit 8 goals and 3 assists so far this season, although Brenner continues to struggle for form. He nabbed 2 assists vs Montreal recently, but they were his first goal contributions of the season.
Figure 1 shows Cincinnati's goals conceded per match.
Figure 2 is a game still from the first half of Cincinnati's game against Montreal.
*I'm not that sorry to be honest.
According to the MLS injury report, FC Cincinnati are without Isaac Atenga, Allan Cruz, Calvin Harris, Alec Kann and Ronald Mattaritta.
As for Orlando City, Antonio Carlos is listed as out, however he has been training and Oscar Pareja is hopeful of him being fit for the bench (see video below). Mason Stajduhar and Silvester Van Der Water are out. Robin Jansson is suspended, whilst Michael Halliday is still on international duty.
Possible starting XI
Cincinnati tend to prefer a 3-4-1-2 formation. I think they'll line up with an unchanged team, seeing as they were able to grab a decent result against Philadelphia:
Luciano Acosta has been in great form so far this season, but was on the bench last time out. Alvaro Barreal started in the number 10 role, and has acquitted himself reasonably well (at least numbers wise) so far this season. The Argentine has scored 2 goals in 13 appearances so far. He was the star of the show, as far as Cincinnati were concerned, in their recent 4-3 defeat to Montreal, scoring once and creating 3 chances for his teammates.
Cincinnati have lost 3 of their last 5 games, but are still within touching distance of the play-offs in 8th place.
Orlando City halted a skid of 4 games without a win with their recent win over Houston. The Lions currently sit 4th in the east, 2 points off the top.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com
Cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Game still courtesy of MLSsoccer.com
Line up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com