Preview: FC Cincinnati (h).
When? Saturday May, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET & 12:00 a.m. BST (3/5). Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL. How can I catch the action? MLS Live in DAZN, MLS Live on ESPN+ for residents of the United States. For Central Florida residents the game is also on Fox 35 Plus and Lion Nation TV. This game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast. The game is also available via radio, locally on 104.1 Real Radio, Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM.
Orlando head into this game still searching for their first win of the season following encouraging draws against Atlanta and SKC. There were some question marks regarding their performance in Missouri, and rightly so. Individual errors and sloppy distribution almost cost them dearly. Despite that, Orlando asserted themselves well on the offensive side of the ball. The Lions clawed their way back into the game (dodgy pun intended), and showed terrific fighting spirit to come away with a point. Perhaps unfortunate not to win in the end. They will be searching for all 3 in this game.
Cincinnati have gotten off to a rough start defensively; 7 goals conceded in their first 2 games tells its own story. As a result, Oscar Pareja's team will be confident of a positive result. It never is easy in this league though, is it? Cincinnati are a wounded animal, and you'd underestimate them at your peril...
Cincinnati are coming into this game off the back of receiving a real thrashing against NYCFC. There were real, tangible hopes that this year could be different for Cincy. The Ohio based outfit made some impressive moves during the off-season. Ronald Mattarita, Lucho Acosta and Brenner were the most notable acquisitions. This is a team that can hurt you, given half the chance. Even during their mauling in New York they were still able to fathom 13 shots on goal. They are a team that likes to overload in attack, and try to overwhelm you. That being said, they are also very much a team that will give you opportunities as well.
If you take a look at the shot position matrix in figure 1, you'll see that many of their shots (10/13) came from within the NYCFC penalty area. They often try to work the ball into a good position, before having a crack at goal. This sort of, attack at will, philosophy often leaves them open to penetration. As we have seen in both of their games so far. In their opener, Nashville absolutely besieged their goal at times (31 shots, figure 2). As did NYCFC. Obviously (figure 3). Both sides were robbing them in transition and hitting them on the break ad nauseam.
This, devil may care, approach isn't something observers of the EFL Championship will find overly shocking. FC Cincinnati head coach, Jaap Stam's Reading side were notoriously cavalier in their approach. In the 2016-17 season Reading scored 68 goals in 46 games... They also conceded 64. You get the picture, right? If Orlando can get to grips with Cincinnati's overload, and hit them on the break... This could be a profitable game for the Lions.
Figure 1 shows Cincinnati's shot position matrix from the defeat to NYCFC.
Figure 2 shows the shot position matrix for NYCFC AGAINST Cincinnati. Note how many opportunities they were able to carve out in the area. N.B. blue line denotes an own goal.
Figure 3 shows the shot position matrix for Nashville SC in their 2-2 draw with Cincinnati. Nashville peppered their goal with 31 overall attempts.
FC Cincinnati already, like ourselves, have some injury concerns. Lucho Acosta didn't make the trip to New York due to an elbow injury he obtained in the lead up to the game. There's a feeling Acosta could be ready for Orlando, but there was no confirmation at the time of writing. Cincinnati are definitely without Isaac Atanga, Frabco Kovacevic, Gustavo Vallecilla and Maikkel Van Der Werff. The quartet are all listed as 'out' on the MLS injury report.
Orlando, meanwhile, will welcome back Mauricio Pereyra as the Uruguayan has now completed his suspension. There's still no timeline on Pato's return, whilst João Moutinho could feature in the 18. The Portuguese defender continues to make his comeback from injury. Orlando are also sweating on the fitness of Uri Rosell, Robin Jansson and David Loera.
Possible starting XI
I can't see Jaap Stam making an abundance of changes for this game, particularly after a solid rest week. At the time of recording, Lucho Acosta was expected to be fit. If so I expect him to come back. Otherwise I would expect a largely unchanged line-up, in 4-4-1-1:
The former São Paulo man caused a huge splash this winter, with his reported $15m move to Ohio. At the tender age of 21, and having scored 24 in 56 for the Brazilian giants, he was seen as huge coup for FC Cincinnati. The former Brazil youth international is already off the mark in MLS, having netted a penalty in Cincy's draw with Nashville on opening weekend. Typically plays as an out-and-out centre forward, but has the pace and trickery to play wide of a 3. He's a player with enormous potential, and is undoubtedly the key to Cincy's offence.
FC Cincinnati have endured a less than ideal start to their 2021 MLS season. The Ohio based club are 0-1-1 on the season so far; having drawn their opener with Nashville, before last week's thrashing at the hands of NYCFC. Cincinnati came out of that game on the wrong side of a 5-0 drubbing in the Big Apple. Their opener, in Tennessee, was considerably more impressive. Even despite the fact that cincy surrendered a 2 goal lead (Acosta and Brenner). Cincy will be hoping to do better this time out.
Orlando, meanwhile, are still searching for their first win (0-2-0), following those draws with potential high fliers Atlanta and SKC. The Lions will be confident of finally bagging a dub, particularly following Cincinnati's defeat in New York.
*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com