Preview: FC Cincinnati (h).
Updated: Mar 10
When? Saturday March 12, 4.30 p.m. PT, 7.30 p.m. ET and 00:30 GMT (13/3).
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast on MLS Live for ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of North America. For residents of the greater Orlando area, the game will be broadcast via Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV. The game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast.
It's that time again folks! Cincinnati at home! Which, at this point is basically like printing points... I jest. Or do I? I'm not much of a Joker, I'm a bit Two Faced for that. Have I seen the new Batman movie you ask? Well, no actually. But it was a good reference right? Right? No? OK, whatever.... Marvel's better anyway...
I digress. As usual. Whilst Orlando City would surely not take this game as a given, regardless it's a huge opportunity for 3 points. Cincinnati have once again gotten the season off to an abysmal start. The Ohio based club were hit for 5 in Austin and followed that up with a 1-0 home reversal at the hands of D.C. United. Their MLS existence has been a torrid one thus far, and that looks set to continue into 2022. Unless something drastically changes, that is. Let's just hope that change doesn't occur before the weekend, eh?
Robin Jansson and Ercan Kara speak to the media ahead of the game against Cincinnati.
FC Cincinnati's style
I mean, without wishing to sound disrespectful, their philosophy is muddied, and their management about as organised and well planned as the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Who even knows what this team is at this point? Other than the perennial whipping boys of the East? Ever since their inception the Cincinnati defence has been as porous as a block of Swiss cheese; 79 goals shipped in 2019, 36 in the shortened 2020 season and finally another 75 last year. They've allowed 6 in 2 games so far in 2022, as well as posting an XGa of 0.65 (figure 1). That particular score isn't the worst in MLS (Portland with 1.45 is the worst), but it's not exactly good either. And when you add to that their inability to find the back of the net... You have a recipe for disaster.
At the other end of the field, their XG score of 0.77 (figure 2) certainly stands up; that's the 8th highest score in MLS. But the most crucial stat is their actual goals tally: 0. It seems to be their profligacy in front of goal that is the issue, rather than an inability to carve out openings; 13 shots v Austin, 2 on target and 19 v D.C. with 6 on frame. It's hard to fathom how this team is so bad in front of goal, when you consider their roster. I appreciate the 2 games they have played in 2022 are a small sample size, but their goal shy nature was an issue in 2021 (37 goals scored, 2nd worst in the East). They have talented attackers like Brenner and Yuya Kubo at their disposal. This is a team that should be delivering a greater offensive output than it currently is doing. Which is nothing. Nowt. Nada. Zip.
Figure 1 shows FC Cincinnati's current XGa rating.
Figure 2 shows FC Cincinnati's current XG rating.
According to the latest player availability report FC Cincinnati will be without John Nelson and Beckham Sunderland. Gustavo Vallecilla and Ronald Mattaritta are both listed as doubts.
As for Orlando City, the latest information is that Oscar Pareja has a fully fit squad to choose from. This section will be updated as and when new information comes to light.
EDIT 10/3/22: Sylvester Van Der Water has entered MlS Health and Safety protocol and is therefore listed as questionable.
Orlando City head coach, Oscar Pareja previews the game against Cincinnati.
Possible starting XI
I see Pat Noonan persevering with the favoured 3-4-1-2 formation. What's interesting about this set up is that, on the face of it, Cincy do not have the players to pull this off. With a back 3 in the modern game, you need defenders willing to advance the ball and get involved in the attack. An excellent example of this would be Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger. This is not a strength of Geoff Cameron's or Tyler Blackett's in particular. The former Nottingham Forest man isn't the most comfortable on the ball. Nick Hagglund is probably the best of a bad bunch in that regard. I think Orlando could get at them with the press for sure.
The Brazilian's big money move to MLS hasn't exactly gone according to plan so far. There's still little doubting his talents. Brenner's close ball control, movement and finishing are his strongest assets. Noonan will be hoping to get a tune out of him sooner rather than later.
FC Cincinnati head into this game on the back of two consecutive defeats, having opened the season with an 0-0-2 record. They currently sit bottom of the East.
Orlando meanwhile are 4th having won 1 and drawn another of their opening 2 games.
*All statistics courtesy of footystats.org.
All game stills, b-rol and interview/media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Line-up graphic courtesy chosen11.com.