What Are They All About? FC Cincinnati
How do you like me now? This past Saturday the Chicago Fire steamrolled Orlando City 4-0 at Toyota Park. More telling than the scoreline, Fire winger David Accam put on quite the display in front of a sold-out crowd. Amidst rumors of his possible departure to the Turkish Super League, Seria A, or Ligue 1 after his absence in both of the last two matches, the Ghanaian put on what will surely be his best display in a red shirt no matter whether he stays or goes. Accam scored a hat trick and provide the assist on the fourth tally for Nikolic before walking off to a standing ovation. The win means that the Fire are still unbeaten at home this season and haven’t lost in their last ten matches across competitions.
The continued momentum couldn’t have come at a better time as Chicago faces another quick turnaround, this time to continue their journey in the US Open Cup. They’ll be packing up and heading to Ohio to take on FC Cincinnati in front of another sold out crowd, this time thirty-thousand plus. Nelson Rodriguez and Veljko Paunovic have both stated that the one hundred and four year old knockout tournament is a priority for the club, and both have the chance to etch themselves into the historic fabric of the club by bringing home a fifth Open Cup title.
Chicago would move into a tie with Bethlehem Steel and Maccabi Los Angeles for the most ever Open Cup trophies, but the journey is long and unpredictable. Cincinnati have MLS expansion ambitions and there is no better way of further cementing their supposed place in the next franchise allocation announcement than to upset Chicago on national television. Their continued ability to draw massive crowds, a unique ability to successfully give former MLS-ers second chances at a career, and head coach Alan Koch’s determination to pursue UEFA coaching licenses makes this encounter less than straight forward. Will the Fire start measuring the dimensions of their trophy cabinet, or will FC Cincinnati punish another MLS side for complacency? Let’s see what’s in store for the Men in Red.
Cincinnati Form Guide (Last five league matches): W-D-D-L-W
Previous Result: A 2-0 home victory over St. Louis.
Formation: 3-4-3; Hildebrandt; Berry, Nicholson, Delbridge; Bahner, Walker, Bone, Polak; Wiedeman, Fall, McLaughlin
Strengths: Although Cincinnati is just one of three non-MLS sides remaining in the competition, they’ve already defeated Columbus on their way into the round of sixteen. We’ve talked about the backs against the wall mentality provided by lower league opposition and watched Chicago scrape by with a 1-0 victory against St. Louis in the last round (amidst plenty of nervy moments), so the Fire will need to be weary in this one. Let’s see where Cincinnati might succeed on Wednesday.
Timed to Perfection: While MLS is increasingly about tactics, formation changes, and importing Continental and South American soccer philosophies, FC Cincinnati prides themselves on the basics and they execute them fairly well. Their main point of attack comes from long balls over the top for Andrew Wiedeman and Djiby Fall to get on the end of. A mixture of through balls for the forwards to chase down or pin point crosses from the wingers onto the heads of the front two has worked for Cincy in their last three matches. Weideman has scored in his last two consecutive appearances and Djiby has six goals on the season (and to be fair he would have double that if his accuracy improved slightly). Chicago isn’t known for winning aerial duels-one of their only weaknesses so far this season-and they could struggle with that aspect of the match in Cincy.
We Have a Fortress Too: While Paunovic has taken time aside to thank the supporters at Toyota Park in his last few post-match press conferences, Koch has had to do the same. Cincy has lost just one home match this season (against Orlando City B) and the up coming encounter is sure to be another sell out. The crowd played it’s part against Columbus and they will be looking to do the same on Wednesday.
You Should Have Never Left Me: If you’d like to get the gist of this section just turn on any country song about a break up and you’ll save yourself some time. One of the most magical aspects of the Open Cup is the inherent motivation present in players that are playing for lower division teams against MLS opponents that they used to play for. We’ll get two such treats in this one as both Corben Bone and Austin Berry should feature for Cincinnati on Wednesday. Bone featured eighteen times for the Men in Red before being traded to Philadelphia in 2014 and will feel hard done by a loss after figuring he’d be Chicago’s Iniesta (please understand our humor here). He plays a box to box role for Cincy and combines well with the aforementioned front two (hitting the post himself in an expertly worked play against St. Louis).
Berry will have an even bigger chip on his shoulder as he faces the side that etched his name in club lore by rewarding his 2012 MLS rookie of the year season with a bobble head. Berry was touted to be Chicago’s starting centre back for years to come under the tutelage of Arne Friedrich before being traded to Philadelphia in 2014 (after starting all 34 matches of the 2013 season). He struggled immensely with the Union before seeking regular minutes in Korea. His career has seemingly never recovered from the move and Wednesday could be a moment of closure for the twenty-eight year old.
Weaknesses: As with our preview of St. Louis, we will try not to be too harsh in this section given the nature of Chicago’s opponent. However, the fact remains that Cincy find themselves in sixth place of the Eastern conference in USL, a mere point or two ahead of their nearest challengers having played three matches more than them. Route one soccer will only get them so far and they have struggled against teams that play with the aim of controlling possession. Additionally, they haven’t played well against the teams directly ahead of them in the standings, a warning sign against what happens when they’re put to the test. Let’s see where else they might struggle.
I am King of the Dirt Mound: While Fire supporters will be applauding Cincy defeating their bitter rivals in the last round, we’ll have to take everyone down a peg and remind them that Columbus was on tired legs, started a mixed line up, and had a lot of luck go against them. While the magic of the Open Cup shines brightly, this Chicago side is too good to falter no matter how many people Cincy pack into the stadium. Furthermore, we’re hearing that Bastian Schweinsteiger will not only travel and feature in the eighteen but that he is due to start (a reiteration of Chicago’s determination to win the cup). Players like Juninho and Arturo Alvarez will see the encounter as another opportunity to win their starting places back during the international absences of Dax McCarty and David Accam. Michael DeLeeuw will be looking to take out his lack of goal scoring frustration out on the Ohio outfit, and youngsters like Djordje Mihailovic, Drew Conner, and Daniel Johnson have proven their contributions are beyond adequate.
Does this Contract Come with Dental?: This has absolutely nothing to do with the soccer aspect of the match on Wednesday but we’d like to take this time to remind our readers that Djiby Fall was suspended in April for violent conduct. After a straight red was issued to the attacker for a ludicrous studs up tackle against Louisville’s McCabe. In the wake of the expulsion Djiby bit the opposing player and was banned from USL play for six matches. The mystique of the Open Cup wouldn’t reward such behaviour.
Prediction: The continually longed for “Kings of the Cup” title will come closer into reach on Wednesday. We can’t quite put our fingers on it but there is something different about the air surrounding the Fire in Open Cup competition this year. Chicago 3-0 Cincinnati FC. Juninho, Michael DeLeeuw, and Bastian Schweinsteiger.