Sometimes you already know your enemy well. Red Bulls? DC United? Sure, you know ‘em.
But FC Cincinnati?? Unless you are plugged in to the USL Championship, this team could be a complete mystery. So let’s dive in and see what the Ohio team Philly hasn’t faced down and beaten this year is all about.
Dominant down there, doing it up here
After steamrolling USL’s top division in 2018 (but faceplanting in the playoffs…), FC Cincinnati went with a mix of old and new for their debut MLS season. USL Defender of the Year Forrest Lasso and attacker Emanuel Ledesma are holdovers from last year’s dominant team that want to make their mark at the top American level, while Leonard Bertone and Kenny Saeif were brought from Europe to provide quality on the ball — especially when it comes to longer passes and crosses.
In back, Vancouver hard man Kendall Waston and former Atlanta left back Greg Garza have joined with local kid Nick Hagglund to provide a veteran presence in front of Spencer Richey in goal.
It’s up front, though, where you should feel your eyebrows involuntarily rise when glancing over Cincy’s roster. Speed merchant Kekuta Manneh and and unmovable lunk Fanendo Adi join with Saeif to provide the kind of front line danger that can help the MLS newcomers overcome disorganized performances as they adjust to a new league.
Keep it simple
One standout attribute of FC Cincy’s play this season has been its simplicity. There isn’t a modern creative force in the squad, but there are a lot of players that are scary to defend 1v1. Adi is a massive presence in the box, Saeif is an all-around solid attacker and moves the ball quickly, and Manneh puts defenders on the back foot in a hurry. Behind them, the defense doesn’t mess around — this is no Columbus Crew system with a lot of build-up play.
It’ll be loud
Until their new stadium is complete, FC Cincinnati is setting up at Nippert Stadium, and after blowing out Portland in their first MLS home match the place will be rocking for Philly’s visit. Thus far, the Union have traveled to KC and Atlanta, two of the most raucous spots to play in MLS. Cincy will present a similarly wild atmosphere for Marco Fabián’s return to eligibility, and the Union will need to lean on their veteran to keep things calm as they look to earn a second straight win.
Philly meets FC Cincinnati for the first time at 7:30 p.m. on March 30, live on PHL17.