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MLS Team Guide: FC Cincinnati

Monday, April 5, 2021

Ahead of the 2021 MLS season, Richard Fleming introduces us to the teams set to face the Colorado Rapids. They make a first trip to FC Cincinnati this season, to tackle one of only three Eastern Conference teams on their schedule.

First season in MLS: 2019
Honors: None

Stadium: West End Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Head Coach: Jaap Stam (appointed, May 2020)

History with the Rapids
The history has been limited, with just one meeting since Cincinnati landed in the league at the start of 2019. That encounter came at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park on the first day of June 2019. Andre Shinyashiki scored the third of his rookie season for the opening goal just before halftime, only for Kekuta Manneh to equalize with 18 minutes remaining. Substitute Nicolas Mezquida restored the advantage a minute later, and Diego Rubio cemented the victory.

Head-to-head record: 1-0-0
Last meeting: W 3-1, 6/1/19 at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park

2020 Season
A second season for FC Cincinnati and another year in which they finished bottom of MLS. Their opening season produced just six wins and 24 points, 13 shy of the team above them in the Eastern Conference (Orlando City SC), and 10 behind the worst team in the Western Conference (Vancouver Whitecaps).

Jaap Stam - once a player with PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Lazio, Milan, Ajax, and the Netherlands – took over last May, becoming the club’s fourth head coach in their short MLS history.

He could not prevent them finishing last in the Supporters’ Shield standings for a second season, during which they scored a paltry 12 goals in 23 games. Overall, Cincinnati holds a 10-37-10 record in 57 MLS games, with only 43 goals for and 111 against!

Their top scorer last term was Yuya Kubo, with three. Brandon Vazquez (2) was the only other player to score more than once for the club. They went five games without a goal, from August 21 to September 6.

Though the early part of the season had been well below average, they finished the 2020 season with barely whimper, losing nine of their last 10. Their only win during that sorry run (1-9-0) was a 2-1 home victory over eventual MLS champions Columbus Crew. In those 10 games they scored just four times, and were shutout on seven occasions.

Offseason Highlights
FC Cincinnati certainly wielded the sword at the end of another desperately disappointing season, with at least 12 players departing (see below). At the time of writing, a number were still without new clubs, while others had dropped down a level to the USL Championship, suggesting they simply were not up to life in MLS.

The biggest name to depart during the offseason is that of former Tijuana and USA left-back, Greg Garza, an MLS Cup winner with Atlanta United as recently as 2018. The injury-plagued Garza made only nine appearances in 2020, starting seven of them.

Among the new signings is Luciano Acosta, who worked so well with Wayne Rooney when at D.C. United. Acosta had four seasons in D.C., in which he tallied 24 goals and 35 assists in 126 appearances. This includes an MLS career-high 10 goals and 17 assists in 2018.

Scoring was an issue in 2020, but they hope to remedy that with the arrival of Acosta, as well as Young Designated Player Brenner from Brazilian side Sao Paulo, and Ghanaian winger Isaac Atanga from Danish side FC Nordsjælland. Plus, earlier today, the Orange and Blue confirmed the arrival of central defender Gustavo Vallecilla on a one-year loan from Ecuadorian club SD Aucas.

There were some grumblings which surfaced during the offseason, as midfielder Frankie Amaya reportedly requested a trade. The club turned down offers for the 20-year-old, who was cut from the final US U23 squad ahead of the Olympic qualifying tournament. (UPDATE) He was finally traded to New York Red Bulls on April 20.

Players To Watch
Luciano Acosta: can Acosta – brought in on a Designated Player deal – reproduce the creative form which made him such a foil for Wayne Rooney when with D.C. United? Goodness knows, FC Cincinnati could do with a spark as they embark on their third season in MLS.

Isaac Atanga: this 20-year-old winge, according to most reports, is quick and comfortable in possession. He appears a little rough around the edges, getting into good opportunities but being a little loose in front of goal. Atanga has 12 goals and five assists in 58 appearances for Danish club side FC Nordsjælland, having emerged from the Right To Dream Academy in his native Ghana.

Brenner: a Young Designated Player, Brenner has been referred to at times as the ‘new Gabriel Jesus’ in Brazil. The 21-year-old scored 21 goals in 39 appearances in all competitions last season for Sao Paulo. He clearly comes with quite the reputation, but can he settle quickly in MLS?

In: Luciano Acosta (Atlas, Mexico), Isaac Atanga (FC Nordsjælland, Denmark), Brenner (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Cody Cropper (Houston Dynamo), Avionne Flanagan (MLS Superdraft), Ronald Matarrita (NYCFC), Ben Mines (NYRB), Gustavo Vallecilla (SD Aucas, Ecuador).

Out: Frankie Amaya (New York Red Bulls), Rashawn Dally, Siem de Jong (Heerenveen, Netherlands), Mathieu Deplagne, Bobby Edwards (Indy Eleven), Greg Garza, Andrew Gutman (NYRB), Tommy McCabe (Orange County SC), Jimmy McLaughlin (Louisville City), Hassan Ndam, Rey Ortiz, Spencer Richey (Seattle Sounders), Kendall Waston (Saprissa, Costa Rica).

Meeting in 2021:
June 19 (away)

Click HERE for the full Rapids schedule.

Did You Know?
In the only previous meeting with FC Cincinnati (6/1/19), Rapids defender Deklan Wynne limped off injured after 17 minutes after appearing to turn his ankle. His place was taken by Sam Vines. It would be Wynne’s last MLS appearance for the Rapids, who was released by the club at the end of 2020 and is now with Phoenix Rising of the USL Championship.

Labeled ‘the crown jewel of the Queen City’, West End Stadium will be the new home of FC Cincinnati in 2021. They play the first three games on the road, before opening their stadium with a home game against Inter Miami on May 16. The 26,000-capacity stadium – with safe-standing for over 3,000 fans – will welcome the Rapids on June 19, only the third game at the new venue.