Attendance attendance? Attendance attendance attendance attendance attendance? I caught up with Cincinnati Soccer Talk Content Director Bryan Weigel for the latest. Follow him on Twitter and keep up with the latest attendance happenings at CST.
For Club and Country: For all its reputation as a team with a great home-field advantage, Cincinnati has actually performed better on the road this year. Is that just an anomaly (from having played healthy version of Louisville at home, mostly), or is there some road magic Nashville will have to worry about Saturday?
Bryan Weigel: I don’t mean for this to sound like I am making excuses for the players, but I really feel that several of them took a while to get used to the atmosphere at Nippert. Having 25,000+ screaming fans right on top of the pitch was a new experience for many of them and I do believe they have adapted well. I don’t believe the atmosphere at Nissan will impact FCC.
Statistically FCC has scored on avg. 2.25 goals per game at Nippert while conceding 1.25 gpg. On the road FCC has scored nearly 2 per match at 1.89 gpg will conceding 1.22 gpg. They are pretty consistent ever since their shift to employ two strikers away from a lone forward. Playing an in-form Louisville twice early on was not ideal. FCC was still working out the midfield and left the back four open to the attack on several occasions.
FCAC: Most USL fans have become familiar with Danni Konig and Manu Ledesma thanks to plenty of highlight-reel plays over the course of the year. Who are some of the other guys to watch on Saturday?
BW: I call FCC’s attacking-trio of Manu Ledesma, Danni Konig and midfielder Nazmi Albadawi our “big-three”. These players have accounted for 23 goals and 10 assists. Nazmi came into camp with a knock, but has since found his stride scoring a goal in each of the last four matches. The CAM, struggled early on trying to figure out his role on the field, but recently has been the key to FCC’s unbeaten June. If he can unlock the defense there might be a high scoring game. Also look out for who will replace the injured Richie Ryan. Arguably the most important player for FCC, Ryan would play the ball from the back line forward as well as setting the defensive shape of the team. The high-profile midfielder will likely not feature Saturday and it could be up to Michael Lahoud to keep the group organized.
FCAC: Meanwhile, the defense hasn’t been as stout as the offense has prolific. Is that a matter of sending numbers forward to score? Personnel?
BW: While the defense isn’t rated at the top of the conference, it still ranks right in the middle with 21 goals conceded over the year. In my opinion, FCC’s biggest issue has been dealing with the counter this season (including Toronto). Fast, athletic squads have applied pressure on the midfield when Cincinnati is in possession and has put the back line into bad situations. Left-back Blake Smith normally bombs up the left side of the pitch and that is traditionally where teams have tried to exploit FCC. Look for FCC to ease their way into matches now to try and not concede early, it may hurt overall goal production, but should allow the Orange & Blue to give up cheap goals.
FCAC: What has been the difference in tone around Cincinnati without the deep US Open run this year? Has it diminished the excitement at all, or just allowed the team and supporters to focus on the regular season?
BW: Playing three matches in the Open Cup is always exciting. The ability to host Minnesota was great for “casual” fans and brought some additional buzz like last season. Losing in penalties was unfortunate, but I would argue the club actually played better in that match than the two wins vs. MLS clubs in 2017. The USOC is a bonus and our fans are intelligent in knowing that was a rare accomplishment for a D2 club. FCC is averaging nearly 20% more fans in 2018 compared to 2017, so I would say the excitement for USL clubs is still very high.
FCAC: What are keys to the game for FCC Saturday?
BW: Score EARLY! FC Cincinnati will need to ease into the game, but the quality of Konig, Ledesma, or Albadawi must shine early. Even if FCC isn’t playing well, on of those three have the talent to make a goal from nothing. The FCC defense will also need to force the NSC attack wide as much as possible. Brandon Allen is a goal poacher and the less chances he gets, the better for Cincinnati. The big center backs of FCC (Keinan and Lasso) should be able to Allen is all he gets are crosses.
FCAC: (If it’s not too early) Do you have a projected XI for the game? Any other specific predictions (including a score)?
BW: Prediction 1-1
4-4-2 “Diamond – Sometimes looks like a 4-3-1-2
Smith Lasso Keinan Hoyte
Thanks again to Bryan for his input on FCC. Follow him on Twitter to keep up with attendance and other related matters.