Updated: May 7
Starters: Roman Celentano, Yerson Mosquera, Matthew Miazga, Nick Hagglund, Alvaro Barreal, Junior Moreno, Obinna Nwobodo, Raymon Gaddis, Luciano Acosta, Sergio Santos, Brandon Vazquez
Subs: Alec Kann, Alvas Powell, Ian Murphy, Joey Akpunonu, Yuya Kubo, Malik Pinto, Dominique Badji,
Arquímides Ordóñez, Brenner
Santiago Arias (thigh)
Starter: Tyler Miller, Victor Palsson, Derrick Williams, Donovan Pines, Andy Najar, Mateusz Klich, Russell Canouse, Lewis O’Brien, Jacob Greene, Christian Benteke, Taxiarchis Fountas.
Subs: Alex Bono, Matai Akinmboni, Brendan Hines-Ike, Jackson Hopkins, Yamil Asad, Chris Durkin, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Eric Hurtado, Cristian Dájome
Captain: Russell Canouse
FC Cincinnati - Pat Noonan
The FC Cincinnati Head Coach is a former MLS player who played for the New England Revolution the Columbus Crew, the Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders. He ended his playing career with the LA Galaxy, and transitioned to being an Assistant Coach under Bruce Arena. Noonan had two coaching stints under current Arena, one the most successful and well-known soccer coach in U.S. history. The first ran from 2013-16 at LA Galaxy, and the second was with the U.S. Men’s National Team in 2017. After that Noonan moved to Philadelphia where he learned under Jim Curtain for three seasons before accepting the Head Coaching position with FC Cincinnati. He has steadily become one of the best young Head Coaches in the league.
He utilizes a counterattack strategy based on strong defensive fundamentals, and constant pressure, very similar to Red Bull energy drink play. His team has become a strong defensive team with five clean sheets in league play, and only allowed multiple goals in a single match. He will be a good test for Rooney and United.
DC United - Wayne Rooney
DC’s Gaffer has not only improved the play on the field, but has improved the sense of camaraderie and teamwork. Rooney continues to promote the idea of playing with courage and on the front foot, yet at the same time patience and calmness on the ball, so they can maintain control of the game. Through the last month his coaching has begun to pay dividends in both scoring and defense. This has allowed Rooney’s team to seek a fifth straight win across all competitions.
Keys to the Match:
Can DC play the big boys of the East? Some have looked at United’s run of form and pointed out that it’s been against lesser teams. That can’t be said about this week’s opponent. FCC are points-level (21) with the New England Revolution, not only for the top of the Eastern Conference, but also for the Supporters’ Shield. If DC can go to southern Ohio and get a result, it will go a long way in changing the perception of the team.
Can they do it? The short answer is yes. The team has shown a lot of improvement across the board this season. Players have upped their individual performance as the team has shown better coordination and consistency. Yet even when the team was in a slump, they showed a lot of potential, but needed to reduce the individual mistakes. Now that those mistakes are fewer, the end results have been much better. It should be remembered that while DC did lose to the Revolution, it went toe-to-toe with them, and only a shot that deflected off two defenders was the difference between a draw and the loss.
Can DC handle the opening 20 minutes? United’s run of form has been impressive, but not perfect. The opening of matches has seen the Black & Red on the back foot and a bit frazzled in defending. Against Charlotte FC there were numerous clearances by defenders that either went out of bounds or worse directly to an opponent. It was similar to starts in Montreal and Orlando. Eventually in each match the Black & Red grew into the game and were able to dominate the second half, still it only happened because United survived the opening of the match.
Against FC Cincinnati there’s a better than average chance that this will happen again. If DC is to get the win they must mitigate slow starts. FC Cincinnati have not conceded after the 60th minute this season, so it would be helpful for DC to start on the front foot.
Can DC defend the set piece? FC Cincinnati’s Yerson Mosquera scored last week with a header off a corner kick.
The 22-year-old defender was acquired on loan from Wolves. He has been a big addition to the FC Cincinnati backline, and also scored the winner in the 1-0 victory over Inter Miami. In a game that could see few goals, it is important that DC not concede on a set piece.
Who makes the team? The Black & Red are getting healthier and have some new additions, so some talented players might not even make the bench. The expectation is that players like Kristian Fletcher might not make the bench. It will be interesting to see if Cristian Dájome is available.
Since Birnbaum and Santos are unavailable there’s an expectation that Matai Akinmboni will be on the bench, as he’s capable of playing both the Center Back and Left Fullback positions. Another factor that Wayne Rooney has to consider is that DC United play the New York Red Bulls mid-week. Even with an expected rotated squad, Rooney will want to watch minutes to make sure he has a strong team available to him.
How will Lucho play against his former team?
Former DC United attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta has returned to MLS and quickly made himself one of the most exciting and electric players in the league.
Last season he had eleven goals and twelve assists while he raised his all-round game. The final days of Acosta’s time with DC United were a bit acrimonious, and so he does seem to up his game against the Black & Red. It will be important for DC United to contain the dangerous ball of attacking soccer to have a chance at getting a result.
Things to Watch:
Offense - Christian Benteke and Taxi Fountas represent one of the more dynamic forward tandems in MLS. The attack will go through Benteke, with Taxi, O’Brien and Klitch playing off of him.
DC United will continue with an over-the-top attack strategy that takes advantage of Christian Benteke’s unique abilities; how well they do this will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. People have focused on United’s proclivity for the long ball, because it has been so effective for the team. Last week Benteke won fifteen aerial duels, and he might well be the most dominant physical presence in the league.
However, DC United isn’t overly reliant on that particular strategy. They will also move the ball quickly up the pitch with quick accurate passing. A big part of this is how well Andy Najar, Mateusz Klich, Russell Canouse, and Lewis O’Brien play together. All four of these players have tremendous control, and the ability to dribble the ball forward. Unfortunately Pedro Santos picked up a knock, and won’t be available for this game, so the team will be down one player in the ball control department.
Taxi is the perfect partner with Christian Benteke at the top. The two continue to play well off each other, and they have had chances. Both have scored in the past two weeks, and their confidence seems to grow with each one.
It will be interesting if Ruan is again played more forward. Ruan as a wing forward, where his speed and ability to run at defenders is most useful, has been the most valuable for the Red & Black.
Ted Ku-DiPietro and Cristian Dájome will most likely come off the bench, to give each time on the pitch as a warmup for the US Open Cup.
Defense - The big question for the Black & Red is can United keep their defensive form with two new starters? DC United has allowed just three goals in the month of April, but two of the players who have helped attain that improvement have been ruled out for Saturday: Steve Birnbaum and winger Pedro Santos. Both have been instrumental in helping the team defend better, but are also backed up by high quality substitutes. Derrick Williams has shown he can be as good a defender as Birnbaum, and might be an upgrade in passing efficiency out of the back. Jacob Greene, if he gets the start, won’t have the ball control or ability to advance the ball, but is a better one-on-one defender.
The way DC United chooses to defend is to be very patient and maintain their positional shape. They will press, but at specific times, when the moment is right. That will be important as FC Cincinnati has a host of dangerous players. The Black & Red are well acquainted with Luciano Acosta, who though he only has one goal and two assists, is always dangerous, and sure to be up for this game.
The United defense have a good opportunity in this match to continue their strong run of play. FC Cincinnati still has a potentially dangerous attack, but it hasn’t been quite so prolific as it was last season. For example the Orange & Blue earned a 1-1 draw last week against the New England Revolution. In that match FC Cincinnati took five fewer shots, seven compared to twelve by the Revs, with only Acosta’s missed penalty truly goal dangerous. It took a well placed header from defender Yerson Mosquera on a corner kick to score a goal. FC Cincinnati has played a lot of one goal games this season, scoring multiple goals in only three matches, but they also haven’t been held scoreless save for the second match of the season.
In the Gaffer’s words: “I think obviously he [Christian Benteke] wants to be here. And his attitude has been first class, and it was important getting him in the end of last season to, you know, get settled in with the club, the league, with his teammates, and then knowing that hopefully he could start well. To have a full preseason to start well this season. He’s been great, but also the rest of his game is a real handful for defenders to deal with. He holds the ball up, and brings other players into play. So he’s started the season really well for us, and we just hope that he continues to do that.”
“It’s great that we’ve got so many young players at the start of their careers who were really impressing, and get an opportunity to play them, and make a career for themselves. You know I said this last year, the young players will get an opportunity, they will get a chance to be around the first team on a daily basis and then obviously get opportunities on match day. Of course we have to be careful with them and we can’t play them in every game and at every minute, because they are young players and we have to protect them as well. But on the time they get on the field, it’s upon them to make the most of it. And Greene in the previous game and he come on to help us see the game out, but also if moments like his goal arrived, and make sure he takes them, and I think you can see the celebrations from everyone after he scored, what it meant to Greenie first of all, but then to his teammates, and to the staff and to the club, when you have a young player from the area to score a goal or make an impact, it means a lot more than it does, for you know, obviously one of the foreign players coming in.”
“I think that Cincinnati is a good team, and obviously they play a 5-2-1-2, intend to get the ball forward quickly to the two forwards and try to isolate in the channel with one v one situations. We know we’re in for a very difficult game and we’ll certainly have to be at our best getting in and out of the game. But it’s a challenge for us, and we’ve prepared for it. And we know what our game plan is, and I feel if we execute our game plan we can do well.”
By the Numbers:
DC United have scored 14 goals and conceded 13 in 10 matches
DC United score an average of 1.4 goals per game with a conversion rate of 12%
DC United create an average of 1.5 chances per game and miss an average of 0.7 chances per game
DC United take an average of 11.6 shots per game and an average of 4. 3 shots on target per game
DC United take an average of 4.1 corners per game and concede an average of 1.3 goals per game
DC United’s 13 goals conceded (1.3 per game) rank 17th in the league
DC United’s goal differential of +1 is 11th in MLS
DC United has 14 goals in 10 games this season (7th in MLS)
Christian Benteke has scored 5 goals (fourth in league)
Mateusz Klich has 1 goal and 4 assists
Taxi Fountas has scored 2 goals and 0 assists
DC United have 7 players with 1 goal apiece
Tyler Miller has kept 3 clean sheets
FC Cincinnati (6-1-3, 21 POINTS) is 2ND Eastern Conference
FC Cincinnati rank 9th in MLS in goals scored with 13 (1.3 per game)
FC Cincinnati has surrendered 11 goals, 11th in the league
FC Cincinnati has +2 goal differential this season, which ranks 9th in MLS
FC Cincinnati create an average of 2.4 chances per game and miss an average of 1.7 chances per game.
FC Cincinnati take an average of 11.6 shots per game and an average of 4. 8 shots on target per game.
FC Cincinnati take an average of 3.6 corners per game
FC Cincinnati’s Sergio Santos has 4 goals (12th in league) and one assist.
Luciano Acosta has 1 goal and 2 assists
Junior Moreno has provided 2 goals and 1 assist
Alvaro Barreal has zero goals, but 3 assists (on 13 chances created, 1.3 per game)
Roman Celentano has kept 5 clean sheets for the Orange & Blue
1-1 draw at the Queen City. The Black & Red’s win streak comes to an end, but the undefeated streak continues as they continue to play with confidence and fun. On the other hand the Blue & Orange have only suffered 1 defeat in all 10 matches they’ve played, so picking up a draw would not be a bad result. FC Cincinnati is winless 0-3-2 record against United at home, I predict that continues.
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Written by: RJ Rolsen