FC Cincinnati were the darlings of the soccer world thanks to a dream run in the U.S. Open Cup several years ago and its rapid ascension from the second division to MLS. But the growing pains of first-division football caught up: a slow start led it to reboot its personnel on the sideline and in the front office, with an eye toward putting 2019 in the rearview mirror and building toward the next several years.
As Atlanta United prepare for tonight’s matchup against FC Cincinnati, I had a chance to connect with Bryan Weigel, a writer at Cincinnati Soccer Talk, to take a look back at the club’s performance in year 1, what’s next, and how an old friend is doing as his first season with his new team comes to a close.
1. It’s been a struggle for FCC this season as it appears destined to finish at the bottom of the league table in its first year in MLS. How does the team move forward, not just in these last few matches but in 2020 and beyond?
The first step to move forward after the dismissal of Head Coach Alan Koch was the appointments of GM Gerard Nijkamp and Coach Ron Jans. They have been tasked with identifying the building blocks currently on the roster that can build toward the new stadium in 2021. Jans has been experimenting in the midfield as that has been a big area of concern. #1 overall pick Frankie Amaya has been impressive but not to the level where he can lead an MLS team to a playoff berth. Box-to-box midfielder Allan Cruz is someone who would be considered a top player in that role if he was on a playoff team. Caleb Stanko and TAM player Leo Bertone have been huge disappointments this season and I foresee one will leave the club this winter. The striker role will need to be addressed in the offseason as Fanendo Adi has had a host of issues on and off the field while Darren Mattocks has underperformed and is now lost for the year. Nijkamp and Jans have a long leash for 2020, but they will need to see improvement going into the new West End stadium.
2. Frank de Boer will obviously know Ron Jans from when the two coached against each other in the Eredivisie in the Netherlands. How have the players taken to Jans in his time with the club, and what tactical mindset does he have as opposed to Alan Koch?
Jans may be one of the most popular people in Cincinnati right now. His joyful and bubbly persona is in stark contrast to Koch’s serious demeanor. The players seem to have liked his style which is similar to the Dutch 4-3-3 total football mentality. Koch consistently juggled his structure and tactics while Jans has stayed true to his proven methods. It was common for Koch to call out a player and then see that player disappear while Jans calls out a player (Mattocks last week), then sees that player have an inspired performance the following week. There are still plenty of ingredients missing on FCC but the group seems to be taking to the new philosophy.
3. Greg Garza is still a player looked upon fondly by Atlanta fans and will be a favorite long after his career is over. While he hasn’t logged a great deal of time with FCC due to injury despite starting the last three matches, what has he been able to provide this club?
Garza has for sure been one of the more quiet players on FCC this season. Much of their plans going into the year were to have the left back bomb up that side and play balls into playmaking midfielder Kenny Saief (loan expired) or target man Fanendo Adi. Neither of the three played many minutes while all were looked as 3 key cogs for FCC. Garza has done many good things in the community and has interacted well with the fans. With the arrival of Andrew Gutman many questioned whether Garza would remain at FCC for 2020. I’m still not sure he will, however I wouldn’t blame him if he asked to leave. Not sure I would want to be part of this rebuild process at this stage in his career.