A month ago, FC Cincinnati had real momentum entering the first Hell Is Real derby of 2021. The Orange and Blue had racked up eight out of a possible nine points on a three-match, eight-day road trip. To paraphrase Reds’ infielder Eugenio Suarez, vibes were good—and they even improved after FCC went up 2-0 and Columbus went down a man in the 42nd minute in the first half. FC Cincinnati fans know the rest of the story: Columbus controlled the second half despite playing with 10 men, and a disappointing 2-2 draw was the result.
Since that fateful Saturday night, FC Cincinnati has gone six matches without a victory, including blowing two separate two-goal advantages in a loss to Montreal and once again failing to take advantage of an opponent’s red card in Saturday’s 0-0 draw vs. D.C. United. Moses Nyeman was shown a straight red in the 52nd after denying Brenner a clear goal-scoring chance, but FCC finished with just three shots on target. The Orange and Blue’s fifth draw of 2021 also made it six matches without a victory in TQL Stadium.
There’s no rest for the downtrodden though, as FC Cincinnati (14 points, 11th in the East) embarks on a rugged August slate that will determine whether the club hangs around—or, by some miracle, enters—the East playoff race or if it sinks back into the East basement. FCC stands just two points clear of last-place Inter Miami.
Here is FC Cincinnati’s August slate:
• Tonight at New York Red Bulls (18 points, 9th in East)
• Saturday vs. Orlando City (28 points, 2nd in East)
• August 18 vs. Montreal (22 points, 7th in East)
• August 21 at New England (36 points, 1st in East)
• August 27 at Columbus (24 points, 6th in East)
That’s four matches vs. teams presently in East playoff positions. FC Cincinnati has played four of those teams five total times (one win, one draw, three losses), with the surprising omission being tonight’s opponent. The Red Bulls are in a rut themselves, winless over their past four matches and six of their last seven. They suffered a particularly cruel setback at home over the weekend, conceding in the 84th and 91st minute to blow a 2-1 lead against New England, who lead the Supporters’ Shield race.
As for the other squads, FC Cincinnati were blown away 3-0 by Orlando on May 1, including surrendering a first-minute goal; rallied past Montreal 2-1 (in Ft. Lauderdale) on May 22 before the aforementioned collapse in Montreal last month; were edged 1-0 by New England on May 29; and suffered the disheartening draw vs. Columbus on July 9.
Draws will suffice in many of these matches, but a victory on the road tonight would provide a confidence boost against a squad FC Cincinnati is very familiar with, having played Red Bulls three times in 2020, nabbing a pair of wins—one in the MLS Is Back group stage and one last September. FCC will likely face Frankie Amaya for the first time. Cincinnati’s No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 SuperDraft was shipped to New York after requesting a trade this past offseason. Amaya has appeared in 14 NYRB games in 2021 (nine starts), notching one goal and one assist.
There’s been a bit of news recently around FC Cincinnati, most notably that TQL Stadium will host the U.S. men’s national team’s World Cup qualifying match vs. Mexico on November 12. It’s the first time since 1997, a span of five matches—including four wins by the Americans, all by a 2-0 score—that the U.S. will play its home World Cup qualifier against Mexico outside of Columbus. The Americans are coming off a tremendous summer, having won the Nations League and Gold Cup in title matches against Mexico.
There’s also been some roster movement, too, with center back Tom Pettersson moving on to a club in Norway; FC Cincinnati ending forward Franko Kovacevic’s loan and sending him back to German club TSG Hoffenheim; and Arquimides Ordonez recently becoming the first product of FC Cincinnati’s academy to appear in a MLS match, when the 17-year-old played 16 minutes in the team’s 3-0 loss to Nashville. The exits of Pettersson and Kovacevic are notable because they could be precursors to a roster addition or two prior to the closing of MLS’s Secondary Transfer Window tomorrow.