FC Cincinnati Hits Another Low in Orlando

A week off will do the struggling club good as it readies to open TQL Stadium on May 14.

Last week, I politely requested that FC Cincinnati simply be “competitive” against Orlando City for 90 minutes over the weekend. Not too much to ask of a Major League Soccer team, right? Instead, FCC treated me and everyone else watching to tomfoolery right from the start, with the Orange and Blue gifting the hosts a goal via a misplaced backwards pass just over 30 seconds into the match.

Final: Orlando 3, FC Cincinnati 0. Another week, another low point for the club that seemingly has an end-of-season date with the MLS basement once more—a position FC Cincinnati already holds in the Eastern Conference.

In the wake of the 5-0 drubbing at the hands of New York City FC, team owner Carl Lindner III publicly backed head coach Jaap Stam and General Manager Gerard Nijkamp, but noted that FC Cincinnati posting a winning record and “possibly being in playoff contention” are “reasonable expectations” for the team. As for Stam, he said he was going to stay the course in his tactics despite not having the roster to execute that vision.

Through three games, FC Cincinnati have been outshot 76-27 (28-7 on target), and since taking a 2-0 lead in the season opener vs. Nashville they’ve surrendered 10 consecutive goals without reply. And FCC didn’t even have to deal with striker Daryl Dike last weekend; Orlando has loaned him to EFL Championship side (second division) Barnsley, and he’s one of the most in-form strikers in England right now. After scoring eight goals in 2020 with Orlando, Dike has notched nine goals in 18 appearances since joining Barnsley in February, helping vault the team from 12th to sixth and into the playoffs for promotion to the Premier League. Imagine how much worse the scoreline would have been with Dike and the ageless Nani toying with FCC’s defense.

A lone bright spot for FC Cincinnati was the club debut of Isaac Atanga, a Ghanian winger acquired in March from Danish first-division side FC Nordsjaelland. He’s expected to add some pace to the wings. Center back Gustavo Velecilla, on loan from Ecuadorian club SD Aucas, made the bench for the first time after clearing the necessary protocols.

I’m quite frankly running out of words to describe FC Cincinnati’s present ineptitude. Last Sunday, former FCC player and fan favorite Emmanuel Ledesma pleaded with fans to stick by the players’ side, tweeting that the players “need us more than ever.” I think the players could use MLS-level midfield and center back reinforcements more than blind fan support, but that’s one writer’s opinion.

An open week is coming for FC Cincinnati at precisely the right time. The club badly needs Lucho Acosta to get healthy, and perhaps some low-pressure practice time will be exactly what the soccer doctors ordered for FCC.

The club’s next match is the grand opening of TQL Stadium on Sunday, May 16 vs. Inter Miami, which has 4 points in three matches. The match will be broadcast nationally on Fox. Next week I’ll dive more into the stadium, which stands as both a physical marvel and a symbol of polarization in Cincinnati.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the managing editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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