FC Cincinnati’s Season Descends Further into Hell

A poorly constructed roster, plus national team duty, comes back to bite FC Cincinnati.

Pick your meme and/or gif. A dumpster fire. The “this is fine” dog. McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” face. Any of them would be an appropriate summation of FC Cincinnati’s debut season so far in Major League Soccer.

For the sixth straight match and the 11th time in 12 games, FC Cincinnati lost. The latest setback was a 7-1 fish slapping at the hands of Minnesota United over the weekend. The seven goals allowed were a club record and equaled a 2019 high for an MLS team. After taking seven points from its first four league matches, FC Cincinnati has tallied just four (four!) points over its past 13 contests and has been outscored 37-8 over that span. I seem to remember Jeff Berding saying something about accountability after he publicly dismembered Alan Koch.

Last Saturday, FC Cincinnati controlled the first 25 minutes, capped off by rookie forward Rashawn Dally’s excellent turn versus two defenders in the box, which deserved a better result than a tipped save off the woodwork. But, despite its positive play, FCC trailed 2-0 at the end of that stretch. The hosts scored their first goal off a set piece that began with a needless handball outside the box by Eric Alexander. Center back Justin Hoyte’s failed clearance on the free kick was then punched in by Ike Opara. The second goal by Minnesota defender Hassani Dotson was equal parts spectacular (what a hit from distance!) and disappointing (Dotson had acres of space to run into that shot without obstacle).

The fourth and final goal of the half was a tidy encapsulation of FC Cincinnati’s disastrous season. Emmanuel Ledesma lost possession after an aimless sequence of dribbles, which gave way to an unobstructed transition deep into FCC territory by Minnesota, which led to Darwin Quintero deking three FCC defenders with his layoff to Angelo Rodriguez, who calmly finished off the goal.

What were the key ingredients to the latest blowout loss? Start with a roster that was imbalanced and lacking depth from the jump. Then add in injuries to top players, key regulars missing lately on international duty, and Leonardo Bertone being unavailable Saturday due to suspension for yellow card accumulation, and the result was FC Cincinnati’s hot mess of a 16-man roster (two short of the allowed 18) for Saturday’s game. Caleb Stanko, a midfielder, started at right back. Dally started at forward, but in reality he should still be on loan. Hoyte started at center back for the seventh consecutive league game; the 34-year-old should be glued to the bench and dispensing wisdom gleaned from his days playing for Arsenal. FCC’s bench included a backup goalkeeper, two rookies, and two career minor leaguers. Midfielder Tommy McCabe, another rookie who should be on loan, made his debut Saturday.

Reminder: This is not supposed to be a USL team anymore. Every MLS side goes through injuries and deals with international absences. And now, because FC Cincinnati’s roster decision-makers fumbled the offseason, players who should still be in the USL, MLS backups, and on loan—excluding the lovely Frankie Amaya—are logging major minutes for this team.

FC Cincinnati is steamrolling toward one of the worst seasons in recent league history. They’re on pace for 22 points, which would put the Orange and Blue in rarefied misery with the 2018 San Jose Earthquakes (21 points); 2013 D.C. United (16 points, setting a record for fewest wins, three, but somehow winning the U.S. Open Cup); and 2012 Toronto FC (23 points).

The lone positive development for FC Cincinnati from this weekend was that Allan Cruz and Kendall Waston, two typical starters, will return for this weekend’s home match vs. Houston. The duo’s Costa Rican squad exited the Gold Cup in crushing fashion, falling to Mexico in penalties. FCC could still be without defender Alvas Powell and striker Darren Mattocks, whose Jamaican side advanced to face the United States on Wednesday in the Gold Cup semifinals thanks to Mattocks’ converted penalty.

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

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