FC Cincinnati’s Trophy Quest Resumes on Saturday

Seven matches separate FCC and the overall No. 1 seed for October’s and November’s MLS playoffs.
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FC Cincinnati’s two-week break expires with a road match Saturday night at the Philadelphia Union. Here’s a round-up of Orange and Blue-related nuggets as the lads resume their pursuit of silverware….

All legs on deck

Not only does FC Cincinnati have just seven matches remaining, but those seven tilts are spread out across 35 days, with the final foray of the regular season taking place October 21 at TQL Stadium vs. Atlanta. Compare that to the five-matches-in-14-days stretch prior to the break, and ample recuperation time exists between matches for a squad that’s already played 35 times in 2023.

Another positive development: FC Cincinnati should have a full complement of players on Saturday. Yerson Mosquera appeared in the loss to Orlando as a substitute following a near-two-week absence. Among MLS leaders in interceptions, Mosquera should be ready to go 90 minutes, providing needed pace and passing acumen on the back line.

Saturday should also mark the return of Dominique Badji, who’s missed over two months with a quad injury. The veteran striker filled in nicely in the absence of Brenner (transfer) and Brandon Vazquez (international duty) through the first part of the summer slate, scoring four times in eight games from May 27 through July 1. Badji’s return adds a touch of physicality and hold-up play off the bench that isn’t provided through the speed-first play of Sergio Santos.

A rival loses its coach

Bruce Arena, the all-time winningest coach in league history, is out in New England. He resigned over the weekend in the wake of an investigation to determine whether Arena made insensitive and inappropriate remarks. He’s the father of FC Cincinnati assistant coach Kenny Arena.

The league’s investigation confirmed “certain” allegations against Bruce Arena, who had been on administrative leave since July 30. Details have been sparse since Arena was first put on leave, but The Athletic reported that Richie Williams, New England’s assistant-coach-turned-interim-head-coach, filed complaints that were part of the investigation into Arena’s conduct.

The episode took another turn on Tuesday, with Revolution players refusing to train and then meeting with the team president, coaching staff, and interim general manager—all separately. At the end of the day, a new interim head coach was named and two assistant coaches were dismissed.

Miami wins without Messi, inches closer to playoff spot

At least for one match, Inter Miami proved it could survive with Lionel Messi. A 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City over the weekend moved Miami to within six points of the ninth and final postseason berth in the East.

The Herons have eight league matches remaining to move into the playoff picture. “If” is slowly becoming “when” to fulfill this scenario, which would be an unwelcome sight for FC Cincinnati, the likely Supporters’ Shield holders. The winner of the No. 8/No. 9 seed best-of-2 Wild Card Round advances to play the No. 1 seed in a best-of-3 Round One series. At this point, Orange and Blue fans should root for Messi and Miami to win out and claim the No. 6 or No. 7 seed, which would see Cincinnati avoid Miami until a potential East final.

I admit I’m projecting very far into the future. Beginning on Saturday, Miami will play seven times in 21 days, including the U.S. Open Cup final on September 27. And all but one of the Herons’ remaining contests take place against a team either currently in the East playoff field or within four points of the final slot—including a visit from FC Cincinnati on October 7.

Next up: Philly

For the first time in nearly 11 months, FC Cincinnati returns to the site of last season’s Eastern Conference semifinal loss. Philadelphia’s 1-0 victory is its lone triumph over Cincinnati over the team’s past four meetings. The Orange and Blue notched a draw and a 3-1 home win over Philly during the 2022 regular season and edged the Union 1-0 in early April at TQL Stadium.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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