FC Cincinnati Moves on from an Agonizing April

O scoring, where art thou?
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One of the stereotypical complaints from Americans about soccer is the lack of scoring. Who wants to devote nearly two hours (90-plus minutes of live play and a 15-minute halftime) to a scoreless draw when one could alternatively be viewing the latest installment in the never-ending Marvel Cinematic Universe or gossiping about Game of Thrones bloodlust. Nevermind that many of these same people are content to waste three hours viewing a commercial-filled 12-9 Saints-Panthers Slappers Only barnburner on Monday Night Football.

 

But, I must say, after watching FC Cincinnati go the entire month of April—a span of four games!—without scoring a goal from live play, I get it. All told, it’s been six full games since FCC’s last non-penalty kick goal, which was scored by Kenny Saief in the 65th minute of the club’s 2-0 victory over New England Revolution on March 24. And 431 minutes have elapsed since the Orange and Blue’s last goal period, a penalty converted by Darren Mattocks in the 19th minute of a 1-1 draw vs. Sporting KC on April 7.

Perhaps the more worrisome development is not just the lack of goals, but the dearth of shots, especially shots on target. For the former, FC Cincinnati is fifth-worst in Major League Soccer, though the four clubs below them on the list haven’t played as many games. More concerning is FCC’s shots on goal total of 28, tied for worst in the league with New England, their pit of misery mates in the Eastern Conference. (Atlanta and New York Red Bulls also have 8 points but have played seven and eight games, respectively. Both FCC and New England have played 10.)

It’s one thing not to dent the score scoreboard; it’s another to manufacture such a low number of scoring opportunities on a consistent basis. FC Cincinnati’s holdovers from the United Soccer League must feel as if they’re in Soccer Hell after the club paced the USL in goals in 2018. Regular readers of this space and viewers of FCC’s matches are well aware of this inherent defect and could have easily forecasted that goal scoring was likely to be a bugaboo given the preseason roster construction.

After the club’s 2-0 loss in Philadelphia midweek, head coach Alan Koch was quoted saying that FCC “need additional players” and noted that technical director Luke Sassano and his staff are endeavoring to find help, presumably before the current MLS transfer window closes on Tuesday. (The next transfer window won’t open until July 7.) Koch’s going public with his views is a curious tactic. I’m interested to know if he went to Sassano and/or General Manager Jeff Berding before making those comments. Letting the fans, the media and the rest of the world know that FCC is striving to improve its floundering on-field product is a plus for public accountability, but if the Orange and Blue’s fortunes continue to downslide, the person most likely to pay the price is Koch.

Record-wise, FC Cincinnati’s upcoming opponent on Saturday night, San Jose Earthquakes, aren’t impressive—just 8 points through nine matches. But the team is on a three-game unbeaten run, and their frenetic, unusual man-marking system could frazzle FCC. On the other hand, the helter-skelter style could provide the one-on-one matchups many of FCC’s speed-first, technique-second attacking players require to find the back of the net.

In any case, I hope the scoring drought ends soon. I’d rather not have to turn to MNF reruns.

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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