Real Salt Lake are back on the road this week. This time, they face MLS newcomers FC Cincinnati. Cinci are 7th in the east, sitting on 8 points. The team has managed 2 wins, 3 losses, and 2 draws, bringing them to 1.14 points per game. They’ve scored 8 goals this season, but strangely each goal has come from a different player. We spoke to Michael Walker of Orange & Blue Press to get some insight ahead of Friday’s game.
FC Cincinnati are seven games into their MLS era — how would you rate those their performance coming into the league? Has it matched expectations?
By most local standards FC Cincinnati have exceed expectations so far, especially when you consider the quality of their opponents. Similar to RSL, they’ve faced some talented teams early including the Sounders, LAFC, Sporting KC, and Atlanta United. They collected 7 points from their first four matches when many predicted them to lose the first three. However, after only collecting one point in the last three weeks, things aren’t quite as rosy. They’ve dropped to seventh in the East and the 1.14 points per game clip they are running at won’t be good enough for a playoff spot. It’s early days though, and the opponents will get easier. The good news is that both teams will be targeting maximum points on Friday, so hopefully, we’ll see an exciting match.
Is Fanendo Adi still suspended? How has his DUI impacted the team?
Yes, he is still suspended. He was assessed after the OVI (Ohio-speak for DUI) incident through MLS’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) Program. He is back in Cincinnati this week and the past two days he has been doing conditioning and rehab (for an ankle injury) alongside the team, but he is not allowed to fully participate. He is not expected to be available Friday.
Head coach Alan Koch said at training on Tuesday. “It’s such a grey area, we’re waiting for the situation to get resolved first before we can do any preparations with him.”
As a team with a roster built first to be solid in defense, losing the team’s main striker and primary DP is a big blow. There are other players capable of supporting the attack and they’ve scored 5 of their 8 goals without him in the lineup, but FC Cincinnati is clearly “thin” up front without Adi.
Where have the goals come from so far this year? Who are Cincinnati’s attacking threats?
FC Cincinnati have produced eight goals from eight different players. Especially with Adi out, there isn’t really a strong focal point to FC Cincinnati’s attack. The pacey Jamaican, Darren Mattocks, will lead the line and is the only other “true” forward on the team. Kekuta Manneh and Roland Lamah are legitimate attacking threats, but most of the front 6 players are capable of scoring. USMNT midfielder Kenny Saief was acquired in a late loan move and provides playmaking ability. RSL also has to be aware of Kendall Waston and Nick Hagglund, as both center backs are capable in the air on set pieces.
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