In this edition of Oppo Research, Hudson River Blue spoke with Bryan Weigel of Cincinnati Soccer Talk to catch up with the latest on FC Cincinnati, New York City FC’s opponent on Matchday 26 when they face off at TQL Stadium in the Queen City. Here is your NYCFC vs Cincinnati preview.
1. Unbothered by losses
Hudson River Blue: FC Cincinnati have dropped three games in a row to three tough opponents: They lost to Lionel Messi and Inter Miami in penalties in the US Open Cup semis, lost 3-0 to Columbus Crew in the Hell is Real derby, and lost in penalties to Nashville SC in Leagues Cup play. What’s the vibe in Cincinnati?
Bryan Weigel: The vibe in Cincinnati is still strong, but maybe not as strong as in May and June when the club was undefeated in ten straight. FCC was missing key defender Matt Miazga and forward Brandon Vazquez in late June and early July due to Gold Cup duty and I think the whole group is still working back to get to their earlier level of play. Even though the club fell to Miami Wednesday night, the quality of the Starting XI was apparent, so that leaves me less worried. Focus, thankfully, will now be directed back at league play, and I believe the team is still playing at a level that can obtain the 2023 MLS Supporters Shield.
2. Yerson Mosquera back in defense?
HRB: Roman Celentano has a save percentage of 71.1 and earned nine clean sheets — that’s the second-most in MLS. Is it good goalkeeping? Or good defense?
BW: Roman Celentano is a very good goalkeeper, but being dubbed the next Gaga Slonina-type starlet may have been premature. His shot-stopping abilities are outstanding, but he sometimes has issues controlling his penalty area. The biggest issue in his game is distribution, so teams have tried to press him and create turnovers.
In my opinion, the defense of FCC has been very good when both Matt Miazga and Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Yerson Mosquera are in the back three. Yerson has been out due to injury, but might be available Saturday. His quickness, size, talent, and passing ability are all well above average in MLS and FCC could have really used him Wednesday vs Leo Campana.
3. Lucho Acosta’s MVP-caliber season
HRB: Luciano Acosta has had a stellar season so far, scoring 12 goals and providing six assists. He is in the Golden Boot race, trailing Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar. Is he the biggest threat NYCFC should be worried about on Saturday?
BW: Lucho Acosta in my opinion has been the MVP of the 2023 MLS season. His 12 league goals and 6 assists are more impressive due to the fact he has spent so much time playing without Vazquez or the now-departed Brenner. We are still waiting for an update, but Acosta did leave the match after 80’ Wednesday and that is very uncommon for him. If he plays, yes, he is your biggest threat. If not, look at the attacking combo of Vazquez and new DP forward Aaron Boupendza with Wednesday hero Yuya Kubo distributing the ball.
4. The X-factor: Obinna Nwobodo
HRB: What’s the X-factor that could decide this game?
BW: I hate to bring up an intangible quantity as an X-factor, but I think it is mentality. How does the group respond following the Columbus drubbing and heartbreak on Wednesday? One saving grace from Wednesday is that it appears Pat Noonan had an eye out for Saturday, pulling his attacking three early. If those guys have their head on straight and are aggressive, I feel very good.
A second X-factor will be the replacement for DP Obinna Nwobodo. The Nigerian midfielder to me is the best #6 in the league. He will be out due to yellow card accumulation this weekend. Will Noonan integrate the more attacking Kubo or will he start U22 initiative designee Marco Angulo? Angulo looks great one match, but then will have a night like Wednesday when you question his drive and talent. Allowing space to the talent NYCFC have would be a big problem.
5. Predicted FC Cincinnati Starting XI
HRB: Prediction time: Starting XI? Final score?
BW: I think the final score will be a 2-1 win for FCC, but things are not coming easy at the moment. How are the team’s legs following the heavy minutes vs Miami? I would expect squad rotation with Arias going the full duration, but the attacking core should remain the same unless Lucho has a knock.