After finishing second in the Group E, FC Cincinnati begin the MLS is Back Tournament Knockout Stage presented by Audi on Tuesday night when they face the Portland Timbers in the Round of 16.
Here are the key storylines ahead of kickoff:
Anything can happen
The Orange and Blue enter the matchup on a two-game winning streak after beating Atlanta United FC and the New York Red Bulls in their final two group-stage matches.
Now, they’re facing a Portland side that won Group F while playing against LAFC, the LA Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo.
“Anything can happen in the knockout phase,” Haris Medunjanin said. “It’s one game and it’s possible (to advance), especially if we play like this, compact and we fight for each other. Any team, we can make it difficult for them to get through us.”
The pressure is on … Portland
“We’re the underdog here,” Caleb Stanko said. “No one expected us to get any wins or goals or anything, and we’ve already proven that. I think all the pressure’s on Portland. They’re the ones that have to prove they deserve to be where they’re at … It’s a great feeling to be in the underdog position because we have nothing to lose here. We’ve already proved everyone wrong.”
After FC Cincinnati just beat two 2019 playoff teams in less than a week, the players said the pressure is on the Timbers to try to break down the Orange and Blue backline that’s produced two straight clean sheets.
“We had two wins in the group stage, two wins I’ve heard that not many expected us to win,” Tom Pettersson said. “We really have nothing to lose. One team will win this tournament, and it’s just about going out and doing the same kind of job that we did in the last game. It’s just about going out and enjoying the game.”
Stam: “We believe in ourselves”
FCC’s recent success can be attributed to multiple reasons, the least of which is confidence.
Since the team beat Atlanta with a back five, players and coaches and both said there’s a belief that their playing style is working and is the best for the team moving forward.
That’s crucial during the knockout stage, when the focus is on surviving and advancing in the tournament. But after two upset wins, there’s belief that form can continue.
“We believe in ourselves and what we can do,” head coach Jaap Stam said. “We’ve shown (that) the last couple of games and then hopefully we can progress that on Tuesday.”
Head coach Jaap Stam pumped the brakes on Jürgen Locadia playing Tuesday saying that FCC are being cautious with the Dutch forward as he recovers from a quad injury.
Additionally, Stam said Maikel van der Werff will be out multiple weeks with a groin injury. Van der Werff was substituted during the second half of the Atlanta win and was out during Cincinnati’s victory over New York.
FC Cincinnati vs. Portland Timbers
Kickoff: Tuesday, 10:30 p.m.
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports (Orlando, Fla.)
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 80 Degrees (80% Humidity)
Broadcast Stream Info: ESPN, ESPN Deportes and TSN
- Rey Ortiz made 16 appearances for the Portland Timbers Under-23 team from 2017-19.
- Allan Cruz and Julio Cascante represented the Costa Rica Under-23 team together in 2015.
- Greg Garza and Jorge Villafaña played together for the USMNT against Serbia on Jan. 29, 2017.
- Head of Goalkeeping Jack Stern was with Chris Duvall in the Montreal Impact organization in 2017.
- Kendall Waston and Marvin Loría played for Saprissa in 2013 and 2014.