PREVIEW| FC Cincinnati host Colorado Rapids in return home after road stand


There is an undeniable similarity to the paths FC Cincinnati and their visitors this weekend for match week 11 in the Colorado Rapids have take this season. The starting points couldn’t be any different, but where they are on April 27 at kickoff looks eerily familiar.

Both clubs have brought in significant changes in their lineups, albeit for different reasons, and both clubs have seen up-and-down performances to start the season. The Rapids, coming off a season that saw them finish bottom of the Western Conference, brought in five key additions to essentially turn over their roster and start fresh. FC Cincinnati also turned over their roster with more than five additions, in no small part due to the opposite effect through, as the success of 2023 pushed change due to transfers going out.

However, both clubs enter Saturday's match with a 4-2-3 record, 15 points, and a place in the top four of their respective conferences despite those (self-admitted) poor performances. They have fought to overcome the lineup changes and integration of new players, and in Cincinnati’s case, they’ve maintained their spot high on the league table, but in Colorado’s case, they’ve rocketed from last place to fourth after just nine matches with the new faces.

“I think in just watching the games and looking at them a little bit closer, defensively, I think they continue to get better,” Noonan said of the Colorado Rapids. “(They are) organized; they do a good job of staying compact and have different ways of going to the ball in different areas of the field, but they are organized.

“Then with the ball, there's been a balance of the ball on the ground (and) the ball direct. I think in the moments that it goes direct, it's because they have a willing number nine in [Rafael] Navarro that challenges, uses his body well. [Djordje] Mihailovic, the way he operates underneath and gets on the ball, he reads plays well, obviously a very smart player. And then the last few games with [Kévin] Cabral and [Calvin] Harris primarily as the wingers, two guys with pace that know how to stretch the game that give them an option to threaten behind. So (they're) effective with the direct play, but they also have players that can move the ball on the ground. So being able to deal with both of those things I think will be important for us. It's a good challenge, but they're certainly a team moving in a positive direction.”

FCC is looking to rebound after a home loss and build on a quality performance in Atlanta, which gave The Orange and Blue an important three points on the road. While pressure isn’t the right descriptor for how FCC is approaching this match, Noonan said winning at home is not only vital to league success, but providing the fans with an entertaining performance is equally important.

“Thoughtfulness is a better word. We know we haven't been, I would say, good enough at home,” Noonan highlighted in his pre-match press conference Thursday. “We were very consistent in results last year, and I think we were also consistent in performances, but that hasn't been the case early on.

“You can make a lot of excuses about why early on with being a part of Champions Cup, but the reality is we had strong groups out on the field and I think enough recovery to be better than we were. So we're still looking for better performances at home, hopefully on the back end of a good Atlanta performance where… I think we did a lot of things better that we're looking for in our group.

“If we can see that type of performance at home with your fans, that would certainly position us to go and get a result. And hopefully, you know, reward the fans for their continued support, because you don't want to just win in front of your fans, you want to do it in ways that make the game entertaining and bring them to life.”

With a victory at home, FCC could move into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference and the Supporters’ Shield tables after 10 matches, but other results would be required to ensure that.

FC CINCINNATI vs Colorado Rapids – Saturday, April 27, 2024 – 7:30 p.m. ET – TQL Stadium


Stream: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
TV Talent (English): Mark Rogondino (PxP), Heath Pearce (Analyst)
TV Talent (Spanish): Diego Pessolano (PXP), Daniel Chapela (Analysis)

Radio: ESPN 1530

Radio Talent: Tom Gelehrter (PXP), Kevin McCloskey (Analyst)

Be sure to follow @FCCincinnati on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for live updates from the game.

All-time versus Colorado Rapids

FC Cincinnati made their first trip to Colorado to take on the Rapids in 2023, snagging a 1-0 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on May 27 thanks to a Dominique Badji goal in the 33 minute. Roman Celentano also made three saves in the clean sheet effort. The win was the first against Colorado and one of seven road victories FCC earned last season.

No active FC Cincinnati player has scored a goal against Colorado while a member of The Orange and Blue, but four have scored against the Rapids. Captain and 2023 MLS MVP Luciano Acosta has one goal and one assist in six matches against Colorado. Sergio Santos and DeAndre Yedlin also have each scored once. Corey Baird stands out though, with great career success against Colorado. A former member of the Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake and LAFC, Baird has scored four goals and potted six assists in 12 games played against Colorado.


Home Cooking – After a loss at home in their last time out at TQL Stadium, FCC is looking to bounce back and get back to dominant performances on their home grounds. Since taking over at FC Cincinnati, head coach Pat Noonan is 20-8-11 in MLS play at home and has never lost back-to-back games at home.

Unfamiliar foe—FC Cincinnati had only played Colorado Rapids three times prior to Saturday, the 16th most common opponent since joining MLS in 2019. Saturday will be the fourth meeting between the two clubs, though, tying Minnesota United FC as the most common Western Conference opponent.

Keeping it Clean – Active FC Cincinnati goalkeepers have made two starts against the Colorado Rapids; Roman Celentano and Alec Kann have each made a start against the Denver-based club and earned a win. Celentano made the start for The Orange and Blue last season in a 1-0 victory where he made three saves in the effort. Kann also made two saves in a start for Atlanta United, keeping a clean sheet.

Luca Joins the Party—FC Cincinnati wingback Luca Orellano scored his first goal with The Orange and Blue, becoming the sixth player to score his first goal for FCC in 2024. With six already, FCC is on pace to surpass the joint-third highest new scorer marks from 2020 and 2023 with seven, but it will likely struggle to reach the all-time high of 13 in FCC’s first MLS season in 2019.

SCOUTING Colorado Rapids (4-2-3, 15 points, 4th in Western Conference, L-W-D-W-W)

Colorado Rapids were the darlings of the offseason, making significant additions to the roster in hopes of vaulting themselves out of the cellar of the Western Conference after finishing last and second last in the Supporters Shield standings.

The Rapids, now managed by long-time MLS player and coach Chris Armas, improved at just about every position on the field and has seen immediate results to start the season with 15 points through nine matches and losing just once in the last eight weeks.

The improvements started in net, with American Manchester City goalkeeper Zach Steffan coming over from the UK to give the Rapids a top option in the net. They also added one of the youngest MLS free agents ever, Omir Fernandez, from the New York Red Bulls as an attacking option and reacquired left-back Sam Vines (who was once a Colorado homegrown player) from Belgian first division’s Royal Antwerp. Lamaine Diack, a Senegalese defensive midfielder on loan from Ligue 1 club Nantes, was also brought in on a 6-month loan with an option to buy.

One of the most notable additions to the group, though, was American attacking midfielder and noted FC Cincinnati menace Djorde Mihailovic, who came back stateside after a time with Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar on a reportedly club-record transfer fee that's north of $3 million. Mihailovic, who played for Chicago Fire and CF Montreal before going overseas, has scored three goals in five starts against FC Cincinnati.

Also of note on the roster for Colorado, FC Cincinnati SuperDraft pick Calvin Harris has been a mainstay for the Rapids. This season the Englishman has made six starts and nine appearances, scoring two goals and registering an assist.

On the pitch, Colorado has been keen to deploy its 4-2-3-1 shape, doing so in each of the nine games, no matter their opponent. In that formation, the new head coach, Armas, has kept his record-fee midfielder Mihalovic in the number 10 position, with DP striker Rafael Navarro at the top as the number 9 lone. On the back line, DP center-back Andres Maxsø of Denmark and Canadian defender Moises Bombito start in the middle, with Vines and Keegan Rosenberry on the wings.

In their last match with FC Dallas, the Rapids kept the pressure on the Texas club by sending long balls over the top of the defense for the attacking core of Navarro, Harris and Kevin Cabreal to run onto. In their 2-1 win, though, both goals scored for Colorado were their own goals.