After a successful two-match road trip, the Orange & Blue return to the friendly confines of Nippert Stadium for our third home fixture of 2018 this Saturday, May 5th, for a 7pm kickoff against Atlanta United 2.
The match tomorrow against Atlanta is officially "Mothers' Night" at Nippert, and we're paying special attention to the soccer mom's in the house throughout the night. Among the events planned for the evening, the first 1,000 moms to arrive at Sheakley Lawn prior to kickoff will get a free premium FCC scarf from our friends at Klosterman Bakery, so make sure you get your mom out to the stadium early!
If you can't make it out for what is shaping up to be a perfect night at Nippert, you can still catch the action live on local television on Star64 (WSTR) or by streaming it on ESPN+. And with this being a home match, you also have the option to listen in on the radio airwaves too on ESPN 1530.
The match presents itself as an excellent opportunity for an FC Cincinnati side that's off to the best start in club history.
Even after beginning the season with what many might have considered a slow start, Koch's men still picked up points while taking a few matches to find their feet. But over the last three games, the club has come on leaps and bounds. Despite scoring just three times in the opening four matches, the guys have bagged eight in their last three and are currently riding a three-match winning streak into Saturday's test.
The buoyed form has seen the team skyrocket up the USL Eastern Conference table to second place from a low point of 7th. But for all of the early season success that they've had, the Orange & Blue have yet to find a win at home this campaign.
As for Atlanta United 2, the first year MLS "B Team" enter Saturday's match sitting 12th in the table with a record of 1-2-3. They find themselves in that position mostly due to suffering a five-match streak without a win, including two straight losses. Their lone win of the season? It came all the way back in their first match of the season, a match that took place at home March 24th.
And with this being the first time we've ever faced the side, we'll be hoping to extend their streak another match further.
FCC head coach Alan Koch opted to rotate his squad pretty heavily for the midweek win at Indy Eleven, making six changes and handing club debuts to three players in Paddy Barret, Michael Lahoud and substitute Tomi Ameobi. Despite the upheaval, the team performed well and showed great resiliency while handing much-needed rest to the likes of club captain Dekel Keinan, Richie Ryan, Danni König, and Justin Hoyte -- all members of FCC's over-30 club.
But with the return to Nippert and some of the more routine starters rested, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Koch return to a line-up that looks more like the side that handily beat Ottawa in Canada last weekend.
Whatever the team we see, there will be an impetus to entertain.
"We want to give the fans a win at home. That’s our objective. " offered winger Jimmy McLaughlin after scoring the second goal in Wednesday's victory at Indy Eleven. He continued, "We’re ready to put on a show and these fans deserve it."
As for the opponents, being an MLS reserve side can often mean that each match is often a different story than the last. And while Atlanta have shuffled the deck a bit each time out, they've been fairly consistent with their team selections and shape.
Head Coach Scott Donnelly has rolled out a 4-2-3-1 in all but one match so far this season, and he has them playing a very possession-heavy style. When building attacks, watch for the Five Stripes to look for a holding midfielder, who will then look to push the ball on to one of their wide forward or wing backs. The wingers then have the freedom to -- and very often do -- cut inside and create/shoot, while the wingbacks tend to put in a cross.
The most frequent targets of those build-ups have been Irish forward Jon Gallagher (#26) and budding American starlet Andrew Carleton (#30), who have three and one goals respectively. The 17-year-old Carleton is considered one of the brightest prospects in the US player pool but is still finding his feet at the professional level.
However, the question FC Cincinnati faithful will be waiting for an answer on is whether or not Saturday night's match will treat us with a return of a departed hero. Former FCC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt left the club this past offseason and signed an MLS contract with Atlanta United FC, but an injury has kept him sidelined so far this season. But with the Cincinnati's former favorite son making appearances in training this week, it's quite possible we could see him at Nippert again this weekend.