In his first start since FC Cincinnati’s home opener, Fanendo Adi produced an encouraging performance that should be seen as optimism for the Orange and Blue moving forward.
Adi produced six shots and forced Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles into a pair of spectacular saves in his first appearance since May 4 at the San Jose Earthquakes and first start since March 17 against the Portland Timbers – his former club.
But despite the downtime, the Nigerian forward didn’t look rusty. If anything, he was a continuous nuisance for New York by holding up the ball for teammates and producing shots that forced world-class saves from Robles.
In the sixth minute, Roland Lamah slotted a through ball behind the Red Bulls backline. Adi received it in a one-on-one situation with Robles, but his shot was blocked. Later in the 40th minute, an Adi header was denied by an acrobatic stop from Robles.
Adi had a team-high six shots.
“Everybody knows Fanendo Adi is a good striker,” Lamah said. After a long period without him playing, I think he did a good, good, good job. He helps us. He created a lot of chances. I think he’s a good thing for us.”
Interim Head Coach Yoann Damet offered similar remarks after the match, which Cincinnati lost 2-0.
“Very happy with Adi,” Damet said. “I’ve spoken about his leadership and his importance in the team. I think tonight, again, I’m very happy with what he showed for 90 minutes.”
The match was Damet’s third leading Cincinnati and first playing Adi. While previous matches have seen the team focus on short passes and building from the back, that style changed – intentionally or not – to a more direct approach with Adi playing at striker.
Whereas previous matches saw Darren Mattocks play the same position but differently – instead using his speed to create space – Adi used his 6-foot-4 frame to hold the ball up for teammates to joining attacking moments.
It was a different dynamic, but one that still allowed Cincinnati to create chances. Unfortunately, impressive saves from Robles and mistakes defensively decided the match’s score line. But regardless of the final score, Adi’s return and FCC’s play provided plenty of reasons to be optimistic to for the future.
MLSsoccer.com’s Bobby Warhsaw said this about Adi:
"It was good to see Fanendo Adi look like a handful again. It’s easy to forget how freakin’ good Adi can be … He’s as complete a striker as there is in the league. He’s a monster with soft feet and a quick brain. He wasn’t at his best in the loss to the Red Bulls, but it’s the best he’s looked in 12 months."
FCC are hoping for more of that.