FC Cincinnati building from the back through possession implies the Orange and Blue can operate with time and space.
Both will be scarce Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
New York City FC, FCC’s upcoming opponent, like to press when out of possession. This isn’t abnormal. After all, Cincinnati presses opponents, too.
The only difference about this match, however, is where it will be played. The soccer field at Yankee Stadium is notoriously smaller in dimensions than other MLS stadia, both in length and width. Nippert Stadium’s field is 115 yards long by 75 yards wide. NYCFC’s pitch is 110 by 70.
What that means is play tends to pinball back-and-forth vertically rather than from side-to-side. For a team like the Orange and Blue – who want to pass their way into the opponent’s third – they’ll have to move the ball quickly to break NYCFC’s press or prevent a mistake that leads to the home side recovering the ball deep in Cincinnati territory.
“We know the spaces are going to be tighter,” Interim Head Coach Yoann Damet said. “It’s about being sharp with the ball, being able to create angles to support and (provide) options around the ball carrier.
“We know it’s a little different when you play at Yankee Stadium.”
So, if FC Cincinnati know that, does that mean they’ll play differently than their new normal?
That question gets answered Thursday night. Until then, it’s all hypothetical guesses and projections. But that doesn’t mean Damet didn’t adjust during practice.
The interim head coach said he adjusted the practice field at Mercy Health Training Center to replicate what FC Cincinnnati will experience on Thursday night. You can shrink the field, of course, but you can’t prepare for fullbacks to play where the second baseman usually stands.
But that focuses on positioning. What’s more important against NYCFC is how FC Cincinnati uses possession.
If they’re pressed deep in their own territory, clearances or long balls toward New York City’s backline will be easier than passing out of problems. Doing that goes against playing out of the back, though.
Figuring out the right approach to stifle NYCFC during real time doesn’t get any easier when there’s already less time to think with players closer together.
“It’s a little bit of adjusting,” midfielder Victor Ulloa said. “It’s 11-against-11 and we just have to move the ball quickly. We know they like to pressure and it’s going to be in tight spaces.
“The level of urgency is higher and the tempo should be higher, especially with a smaller field.”
But Thursday night isn’t just about stopping NYCFC. It’s about FCC finding ways to beat the home side. Both Damet and Ulloa said the club worked on different objectives to apply during the match. One – effort – could lead directly to success.
“On a tight pitch, the second ball is more important than the first,” Ulloa said. “So, for us to get in there and try to get a result, we’re going to really have to focus on our battles, our duels and especially on those second balls when we can get a second opportunity and then hit them in transition.”