With seven games remaining and playoff hopes resting on algorithms rather than real-world possibilities, Sunday night’s (insert your own adjective here) defeat against Cincinnati’s biggest rival means it’s time to look toward the future (2020 and beyond).
So, here are seven things I would like to see in FC Cincinnati’s seven remaining regular-season games.
1. A Greg Garza return and meaningful minutes
It’s often overlooked that one of FC Cincinnati’s best players hasn’t played a match since May 19 in Orlando. In fact, when he’s played, the Orange and Blue have won more games than not. Of course, that stat is an issue when you’re reminded he hasn’t played since a month before the summer started.
But now Garza is healthy and the team is days away from playing a match miles from the left back’s hometown: Grapevine, Texas.
The U.S. Men’s National Team defender had been deemed healthy and is working back into game fitness, and hasn’t yet seen minutes as Andrew Gutman has acclimated to Cincinnati and MLS. With the club now going on the road next weekend to face FC Dallas, now is the perfect opportunity for Head Coach Ron Jans to play Garza.
Obviously, the defender needs to be healthy enough to play. But if he is, his return should spark new life into a team needing a jumpstart.
2. Mathieu Deplagne getting a break
Earlier this season, Leo Bertone missed a match to be back in Europe. It was a prearranged trip for someone who arrived for the start of Cincinnati’s season midway through his European season. Deplagne, who came from France, never had a midseason MLS break.
The defender is the only FCC player to start every match – including 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play – and has earned a game to rest and recover.
Few players have had a season like the Frenchman. Brought in as a right back or potentially a center back in a back five, Deplagne has only recently played right back after spending much of the season filling in for Garza’s absence on the left side.
I’m not suggesting FCC shut the fullback down, but one less road trip could help spark a strong end to his 2019 season before a longer, much deserved break.
3. Play the rookies.
Hopefully No. 1 MLS SuperDraft pick Frankie Amaya will recover from his groin injury soon and play under Jans for the first time. When healthy, Amaya became arguably Yoann Damet’s best player during the summer.
Jans wants to play exciting, enthusiastic soccer, and Amaya does exactly that.
But the other rookies might, too.
Rashawn Dally missed the 18 against Columbus, but his role has increased this summer and should over the remaining weeks. Dally is a raw talent, but he's intelligent on the field, plays with full effort and has showed signs of potential that FCC could use in 2020 and beyond.
Tommy McCabe has only made three appearances as a late second-half substitute, but Cincinnati signed him as someone who can play a deep-lying role in Jans’ midfield. McCabe played well on loan in the USL Championship, so let’s see what he can do in MLS.
Logan Gdula is currently on loan, but perhaps he can be recalled and offer an appearance as a fullback. Gdula was the No. 13 pick in the SuperDraft and was the club’s second player on its draft board behind Amaya, so there’s interest in how he develops and can play a role with the team.
Jimmy Hague has been on the bench as recently as Sunday night, but he’s never played for Cincinnati.
4. Speaking of Amaya, I want to see him score his first professional goal.
Although he’s only played 14 league games, the center midfielder is beloved by FCC fans for his effort, his quality and his potential.
This season, the 18-year-old has often been the highlight of the Orange and Blue, despite never scoring. So, that’s why we want him to score.
Already a fan favorite, an Amaya goal would register one of the loudest cheers by Cincinnati fans this year, while also serving as a reward for the team’s youngest and most talented players.
5. Are the duo of Derrick Etienne Jr., and Joseph-Claude Gyau competing for the same spot or is Jans’ long-term plan to play them together?
This is seemingly a good problem to have, especially after Damet had to coach the team when they had two wingers available in entire the squad.
But Etienne Jr. is on loan, meaning he theoretically has less time to show his capabilities in Cincinnati. (The team controls the loan option to make him a permanent signing.) Gyau will be with FCC in 2020 and was transferred permanently to the team.
So, for the remainder of the season, could we see both of them together, like they were in the second half in the first #HellisReal Derby in Columbus? If so, they’d provide a solid attack and positive energy on the flanks. That could also allow Kekuta Manneh or Emmanuel Ledesma to play more centrally as a forward or shadow striker.
6. By Oct. 6 at D.C. United, Jans’ starting XI featuring who will be in Cincinnati next season
That’s when FC Cincinnati play for the final time in 2019, and it’s the last chance for fans to see their players before the 2020 preseason begins. Thus, it makes sense to act as a teaser of what’s to come
Jans can play whatever lineup he feels necessary to end the season on a high note, but if fans can see who’s a part of the future, that can already lead to plenty of speculation entering the club’s first full offseason in MLS.
7. Justin Hoyte and Corben Bone playing in the final home match of the season, if not earlier.
Bone’s arrival in 2016 for $5,000 is probably the best transfer FC Cincinnati have ever made. Hoyte joining in 2017 after a trial is also the best trial in team history.
Although Hoyte wasn’t on the team in the first season, both have been tied to some of the team’s finest moments and memories. They have a connection to fans that other players simply do not. Therefore, when FCC kick off against Orlando City SC on Fan Appreciation Day, I’d love to see Hoyte and Bone play and show Nippert Stadium why they were brought from the USL to MLS.