Before the match, Head Coach Ron Jans said he wanted to give different players opportunities. Those players were primarily younger ones. Come kickoff, that meant the youngest team in club history in a game meant to spoil Toronto’s postseason hopes.
Instead, it was the eighth loss in the last nine matches. Here are the takeaways from Nippert Stadium:
Jans made eight changes to the starting XI. Some would’ve happened anyway, but the international break meant even more tinkering, and that led to a lineup that had never played together besides a few practices this week.
Four players were gone for international duty (Kendall Waston, Allan Cruz, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Alvas Powell). Kekuta Manneh was suspended. Maikel van der Werff and Victor Ulloa, both usual starters, were rested with injuries.
So, the lineup Jans used was makeshift and included three rookies and Greg Garza at center back.
“It is different with guys out in international duty,” Garza said. “Different lineup, giving some opportunities to new kids and that is part of a team that is growing. It is tough to see. At the end of the day, that’s what gets these kids, and other players, an opportunity to play, an opportunity to showcase themselves and really build this team as much as possible. As I said, just keep pushing forward.”
By starting three rookies, FCC became the first team in MLS this season to start three 2019 SuperDraft picks.
No. 1 pick Frankie Amaya made his first appearance since July after recovering from a groin injury. He played in the midfield just ahead of Tommy McCabe, who was the No. 30 pick and started his first MLS match. Rashawn Dally also started under Jans for the first time, recording his first start since July 28 at BMO Field when the two clubs last met.
“There are always positive things in the match,” Jans said. “I told Frankie that he was playing Mr. Bradley (Michael Bradley) and he could almost be your father. I said ‘You have to compete and show respect, but also show what you can.’ And I think Frankie was the best man tonight.”
Including those players, FC Cincinnati produced their youngest starting XI in the club’s four-year history.
The average age was 25.4 years old. Not including goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń, who’s 32, the average age of the field players was 22.5. It’s worth noting Cincinnati only had two players 23 or under during the entire 2018 USL season.
“I think it’s a cool experience,” McCabe said of the three SuperDraft picks playing together. “We’ve spent the last year together, living together, spending time together. So, to be able to share the field with all three of us was special.
However, even with the optimism injected from playing the young players, that can’t mask that FCC just suffered their biggest home loss in team history.
After a nice opening 10 minutes that saw the Orange and Blue play well and created chances through Roland Lamah down the left wing, that evaporated with a poor pass at the edge of the FCC defensive third and led to Toronto scoring 10 minutes into the game.
By halftime, Cincinnati trailed 3-0.
“Every game, people have dreams and expectations and I think the first 10 minutes started well,” Jans said. “But when you’re at the bottom of the table, you can’t lose the ball. We lost the ball just in front of (Patrick) Mullins who scored the first goal and after that it was almost game over.”
“I try to be positive all the time, sometimes maybe a little too much,” the Dutchman added. “But I will keep doing that because there is another game next week and then four more. We will try to do everything to get the team well prepared, but today Toronto was the better team. The 5-1 score tells everything.”
What comes next
FCC play another Canadian opponent – Montreal Impact – next weekend. Cincinnati won the first meeting 2-1 on May 11, when interim head coach Yoann Damet made his head coaching debut and became the youngest coach in MLS history.