BRADENTON, Fla. – Although the game was played behind closed doors, FC Cincinnati produced their best performance of the 2020 preseason when they beat the Philadelphia Union, 1-0, on Wednesday afternoon at the IMG Soccer Complex.
In what was the club’s first match this year against a 2019 MLS Cup Playoff participant, Cincinnati delivered an emphatic result that saw creativity in the final third and stout defending.
Here are the takeaways from the closed-door scrimmage…
“The first 50 minutes were the best I’ve seen from FC Cincinnati."
That quote from head coach Ron Jans said enough. From the opening whistle until halftime, the Orange and Blue controlled momentum. Passes were fluid and carved through Union territory, while goalkeeper Spencer Richey had a quiet, stress-free outing.
This might only be preseason, but such a convincing performance can go a long way entering 2020, center midfielder Haris Medunjanin said.
“In the first and second half, we did well,” Medunjanin said. “Everybody doing their job and everybody knows what they need to do. For us, that’s important because if you play as a team, we make problems (for any team). Today, we showed that.”
Jans offered similar praise.
“The performance of the first half, it can show that we can compete,” he said. “We were even better in the first half than Philadelphia and they played in the playoffs last season. That gives us so much more trust (in our play). Today, we showed we can be a very good squad.”
Wednesday reiterated a team identity
The Orange and Blue spent three weeks in Tucson trying to implement a possessive style that builds from the back and has a frontline stocked with creative players who can create scoring opportunities. There was also a push to maintain compact blocks defensively with a suffocating high press.
While there have been examples of this in all four preseason friendlies to date, Wednesday’s was most prevalent because of the club’s effectiveness and the opponent who was tamed.
In the 4-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City 10 days ago, Cincinnati created self-inflicted wounds when they passed their way into problems. That was not an issue against Philadelphia, which shows improvement and reiterated Cincinnati’s commitment to developing a playing philosophy that will remain consistent, regardless of the opponent.
Additionally, the team that set an MLS single-season record for goals allows has three clean sheets in the last four games this preseason. That can’t be understated.
Kekuta Manneh returns for first match since September
The win against Philadelphia was Manneh’s first appearance since Sept. 18, against Atlanta United FC. The winger left that match early with a hip injury, but because he already had a nagging shoulder injury that required further attention, the medical staff ended his 2019 season prematurely.
On Sept. 25, he underwent successful surgery to repair a labral tear in his right shoulder.
Since preseason started, Manneh has often been limited in training sessions and was involved in non-contact drills. But since the team got to Florida, Manneh’s been a regular in training and played 28 minutes in the second half.
“It was really the first game after a long time,” Jans said. “You could see after 20 minutes, I think he was out of petrol, that’s why I changed him. It’s very good to feel yourself again like a soccer player and not like someone who’s coming back from injury.”