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LAFC vs. FC Cincinnati: Three Questions

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How are things going for the newest MLS expansion team?

MLS: Portland Timbers at FC Cincinnati
Roland Lamah has been consistent for FC Cincinnati.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club are about to play a new opponent, as they take on the 2019 vintage of MLS expansion in FC Cincinnati, at The Banc on Saturday evening. Ahead of the first clash, we spoke with Michael Walker over at FC Cincy blog Orange and Blue Press to get the lowdown on the new boys. Thanks to Michael for taking the time to answer my questions!

Angels on Parade asks Orange and Blue Press:

  1. FC Cincinnati are similar to LAFC in that they are the most recent expansion team, but FC Cincy previously had a team. How has the adjustment to MLS been so far for the team and club?

FC Cincinnati has scrapped eight points out of six games so far in 2019. Of the past 11 expansion teams, only the 2009 Seattle Sounders and 2018 LAFC earned more points after six matches. So, from a points perspective, the team is ahead of schedule. The performances haven’t always been as good as the results however, and Alan Koch’s team is still finding its on-field identity. That situation is now complicated with Fanendo Adi suspended for the foreseeable future after a driving under the influence charge last week.

FC Cincinnati brought 11 carryover players from USL to MLS, the most of any team since the 2011 Vancouver Whitecaps, who finished last in the West that season. Because they are building both a stadium and a training facility concurrently with their first year in MLS, they have to be measured with the finances they allocate to the first team. Their defense-first roster lacks a high-profile year-one DPs like Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi. Their roster mixes MLS veterans acquired through the expansion draft and trade, like Kendall Waston and Greg Garza, with experienced but undervalued Europeans like Leo Bertone and Mathieu Deplagne. The USL players largely serve as depth at this point, but Spencer Richey, Forrest Lasso and Emmanuel Ledesma have seen meaningful playing time.

2. What are the goals for the team this year, and how good are their chances of fulfilling those targets?

The primary goal is a playoff berth. A true MLS Cup run is far-fetched, but if FCC can get into the top 7 in a competitive Eastern conference, that accomplishment would be viewed as year-one success.

The likelihood of that happening is 50-50 or maybe even worse at this point. They’ve had a good start, but Atlanta United have inspired an arms race in the Eastern Conference. Players like Alejandro Pozuelo in Toronto, Alexandru Mitriță at NYCFC, and Nico Gaitán in Chicago are going to make breaking into the playoff spots difficult if early strugglers like New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United can get their act together.

3. Who has been the best player so far this season for FC Cincinnati?

The team has eight goals in their first six games, and they have come from eight different players. So, their success has been spread around. The most consistent player over six games has likely been Roland Lamah, even if he doesn’t stand out as the “best.” He scored the equalizer against Atlanta United, and earned a penalty last week that led to a draw with Sporting KC. The rap on Lamah at FC Dallas was that he was talented but inconsistent. That reputation hasn’t held up in Cincy. Waston also should be mentioned as one of the best. His leadership and physical presence in the center of defense have been very important.

4. Prediction for Saturday’s game?

2-0 LAFC. The hosts are a more mature, better-financed team and Bob Bradley is navigating the ship. They are on a roll and should clearly win this match. FC Cincinnati comes in with multiple offensive injuries and without their highest-paid player and senior DP. They are scrappy and might put up a better fight than some expect, but I don’t see an upset on this away trip.

Check out my answers to Michael’s questions at Orange & Blue Press.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!