Cincinnati FC will head to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night, in a game that has no shortage of storylines.
Saturday marks the return of the FCC to matches after an unusual three-week hiatus that occurred at least in part due to international play (but not entirely given that some teams, including the Union, played league matches during this period).
With FCC head coach Pat Noonan still in the first half of his first season with the Orange and Blues, it seems logical that extra non-stop practice time could be beneficial as the team continues to grow through Noonan’s system (for a good overview see how this system is evolving before our eyes, check out Nate Gilman’s article on here.
Even without seeing the results on the field, Noonan is convinced that the break will benefit his team.
“We have improved. It was difficult because of the conditions to really get what you want out of it in terms of the duration of what you do, the duration of each exercise in terms of how hard you can push the guys because it’s physically demanding.” he said. “We had to adjust the length of the week to keep the intensity and what we are doing. I’ve been happy with some days of performance and mentality, and I think there were a couple of days where you could tell that being tired or just not performing made us struggle a bit. Hopefully it came at the right time in terms of the pre-Philadelphia phase so we can get it right when we hit the field on Saturday.”
Of course, this is a field that Noonan has been to many times before, but as a member of the Union’s coaching staff. Other club members who used to run their own business in Philadelphia include technical director Chris Albright and players Ray Gaddis, Haris Medundzhanin and Alvas Powell. The manager admitted that he would like to cross paths with several former colleagues.
“It will be nice to see a group that I have spent a lot of time with and say hello quickly,” Noonan said. “You are limited in time, these interactions and conversations will most likely be brief before the game or a little after the game. But it will be great to be back in Subaru Park, seeing familiar faces and competing against each other.”
However, the storyline surrounding the FCC’s attempt to get better and become a force to be reckoned with in MLS is what interests Noonan the most. His team already equaled the club record for most wins in a season (in an MLS game) with six, but consecutive one-goal losses to New England and Montreal reminded fans and other observers that this team is still a work in progress, especially on defense. .
“I’m looking forward to it, of course, because of the relationship, but just to see where we are after this break as a group, with who we will have on the field, with who is available for selection, to see how we look. from now on,” Noonan said. “But it will be a good test for us.
The list of selection questions seemed to grow as the week progressed. Midfielder Junior Moreno is struggling with injury and Yuya Kubo is on Covid protocol. Luciano Acosta should be available, Noonan said, but he could start on the sidelines due to lack of training time.
Philadelphia is behind Daniel Gazdag with seven goals and Julian Carranza with four. Former US men’s national team linebacker Alejandro Bedoya, along with goaltender Andre Blake and defensemen Jacob Glesnes and Nathan Harriel, is a resilient player. Noonan was the first to point out the defense of the Union, analyzing the strengths of the team.
“I think [Philadelphia] defensively as the unit is very hard to break, they are good at pressure on the ball when their pressure is broken, they have players behind the ball who understand how to defend in an emergency, how to defend 1 on 1, great goalkeeper, I think we all know that,” he said. “A very stable team in defense, they spend time together all the time, which always helps to progress. But they certainly have some new items that were not in my time. They’re good at spreading teams, but they’re also great at rebounding second balls, moving lines, and playing in the opposition’s half. We need to be aware of these things, and even if we are aware of them, it all comes down to how we can play in these ways.”
Game 15: Cincinnati (6-1-7) – Philadelphia Union (6-7-1)
7:30 pm, Saturday, June 18, 2022 at Subaru Park, Chester, PA
TV: Zvezda 64 | National Video Stream: ESPN+
Local radio: ESPN 1530
Audio Stream: IHeart Radio App