Preview, prediction: FC Cincinnati opens 2022 TQL Stadium home schedule against D.C. United

·4 min read

FC Cincinnati's home opener should serve as an early season gut-check for head coach Pat Noonan and his side.

Cincinnati's 2022 Major League Soccer opening match was its least competitive since joining the league in 2019, and by Nonnan's own admission was out of hand by the final whistle.

The 5-0 result at Austin FC's Q2 Stadium quickly cast doubt on the modest forecasts for improvement many pundits held in preseason for Cincinnati, but the club can use Saturday's match against D.C. United at TQL Stadium (6 p.m.) to stabilize itself and restore the measured optimism many hold for the season.

The response in training leading up to United's visit, Noonan said, was positive.

More: Here's what you need to know for FC Cincinnati's home opener at TQL Stadium

"It was a good response. We had some good conversations early in the week just in terms of the result and how it got there, things that we can improve on," Noonan said. "Small details – certainly things that when you look back at the game, are fixable and easy to identify.

Newly-hired FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan poses for a photograph Monday, Dec. 13 at TQL Stadium
Newly-hired FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan poses for a photograph Monday, Dec. 13 at TQL Stadium

"And then there's some situations that we looked at where, 'how can we be better and more consistent with our defensive shape and some of the rotations?' And when we're moving forward with the ball, finishing plays off ... I said it before: I was very pleased with how we created chances. Now it's about execution and finding ways to get confident in finishing those plays off."

D.C. United won its opener against expansion side Charlotte FC, which was playing in its first-ever match, but perhaps D.C. won in unconvincing fashion.

The final score of 3-0 included United goals that came via the penalty spot and two scores that took significant deflections on the way in.

Afterward, United head coach Hernan Losada indicated he was aware the winning performance might have failed to impress, especially considering Charlotte had a goal called back on video review and later went off the post.

More: Will FC Cincinnati quickly bounce back after season-opening loss at Austin FC?

In Thursday remarks, Losada was complementary of FC Cincinnati's performance against Austin.

"Cincinnati didn't deserve to lose 5-0," Losada said. "I don't know if you guys saw the game, I saw it a few times and they create a lot of chances and especially the front three, very scary front three. They have a lot of qualities, maybe even qualities that we don't have."

FC Cincinnati forward Brenner (9) screams as he's embraced by FC Cincinnati midfielder Alvaro Barreal (31) and other teammates after scoring a goal in the first half of the MLS match between the FC Cincinnati and the New York City on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at TQL Stadium in West End.
FC Cincinnati forward Brenner (9) screams as he's embraced by FC Cincinnati midfielder Alvaro Barreal (31) and other teammates after scoring a goal in the first half of the MLS match between the FC Cincinnati and the New York City on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at TQL Stadium in West End.

The Game

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET on Saturday | TQL Stadium

TV/Radio/stream: Star64/ESPN 1530/ESPN+, FCCincinnati.com

Series info: D.C. United leads the all-time series with three wins, three draws and no losses (3-0-3) against FC Cincinnati.

Cincinnati.com prediction: D.C. United 2, FC Cincinnati 1.

FC Cincinnati

2022 record: (0-1-0)

Goals for: Zero

Goals against: Five

Coach: Pat Noonan - second match as an MLS head coach

Projected starting lineup:

Alec Kann (GK)

Geoff Cameron, center back

Tyler Blackett, center back

Nick Hagglund, center back

Yuya Kubo, midfielder

Luciano Acosta, midfielder

Junior Moreno, midfielder

Allan Cruz, midfielder

Brandon Vazquez, forward

Nick Markanich, forward

Dominique Badji, forward

D.C. United
2022 record: 1-0-0

Goals for: Three

Goals against: Zero

Coach: Hernan Losada – second season as head coach (15-15-5 overall)

Projected starting lineup:

Bill Hamid, goalkeeper

Andy Najar, right back

Brendan Hines-Ike, center back

Steve Birnbaum, left back

Julian Gressel, midfielder

Moses Nyeman, midfielder

Drew Skundrich, midfielder

Brad Smith, midfielder

Griffin Yow, forward

Edison Flores, forward

Michael Estrada, forward

Noteworthy: A win Saturday would mark the earliest victory in an FC Cincinnati season during its time in MLS. In 2019, the club didn't post three points until the third match of the season. In the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season, Cincinnati didn't win until the fourth match and last season, it took five matches for FCC to claim a win. During the club's USL era, FC Cincinnati once won its season-opener, in 2018.

Jul 17, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; FC Cincinnati forward Brenner Souza da Silva (9) reacts after scoring a goal against CF Montreal during the second half at Stade Saputo.
Jul 17, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; FC Cincinnati forward Brenner Souza da Silva (9) reacts after scoring a goal against CF Montreal during the second half at Stade Saputo.

Player to watch: Brenner Souza da SIlva – Brenner was dressed and fit enough to play a role off the bench in last weekend's Austin loss after basically missing preseason due to immigration issues.

The decision to not get him on the field, Noonan said, was taken because the game got out of control in the second half. But Noonan's Thursday confirmation of Brenner's availability, as well as a plan for getting him into the game before it became too lopsided, signaled progress for Brenner.

More: Here's why Junior Moreno's addition to FC Cincinnati matters

It's certainly conceivable that more progress was achieved during training this week. Noonan cautioned that the team wants to slowly bring Brenner back into the fold but this is still a player with the raw talent to score with a single touch if the ball falls to him.

So, if it's a tight match and getting late in the game, even an appearance amounting to 10 minutes or less could be a chance for Brenner to impact the proceedings. For now, Brenner is still key to the FC Cincinnati attack in 2022.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Preview, prediction: FC Cincinnati opens 2022 TQL Stadium home schedule against D.C. United