FC Cincinnati returned from the international break and earned a well-deserved point against Philadelphia Union. Al Ittihad may have created the most dangerous chances in general, but the orange and blue dominated long periods of the match. After the final whistle and looking at the result of the box, a draw seemed to be a very fair result.
First, take a minute to appreciate it. Go on and re-read the previous paragraph if you need to. The FCC went to one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and got a very fair point. Not only that, orange and blue played like one might expect the home team to control possession and dictate the match.
Tired legs seemed to haunt the FCC in the second half but their defense still largely denied Al Ittihad goal-scoring opportunities. Even as the host team became the aggressor, the FCC was still dangerous on the counter, almost scoring in the last 10 minutes which likely meant three points instead of one. So what are the buttons that Pat Noonan and Co. have pushed to put the FCC in a beneficial position?
Back to the three midfielders
Noonan’s choice to return to a triple-defense system meant a numerical advantage for the orange and blue as Al Ittihad looked to face its attackers. While Etihad was looking to play right after turnarounds, the FCC quarterback cut long passes, won 10 of 13 aerial duels, and within possession remained in the union’s defensive half.
In possession, the FCC took advantage of the diamond’s tight 4-4-2 shape by playing wider and progressing the ball to the wings after switching play bypassing the Philadelphia midfield.
After the match, Noonan said: “I think it was just a spacing, it was the ways we found switching play, whether it was through the middle, whether it was around the corner, I think that’s going to be important for us to be able to play up the field.” .
according to football reference, The orange and blue completed 20 keys against the union, which were defined as lanes traveling 40 yards or more across the width of the field. lvaro Barreal, representing Lucho Acosta, and Brenner combined to complete 11 of these keys. Many of these switches found an FCC wing across the field with room to work.
Pay Wingbacks High
The Al Ittihad Diamond Tight 4-4-2 was crowded in the middle of the field when the orange and blue were in possession of the ball. To counter the high pressure of the Federation, Pat Noonan pushed the FCC wings up the field and relied on play keys to navigate after pressing. John Nelson and Ray Gaddis found more space in more aggressive situations than they had previously.
Nelson was a threat on the left side, his 30 touches in the final third were the team’s second-most touchdown in the match, and Jadis worked from the middle and last thirds on a regular basis. Both players made significant contributions to Cincy’s ball advancement efforts.
After the match, Noonan said: “It was also the ways in which we could play central from those wide channels to be able to pressure them and not just rely on wide serve over and over again. So the players are credited with having the composure to move the ball in certain ways to allow us to play. In the half field.
The FCC’s rear wings were key to making Noonan’s tactical plan. Nelson and Jadis were often open due to the tightness of the Etihad midfield. Shift play by either switching the ball directly or a quick horizontal shift across the back midline placing the FCC’s flankers in an open space to push the game forward.
More importantly, Noonan said, Nelson and Jadis did not look to display the ball from those advanced positions. By centrally finding teammates, Orange and Blue can look to consistently create dangerous offensive patterns. The union, with two of the best defensive players in the MLS and an excellent defensive midfielder, plus the absence of Acosta, the FCC’s top innovator in the final third, meant that the FCC had little pleasure in creating dangerous opportunities from open play. However, Noonan’s tactical tweak to build possession from off the field works against a very good home team.
Brenner is back in the starting line-up, with Brandon Vazquez joining the attacking duo. His 2022 season was not marred in any particular order by green card issues, injuries, transfer rumors and internal team discipline. Hopefully his presence as a rookie is a sign of things to come because Brenner did so much against the Federation which made the FCC a better team.
Without Acosta, Brenner went deeper, looking for help in play while Vazquez stayed higher on the field. As mentioned earlier, Brenner’s five keys helped the FCC shift the point of attack away from the union press. The situations in which he got the ball wasn’t what you’d expect from a striker, but Barrilla’s willingness to advance from midfield to join attack did lead to some of Brenner’s willingness to find the ball in midfield.
Plus, with Vazquez still running as the main target at the front, Brenner could find pockets of space to get the ball rolling and influence the game. He finished the night with a seven-shot team action. There were instances where he seemed a bit sluggish on the ball or out of step with his teammates. However, his 76 minutes against the Federation were the most since he played 77 minutes on April 24 against LAFC.
We haven’t seen enough Brenner on the field to have a fully realized partnership with Vazquez. Hopefully in the next two weeks, especially with Acosta’s return, Brenner and Vazquez will find more harmony that will help the orange and blue smash through defenses and score more goals.