Philadelphia Union take on MLS Newcomers FC Cincinnati Saturday Night

David Accam – Philadelphia Union – Celebration

Union fans can breathe a short sigh of relief. The start to the 2019 season had been mostly a struggle until last Saturday. Shutting out Columbus 3-0 at Talen Energy Stadium, the floodgates opened and the Union faithful were treated to a rare blowout victory. Although both clubs were sporting depleted lineups due to injuries, suspensions and the international break, Philadelphia dictated the tempo from the opening whistle. David Accam was the story of the night, netting two goals and adding an assist, only a few days after dealing with his father’s passing. For his efforts, overcoming both a family loss and breaking the ice on the sheath that has covered his Union career thus far, Accam was named Major League Soccer’s Player of the Week.

David Accam scored two goals to earn MLS Player of the Week honors. Mandatory Credit: Major League Soccer

The task this week will be more difficult than it sounds. That’s because expansion side FC Cincinnati is not a very expansion-looking opponent. They didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. A successful club in the USL (United Soccer League) since 2015, the “other” Ohio club was accepted as an MLS expansion team to begin play this season. Not only do they already sport a rabid fan base and an intimidating atmosphere at the 34K capacity Nippert Stadium, they already have quality, established MLS veterans up and down the roster.

FC Cincinnati’s back line is anchored by Costa Rican International, center back Kendall Watson. One of the most imposing defenders in all of MLS, Watson is relatively quick on his feet for being 6’5” and 235lbs. A two-time member of the MLS Best XI (2015,2017) and former Vancouver Whitecaps captain, Watson brings over 100 matches of league experience to his new club. At left back is a former member of 2018 MLS Cup Champion, Atlanta United FC, Greg Garza. Hampered by injury last season, he seems to be back to full health. Garza brings with him playoff experience and ten caps for the United States Men’s National Team.

This expansion club has a great mix of talent on the offensive side of the ball as well. A five-year veteran of the Belgian Premiere League, Kenny Saif is more of a defender/distributor midfielder. He’s played against some of the best competition in the world, playing in both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. Saif’s running-mate in the midfield is the speedster, Roland Lamah. After bouncing around several leagues in Europe, Lamah found success in FC Dallas, tallying 19 goals and 9 assists over the last two seasons. With longtime Portland Timbers star, Fenando Adi, likely sitting out Saturday due to injury, FC Cincinnati will go with the contrasting duo of Kekutah Manneh and Emmanuel Ledesma. The lightning quick 24 -year-old Manneh, brings with him six years of MLS experience, mostly with Vancouver, and Ledesma has 11 seasons of experience, playing in England, Italy, Argentina, as well as winning the 2018 USL MVP for FC Cincinnati with 16 goals and 16 assists.

No doubt, the Union have their work cut out for them. Coach, Jim Curtin, will have a much easier task though, selecting a starting eleven for this week compared to last. Everyone will be back from international duty and Marco Fabián returns from his undeserved two-game suspension. Curtin loves going with what recently worked, and this time I can’t blame him. The only changes from last week should be Andre Blake back in goal for Carlos Miguel Coronel, and Fabián in place of Ilsinho. Yes, Cory Burke is back, but Accam and Fafa Picault worked well enough together, that they should be given another shot this week. The only area Curtin will have to decide balancing is the midfield. I know Brenden Aaronson was not the big number 10 signing this season, but he’s looked too good to simply bench him or move him around. Fabián can play on the wing as well and that’s exactly where he should play, with Aaronson at the 10. There’s still no definitive word on Jamiro Monteiro’s playing status this week so count on Warren Creavalle in the 18.

I’m feeling the Union will be riding the emotional momentum from last week’s shutout, and will defeat the other MLS Ohio resident Saturday night. Accam will score again and Fabián will notch his first during the run of play.


FC Cincinnati: 1 Union: 2

Union Man of the Match: Marco Fabián

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Mandatory Credit: Major League Soccer

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