After what has felt like the longest international break to date, the Philadelphia Union finally has a league game to play. While most of the month of May saw the Union on the road and log the most miles they will travel all season, June sees the return of the team to Suburu Park.
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This upcoming match will see the team face off against a familiar opponent in many ways, FC Cincinnati. So far in their brief time in the league, FC Cincinnati has yet to get the better of the Union, but one must not overlook the 2022 FC Cincinnati. Let us look at how FC Cincinnati is faring this season, the player to watch out for, and a score prediction for the upcoming match.
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Let us be honest with ourselves when it comes to FC Cincinnati over the years. They have not been a good soccer club and that is being a bit kind to them. Since they have entered the league, they have been mismanaged through wasting DP signings and a revolving door of coaches and GM’s that’s made the league wonder if this team will ever get it right. Cue the end of the 2021 season which saw FC Cincinnati take a page, this time literally, out of the Union’s playbook and poach both Chris Albright for the GM job as well as Pat Noonan for the head coaching position.
The offseason also saw the team poach both Ray Gaddis from retirement and Alvis Powell from the Union. With the immense roster and front office turnover for this team, it was hard to gauge whether they would pull themselves off the floor of the Eastern Conference and finally hand off the wooden spoon to another team.
So far this season, through fourteen games, FC Cincinnati has accumulated a record of 6-7-1 for six wins, seven losses and one draw, good for seventh place in the eastern conference. While this team is riding into Chester with a two-game losing streak, they are not too far removed from a four-game winning streak. This team is not the same laughingstock that they used to be and the Union will certainly have to be on the lookout for a much-improved FC Cincinnati.
The player that the Union will absolutely need to keep an eye out for in this upcoming match is a player who has absolutely taken to the Pat Noonan coaching hire. I am talking about none other than striker Brandon Vazquez. Through thirteen games played this season, Vazquez has pulled in a rather good haul of seven goals and three assists. Vazquez is having a career year this season with FC Cincinnati and it is easy to tell that the change in coaching has unlocked something in this young American.
The thing that stands out for Vazquez this season is his willingness to make the dirty runs in the box. He has no problem beating a defender to a cross or making the long run on a well placed through ball from Lucho Acosta. He has been able to get the most out of this Cincinnati attack that has not had much success in the past but appears to finally have found their talisman up top.
The Union will absolutely have to make sure that they are keeping an eye on this big and physical striker. If the team can limit Vazquez damage through his runs and hold up play, I think Cincinnati will have a challenging time generating chances and it will frustrate Vazquez.
This is starting to approach a crucial time for most teams in the league as we reach near the halfway point of the season. The Union have gotten through the exceptionally long and well-traveled month of May and come out the other side still near the top of the East. To add onto that point, the team has also gotten much healthier and should have Mikael Uhre back from injury as well as Julian Carranza back from yellow card accumulation suspension.
This partnership has started to show some promise when they have been on the field together and I have a suspicion that Jim Curtin will put them on the starting XI for this upcoming match. FC Cincinnati, with all of their improvements, will absolutely give this Union side a much bigger challenge than they have in the past. However, despite those changes, I still see the Union pulling out a 2-1 victory and getting back to winning ways. Game time on Saturday is at 7:30 pm.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych