FC Cincinnati continues to take one step forward, two steps backward in its expansion year as a Major League Soccer club.
The Orange and Blue faced their latest setback Wednesday night in Missouri, dropping a 1-0 decision to Saint Louis FC in the round of 16 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Sam Fink scored in extra time as the hosts disposed of FCC, sending the squad back to Cincinnati licking its wounds with a short turnaround and a weekend date with the LA Galaxy looming.
“It was disappointing,” FCC interim coach Yoann Damet said of the loss. “I think we controlled some points of the game but we were very vulnerable on set pieces. Very disappointing.”
FCC doesn’t have any time to relax as arguably MLS’s biggest star Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the high flying LA Galaxy come to town.
Zlatan is one of the biggest names worldwide in soccer and the Cincinnati fans have taken notice, selling out Nippert Stadium for the game.
With 32,250 fans swarming Nippert, FCC will have a festive atmosphere when the five-time MLS champs arrive.
“We expect the atmosphere to be amazing like it always is at Nippert,” Damet said. “It will be really important to have the fans behind us and feed off their support”
FCC defender and Cincinnati native Nick Hagglund echoed Damet’s comments.
“It is amazing,” Hagglund said of the home fans support. “Years ago when I was growing up I couldn’t imagine this being a thing and now we have people coming out every week. It makes me incredibly proud and I think the team is ready to put in a good effort for them.”
After two straight Open Cup contests, the game against the Galaxy is a return to MLS play, but Damet said the team is just focusing on playing one game at a time while getting better each time.
“It's good, we have to focus on the next game,” Damet said. “It is a quick turnaround so we are happy to be back in training and prepare for tomorrow.”
One weakness for FCC has been stability in the back, an area of concern for Damet.
“We have to be stronger defensively and keep our shape right,” Damet said. “The communication and sticking together will be key for us defensively. “
Damet also acknowledged FCC needs to be more efficient in the final third.
“Offensively we need to be more patient and more efficient in the box,” Damet said. “We need to create opportunities and, more importantly, capitalize on them.”
Zlatan has 11 goals on the year and the Galaxy, 9-6-1, stand in second in the Western Conference.
Hagglund knows the Orange and Blue have to be ready, but he admitted the visitors are ready for the big-game atmosphere.
“There is multiple things they can do,” Hagglund said. “We are preparing for all scenarios. We are expecting to see Zlatan, and that's where they went to make their play through so we want to make sure he doesn’t affect the play so much and try to mark everyone else.”
Hagglund added that communication is the key to slowing down Zlatan.
“Communication is key, making sure we are passing him. He is going to float into the midfield, he will float back post. We need to make sure everyone is aware of where he is.”
What: FCC (3-11-2) vs. LA Galaxy (9-6-1)
Where: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati
When: June 22, 7:30 PM ET