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Know the Enemy - FC Cincinnati Edition

It’s matchday again on Saturday, get the lowdown on one of MLS’ newest clubs and what to expect as the ‘Caps head to the Nippert Stadium.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Several former members of the Vancouver Whitecaps will get a chance to take on their former club on Saturday as the ‘Caps head to the Queen City to take on FC Cincinnati. We were graciously given some insight into how the inaugural season is going by Laurel Pfahler of The Athletic.

Following a bright start to the season, things went a bit sideways and the club saw Alan Koch fired in May, since then Cincinnati has certainly had some struggles, notably finding themselves on the wrong side of a 7-1 scoreline against Minnesota United in June.

Their July though was better than Vancouver as they started it with back-to-back wins, but heading into Saturday, Cincy has lost three in a row and will be looking to bounce back.

Here’s what Laurel had to say.

1. From the outside it looks like it’s been a rocky year in Cincinnati, when Alan Koch was let go it was cited that there was a ‘deteriorated’ team culture to blame. What has the feeling been around the team since then and has the culture started to change since his departure?

Honestly, I thought the “culture issues” that were mentioned as a reason for Koch’s dismissal were a cop-out because certain high-profile players were just unhappy. However, it does seem as though interim coach Yoann Damet has brought about some positive changes to the locker room. The biggest thing was that he implemented a set style of play, and the players can trust he won’t be constantly changing what he expects from them. They believe in what they are doing now.

2. Speaking of damaged culture, Kendall Waston spoke this week to a couple of Vancouver outlets about damaged trust with management in Vancouver, but that there was a transparency to the plan in Cincinnati. How has the former Whitecaps captain settled with the club, and can you give us some insight to how his time in the Blue Chip City has been going?

It was easy to see Kendall Waston’s impact on this team when he was away for the Gold Cup. They definitely missed his leadership and passion on the pitch, and his first game back was night and day from the five he missed (he was suspended for one game before the Gold Cup). He struggled a bit early in the shift to the new system when he would get caught too far up into the attack and the others on the back line couldn’t cover for him, but he’s improved on that and he’s also been really close to scoring a couple more goals on set pieces (I can think of at least two headers that hit the crossbar). The club acknowledged his value when they extended his contract back in May, though they didn’t announce it til July 11, after signing new center back Maikel van der Werff.

3. Much like the Whitecaps, the goal differential in Cincinnati isn’t pretty to look at. How do you expect Yoann Damet to line-up against the Whitecaps and what will they try to exploit to get a result at the Nippert on Saturday?

Damet has not veered from the 4-3-3 so I expect the same this weekend. Lineup is tough to predict with several players injured last week but practicing. I would look for Justin Hoyte, Waston, van der Werff and Deplagne on the back line. Ideally, they would have Leo Bertone, Allan Cruz and Frankie Amaya in the midfield, because I think that gives them their best shot at getting the ball forward and getting some runs in behind Vancouver’s defense with Emmanuel Ledesma and Kekuta Manneh up front (which is something they are really working on) but Amaya doesn’t appear ready to return and I’m not sure about Bertone so it’s more likely Victor Illoa and Caleb Stanko in there. Fanendo Adi is practicing but still coming back from yet another injury (calf) so Rashawn Dally could be the center forward again. Van der Werff shores up the defense and helps add another voice of accountability so the back line isn’t giving up as much space as they have been in recent games, but the horizontal movement needs to turn more vertical for FCC to have some success.

Thanks again to Laurel for her insight, you can find her on Twitter at @LaurelPfahler while her work appears in The Athletic and on WCPO.com.