New on Sports Illustrated: D.C. United-FCC Preview

August 21, 2020 at 04:56AM

After modestly overachieving at the MLS Is Back tournament, FC Cincinnati looks to sustain that momentum Friday night when it hosts D.C. United.

Despite being only a second-year MLS franchise, FC Cincinnati (2-3-0) is already on its fourth coach – though Yoann Damet has already served as interim boss on two occasions. The Orange and Blue, though, appear to have found some stability under first-year coach Jaap Stam.

The former Dutch international and Manchester United centre back coaxed his team into the knockout round of the Florida tournament, avenging early season losses to both the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United before pushing eventual MLS Is Back champion Portland to penalties in the round of 16.

After winning just six games all of 2019, Stam is confident his team is in a good place heading into a stretch of six matches over the next 23 days. One possibility is utilizing a 4-3-3, something that put the Timbers back on their heels as former PSV Eindhoven teammates Jurgen Locadia and Siem de Jong rekindled their connection.

"I played with him in Holland also, and I know what kind of player he is, and he knows what kind of player I am," Locadia told the club's official website. "The connection's there, and there's a connection with all my teammates."

Locadia and Yuya Kubo have accounted for four of FC Cincinnati's seven goals. To mark its long-delayed home opener, FC Cincinnati will be sporting its BOLD kits for the first time.

D.C. United (1-2-2) has had a longer layoff between matches after failing to reach the knockout round of MLS Is Back. The Black-and-Red put themselves in position to advance after draws versus Toronto FC and New England, but a 1-0 loss to Montreal left them at the bottom of Group C.

The lack of offense has been problematic for D.C., which has totaled just six goals in its five matches. Federico Higuain scored two of the team's three goals in Florida, making an instant impact off the bench.

That may be needed again given the unique and challenging set-up for road teams in Phase One of the league's revamped schedule. United will be chartering an early flight to Cincinnati, eat multiple meals at the team hotel, play the match and then fly home Friday night after a post-match meal at Nippert Stadium.

"We're a work in progress. We'll continue to be a work in progress, in particular over the next six games," United coach Ben Olsen told The Washington Post. "… A lot of this stuff is still up in the air, and these next six games, we hope to pick up points while we are still figuring out who we are."

D.C. United took four of a possible six points in last year's two matchups, winning 4-1 in Cincinnati as the since-departed Lucas Rodriguez had a brace on either side of halftime before goals by Wayne Rooney – also no longer with the team – and Paul Arriola, who is sidelined with a torn ACL.

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