FC Cincinnati boss Pat Noonan says that any rotation to his squad will be made around fielding the best side that he can against Atlanta United in the MLS this weekend, ahead of a hectic Easterthrough-April schedule.
The Orange and Blue face three games in just over a week, with a U.S. Open Cup clash with Pittsburgh Riverhounds set to follow hot on the heels of his side’s trip to Georgia, before they welcome Los Angeles FC on home soil.
That raises the prospect of some springtime fixture crunch, and Noonan admits it presents difficulties to his selection – but that he only has eyes right now for the next match.
“It’s great to have more competition, but it certainly brings about the challenges of squad rotation of travel, of a quick turnaround,” he said. “Our priority is Saturday. “As we get through Saturday, we’ll evaluate where guys are at based on how the game plays out and look to give other players an opportunity that maybe haven’t been getting the bulk of the minutes.
“This is why you have a roster, the size that we do, so you can utilize the guys that are in a reserve role. It’s a unique three or four days where the conversations are daily as to how things are changing based on player availability.”
New Five Stripes arrival Ronaldo Cisneros meanwhile is chomping at the bit to get involved following his arrival from Chivas in Liga MX, having had his first taste of action last time out against Charlotte, and the 25-year-old has outlined just where he can help the team improve.
“From the very first training session that I had with the group, I think we’re all trying to understand what we have to do,” he said. “My teammates are understanding the movements that I like to make and I’m understanding their traits as well and what passes they’re going to make. “I think my speed is one of my biggest strengths. But I understand that I have to complement that with my movements on the field, as a forward, by scoring goals. I want to do what I can to help the team with goals and assists.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Atlanta – Ronaldo Cisneros
Fresh from his move, the former Mexico youth star is out to prove a point at Atlanta, and after a 25-minute introduction to life last time out, he may well be ready to force his way into the starting XI.
The goals have not quite flowed in recent times, but his talents could well provide a major boost.
FC Cincinnati – Brandon Vazquez
Not many have started the 2022 campaign like the centre-forward – and all the signs suggest he might only get better as the season goes on. His five finishes so far has him joint-top of the leaderboard in the early season race for the Golden Boot.
KEY OPTA FACTS
Atlanta United has lost only one of its eight MLS matches against FC Cincinnati (W5 D2), including winning the last two. Cincinnati’s only win over Atlanta came during the group stage of MLS is Back in 2020.
Atlanta United is unbeaten in 10 straight home matches (W7 D3) dating back to a 2-0 loss to Nashville in August. Including playoffs, it’s the second-longest active home unbeaten run in MLS (Nashville – 18) and the fourth time Atlanta has had a double-digit home unbeaten streak since joining MLS in 2017.
FC Cincinnati has lost consecutive matches and has now lost 19 of its last 22 matches dating back to last season. Cincinnati is the first team in the post-shootout era (since 2000) to lose at least 19 times in a 22-match span. The MetroStars lost 20 times in a 22-match span in 1999, but that included breakaway shootout defeats after drawing over 90 minutes.
Atlanta United has had four goals scored by substitutes this season, more than any other MLS team. Four different players have scored those goals while Marcelino Moreno is one of two players (Sebastián Blanco) with two assists off the bench in 2022.
Luciano Acosta has scored six goals in 11 career matches against Atlanta United, having not scored more than three against any other MLS team. Acosta’s six goals are the most by any player against Atlanta since the Five Stripes joined MLS in 2017