The Union took over first place in the Eastern Conference after beating Cincinnati 2-0 behind two second half goals from Kacper Przybylko and Fafa Picault on Wednesday night in Chester.
The Union grew into the match after a slow start, and really outpaced Cincinnati from the 20th minute on. There was only one switch to the lineup from last Saturday’s match against Vancouver, with Fafa sliding into Accam’s spot up top. Ray Gaddis filled in at left back again for the suspended Kai Wagner, while Olivier Mbaizo slotted in on the right for Gaddis.
Mbaizo really bounced back from a shaky season debut against Vancouver. He came away with an assist on a beautiful first-time cross into Kacper, who headed it home to give the Union the lead in the 64th minute, and was a threat going forward from the right wing throughout the match. He looked like a starter tonight and Jim Curtin will have a tough decision going forward about who should take over the starting spot when Wagner returns.
Cincinnati came into the match with a questionable line-up, resting several key players. Waston, the veteran center back, was tough for the Union to break down early, but Kacper’s persistence going at him finally paid off in the second half. Tactically, Cincinnati pressed the Union hard early, and throughout the game tried to force the Union’s center backs to make the key pass to move the ball forward. They were successful on multiple occasions intercepting bad passes but were unable to capitalize on turnovers. Trusty was a force to be reckoned with, stonewalling Mattocks throughout the match.
In the 67th minute, Curtin subbed Illsinho on for Aaronson, who three minutes later produced some of his trademark magic. After creating space for himself with a step over, he split the defenders with a through ball to Fafa who chipped it over the keeper for a beautiful goal.
It was Fafa’s first of the season and he mentioned it was great to get it. The Union have now had nine different players score this season, which is the most in the league. It has been striker by committee, and while they may not have a 20-plus goal scorer this season, they do have players stepping up to the task night in and night out. Kacper now has goals in both of his Union starts and had a fantastic work rate up top. He seems to have supplanted Burke in the lineup for now, and hopefully his hot streak continues.
After the Unions 67th minute substitution, the Union shifted into a 4-2-3-1 with Kacper alone up top and Illsinho and Fafa (then Accam) on the wings. This tactical switch was key for their second goal, allowing more wide play against a tired defense. Curtin’s tactical adjustments have been very successful so far this season, and his substitutions have come on to make impact plays in two straight games.
With only one loss in their past eight games, the Union are the hottest team in the league and look to continue to ride their hot streak into Saturday’s match against the Revolution.
With a quick turn-around coming up against New England Curtin said we can expect to “see some new faces out there.”
The lineups have been hard to predict all season, and the Union’s strong depth has been their strength. The only negative from tonight’s match is that Matt Freese came up injured in the first half and was sent to the hospital for imaging. That means Coronel will be the starter Saturday with Blake still recovering and the Union are going to have to work out a solution for a backup goalkeeper.
Overall, it was a strong performance for the first place Union in their best start to a season ever. They will look to stay top of the table against a struggling Revolution team Saturday at home.
Union: Freese (Coronel 41’), Gaddis, Trusty, Elliot, Mbaizo, Medunjanin, Monteiro, Bedoya, Aaronson (Illsinho 67’), Picault (Accam 74’), Przybylko
FC Cincy: Richey, Deplagne, Waston, Hagglund, Powell, Lamah (Manneh 76’), Stanko (Alashe 76’), Bertone, Alexander, Cruz, Mattocks (Ledesma 82’)