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International call-ups, injuries change FC Cincinnati approach against New England

FC Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch before a game against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

CINCINNATI — International call-ups and injuries mean FC Cincinnati is expected to field a new-look lineup Sunday against the New England Revolution.

Facing a third road match in their opening four fixtures was hard enough for FCC head coach Alan Koch. But making matters worse, Koch will be without six players for the 4 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium. 

Striker Fanendo Adi is among the biggest of the absentees. Adi, however, is the only Cincinnati player who will miss the match due to injury. The striker is confirmed out after an ankle injury forced him off the pitch halfway through last weekend’s win 3-0 against Portland.

Unfortunately, the team’s only other out-and-out striker, Jamaican Darren Mattocks, will also miss the trip to New England. He is among five FCC players called up for international duty this weekend, including fellow Jamaican Alvas Powell. Also missing are Costa Ricans Kendall Waston and Allan Cruz, both of whom scored against Portland. And last but not least, SuperDraft No. 1 pick Frankie Amaya has been called into the United States under-20 squad preparing for this summer’s U-20 World Cup. 

With the exception of Amaya, each missing player logged significant minutes during FCC’s opening three matches. As such, coach Koch will be forced to test his squad’s depth for the first time this season. But predictably, he’s not looking at that negatively.

“[All that] means is there are options for other players,” Koch said when asked about his squad for the weekend. “When you lose players to national team duty, it’s great for them, but it gives other players in your group an opportunity to play. So we do have much smaller group, of course, but we have other players now that are now going to get their chance. It can build some confidence in them, but hopefully they can step up and embrace those opportunities.”

The question is, which players are in frame to take advantage of them?

The player most likely to benefit from captain Kendall Waston’s departure is centerback Forrest Lasso. A force in the air, the soaring, 6-foot-5 Lasso will make his MLS debut should he get the start Sunday. Greg Garza also looks in line for his first MLS start for FCC after making substitute appearances in the last two outings.

With the likes of Adi, Cruz, and Mattocks out, there’s also ample room for chances up front. Former FC Cincinnati USL players Corben Bone and Emmanuel Ledesma are likely in contention for minutes at New England. Bone hasn’t seen time since starting the first match of the season, and Ledesma has only made a single late-game cameo. 

They can all look toward teammate Spencer Richey as an example of seizing an opportunity when it becomes available.

With Przemysław Tytoń out with a hamstring injury after the team’s season-opening loss at Seattle, Richey has logged a pair of impressive performances in goal. And even with the Polish international back in full training this week, it’s likely Richey will retain the starting spot. 

“Confidence is a crazy drug. You know? And I’ve got all sorts of it right now,” Richey shared at training Thursday. 

And just like his manager, Richey won’t sweat others getting their first opportunities alongside him.

“It’s an opportunity for guys who haven’t gotten playing time or opportunity to get in the 18,” he said. “It’s a chance for those guys to potentially prove themselves.”

If FC Cincinnati wants to continue it’s run of good form, those new faces will need to prove themselves. And quick. 

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