The two MLS teams located in Ohio, Columbus Crew SC and FC Cincinnati both opened the 2019 MLS seasons at the top of the Eastern Conference only to fall to the bottom months later. Now June, both teams are struggling to find their identity and make significant changes in hopes of trying to right the sinking ships.
Cincinnati was forced to part ways with their head coach in hopes of galvanizing their team and stop the bleeding. It didn’t work. What it did is introduced more chaos into an already chaotic situation. North in Columbus, first-year coach Caleb Porter was able to find a system that worked well in the beginning but has been exploited recently and has not produced the early success. Both teams looked to take the Eastern Conference by storm but now have taken a back seat. So what happened?
Sometimes the problem is with the team and sometimes it is with the other teams. For both franchises the style of play that was most comfortable for each was exploited and used against them. If you add on top Columbus losing its star goal keeper and Cincinnati having to change coaches you get a recipe for losing. But while the fall may have felt traumatic and sudden, changes can be made to renew the winning culture in each franchise’s locker room.
For Columbus, it will take both a tactic and personnel adjustment from coach Porter in order to find success. The Crew need to find a system that gets Brazilian journeyman Robinho the ball in space where he can best set up the rest of the team. It will require a paradigm shift that doesn’t require aging midfielder Federico Higuain to constantly create. It is time to pass the torch and use Higuain as an off-ball option instead of dribbling through the defense.
For Cincinnati, it means sticking with a coach and a system and realizing that just like for the new stadium, building correctly starts with a good foundation and takes time. Patience will be key for a front office that is used to shattering attendance records and defeating teams who are viewed as better. This first year in the MLS will be rough but the important matter is building slowly with the right expectations for an expansion team. With only one draft to build their team, Cincinnati has to be patient and let their picks develop in the same system and then continue to find the requisite pieces to best reinforce that system.
While it is still early in the season, both Columbus Crew SC and FC Cincinnati need to begin making calculated changes to their lineups and find their identity for the second half of this season and the next season.