FC Cincinnati's Open Cup run continues against Minnesota United

MLS returns to Nippert Stadium later today when Minnesota United come to face FC Cincinnati. This is the first round of Open Cup matches for MLS teams, and it will be interesting to see which teams come to play, and which only use it for practice. Due to Minnesota United being ninth on the table in the Western Conference, I could definitely see them coming to play for this match, at least as much as they can.

It is easy to see that they are a new expansion team, with them only having entered Major League Soccer last season after starting in the NASL. Their team is not as cohesive as they would wish, and because of that, can be picked apart by a competent team. I was watching the Minnesota United vs Sporting KC on Sunday, and Minnesota looked like a USL team compared to Kansas City. Yes, Sporting Kansas City is first on the Western Conference table, but the Minnesota defense looked porous, with many available passing lanes. FC Cincinnati could easily attack their defense if Kenney Walker, Nazmi Albadawi and our other midfielders can play to their potential.

Talking about Minnesota’s offense, the two players FC Cincinnati will need to watch for are Miguel Ibarra and Darwin Quintero, who are both in the midfield. Ibarra has three assists, most on the team, and he also has two goals. The team  has 17 goals on the season, so he has been involved in almost 33 percent of Minnesota’s goals, a sizable amount. Onto the other midfielder, Quintero has the team lead in shots with 20, so we have to make sure to stay marked when he gets in range of the goal. He also is tied for the team lead in goals with three, along with Christian Ramirez.

On defense, their lack of cohesion shows. They have allowed 26 goals in 14 matches, which is about 1.85 goals per match. Also, unlike some other teams, Minnesota has almost exactly split their goalkeeper’s playing time in half, with Bobby Shuttleworth playing eight matches and Matt Lampson playing six. If the latter’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire last season when FC Cincinnati played them in the Open Cup. And it’s a possibility he plays here, due to the split in minutes of the goalkeepers and his experience against Koch’s style of play.

Shuttleworth has allowed 14 goals in eight matches, while Lampson has allowed 12 in six, so Shuttleworth would be the pick if you want better numbers, but Lampson played phenomenal in the game against FC Cincinnati last year, and I don’t think that will be overlooked by the head coach of Minnesota United Adrian Heath. Also on the season, Shuttleworth is 2 for 2 on penalty kicks and Lampson saved the only one he had, so just in case that might happen again they are perfect on the season.

Also, to talk about Minnesota without talking about their away record would be a crime. Minnesota is 4-2-1 at home, but they are 1-6-0 away, and of course this match will be at Nippert where the Orange and Blue fans will be out in droves.

Overall, Minnesota United are a very beatable side. They give up many free kicks, and get called offside a lot. They enjoy using the long ball to attack, and this could somewhat create a problem for FC Cincinnati if they bring too many men forward, but I think the Orange and Blue will be fine. Minnesota are a great team for FC Cincinnati to face off against, especially over the other choices of Columbus or Chicago. It will be a good challenge for FC Cincinnati because of the talent Minnesota have, but they aren’t too overwhelming. They don’t have a player who can beat them singlehandedly like a Sebastion Giovinco or a David Villa. 

I don’t want to say FC Cincinnati is the favorite to win this match, but I will be surprised if it isn’t at least close. Alan Koch has only lost one Open Cup match in his time at FC Cincinnati and I think it is okay to expect that run to continue here.