Strong performance last weekend buoys FCC hopes for Toronto match as fans look for possible Nwobodo debut

FC Cincinnati will travel to Toronto FC in the MLS on Saturday afternoon after a narrow defeat that boosted confidence in the team’s prospects this season.

If that performance wasn’t enough to whet a local appetite for the game, the prospect of seeing the club’s new DP in action for the first time should do the trick.

The Orange-Blues (2-5-1) put on a very good showing at home on Sunday, losing 2-1 to Western Conference leaders Los Angeles FC despite missing several starters through injury. The team’s offensive prowess and competitive mentality displayed in that game left team watchers mesmerized by how much this team has improved over the FCC version of the past three seasons.

Noonan knows none of this will matter if his side don’t take on Saturday’s challenge from Bob Bradley’s Toronto FC side.

“We’re prepared for a team that can pursue the ball defensively in a way that can make you uncomfortable,” Noonan said in comments the club distributed to the media. “So how do we find solutions to deal with the pressure moments? And then with the ball a team that has the quality to move the ball quickly. They can hit you through the middle, they can hit you in wider areas when playing with the full-backs. It’s a good test for us. And we know when we step onto the field that it’s going to be an intense game and we have to be prepared to get that intensity but also have a certain quality in certain areas of our game to be able to get a result.”

Toronto is 3-3-2 this season, with a trio of 2-1 home wins over DC United, NYCFC and Philadelphia being highlights of the season. The team has scored 15 goals and conceded 16 goals in eight games.

The team’s top scorer is new signing Jesus Jimenez, a 22-year-old forward who joined the team from Spain via Poland. Jimenez has six goals and one assist so far. Other players in the starting XI include midfielders Alejandro Pozuelo, Jonathan Osorio (two goals and four assists each), Michael Bradley and Jacob Shaffelburg. In defense are the regulars Lukas MacNaughton, Luca Petrasso, Carlos Salcedo and Shane O’Neill. Alex Bono holds the position in goal.

The Toronto squad is in near-perfect health, but FC Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan is still grappling with a string of injuries at his side. As a result, 20 different FCC players have started at least one MLS game this season. Some of Saturday’s line-up questions revolve around players recovering from injuries such as striker Brandon Vazquez, defenders Geoff Cameron and Ray Gaddis and goalkeeper Alec Kann.

New signing Obinna Nwobodo arrived in Cincinnati this week and had his first training session with the club on Thursday, but Noonan (although he didn’t rule out his engagement on Saturday) stressed he should be wary of adding the Nigerian to the line-up too early.

“We have to be smart about his inclusion in the group. He’s been training here since day one. He’s been here for a few days but today was his first real boost in intensity with our group,” Noonan said. “Although he’s in good form from the games he’s behind him, it’s still a new team, new ideas. So we have to be smart about how we give him information and how we build with his logs. The positive thing is that he is an option.”

Make no mistake, however, Noonan is optimistic about the impact Nwobodo can have on this FCC team.

“It was nice to have him on the field with the group today. He’s coming back from a long journey over the past few days,” he said. “You can only see his impact on the group and in training with his ability to cover ground; win balls; dissolve games; brings us forward. And that’s because he’s a bit rusty after the trip, so it’s getting better.”

For his part, Nwobodo acknowledged that the long flight to Cincinnati followed by a short trip to New York for visa-related procedures made him a little “rough,” but he was happy to get his first training session on Thursday. Despite not knowing much about the FCC squad or MLS in general, the midfielder is excited at the prospect of his new club and league.

“I had the opportunity to interact with the trainer and he explained to me what they are looking for and what they are up to. And then I feel like I’ll be a part of it,” Nwobodo said. “And also something that will help me continue to grow in football and also in my career. I think it’s something that will help me get to the next level and then get a lot better and improve. So that was the interaction I initially had with him. And I think hopefully it will be what I wanted it to be.”

Nwobodo added that the only guarantee he wants to give FCC fans is that he will put his maximum effort into it every time he steps on the field.

“I can’t say much, the only thing I can say is that they should expect that I will always do my best, that whatever I can do will be my best,” he said. “I will never do anything short or less than my best. So I’ll always give my all and then we’ll see how it goes.”

game 9

Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 3 p.m., BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario

Television: WSTR, Stern 64

National Video Stream: ESPN+

Local Radio: ESPN 1530

Audio stream: IHeart Radio app

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