CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati interim coach Yoann Damet admittedly felt a little rushed last week trying to prepare for his first match as manager in just three days after Alan Koch was fired May 7.
Not only did Damet make a quick transition from assistant to Koch’s replacement, he also implemented a clear change in direction as far as the style of play and moved some players around to different spots on the field. He said it was a slimmed-down version of the ideas he plans to continue rolling out. But whatever CliffsNotes version he provided the players worked well enough for FCC to pass the first test.
Cincinnati earned a 2-1 win over Montreal Impact on Saturday to end a five-game losing streak and an equally long scoring drought, but now Damet looks forward to having a full week of preparation before the team travels to play Orlando City on Sunday.
“We’re going to be able to get into more details in training and take more time too,” Damet said before the team’s first practice of the week on Tuesday. “We tried to rush it more last week, and the priorities were less. This week we have more time so we can be more detailed in terms of the things we need to improve on but also the things we need to keep implementing.”
Damet remained humble about Saturday’s result, noting that Montreal was coming off a midweek game and didn’t press as much as some teams might. FCC has struggled in the past against high-press teams, but he still believes in the players’ ability to be successful in a more possession-based system.
FCC was able to build up through the back on Saturday, which means there were more short passes that often went lateral or backward as players moved off the ball to create spaces forward to attack. Damet said Cincinnati will just tweak that against opponents that press more.
“It’s all about positioning and where we want to build up, like in which space, what space we want to use, which players we want to find,” Damet said. “We made some tweaks to build up against Montreal, and I think every week we need to find the little tweak that is going to help us against different opposition. Not every team is going to high press but we need to work on the different aspects and the different game plans we need to put in place.”
Orlando City coach James O’Connor, whom FCC fans have come to despise after his time with former USL rival Louisville City, isn’t known to use a high press, so that might not be an issue just yet. However, Cincinnati still showed many other areas to improve on Saturday that will apply regardless of the opponent.
The Orange and Blue were up 2-0 after 62 minutes but seemed to wear down after that and were fortunate a first-half goal was waved offsides as Montreal’s 75th-minute score otherwise would have given them a draw.
“We built up from the back pretty well,” Damet said when asked Tuesday how he assessed the game. “The movement within the team was better, like everybody was a little bit more connected. We also saw the consistency over 90-plus minutes wasn’t there, so we need to work on the consistency and also work on the different ideas with more details. We can tell that building up from the third zone to the middle third was good; now we need to have more cues and more automatisms to create in the final third and create more opportunities.”
Opportunity is exactly what sits in front of FCC right now. Their next three opponents entered the week a combined 7-19-7, and they each play a midweek game right before facing Cincinnati. Orlando (3-5-3) traveled to play Seattle on Wednesday, and the New York Red Bulls (4-5-2), whom FCC plays at home May 25, will host the Vancouver Whitecaps three days before traveling to the Queen City. Winless Colorado Rapids (0-9-2) is on the road for a Wednesday match against Philadelphia Union before hosting FCC on June 1.
Midfielder Fatai Alashe said FCC can’t get too confident now, although it’s clear the players have a lot more of that in them since last week’s fresh start under Damet.
“You know, we’re still in a tough spot, but it’s definitely a good start to pulling ourselves out of it,” Alashe said.
Captain Kendall Waston said the win was necessary to move forward, and FCC hopes to continue building on the positive result.
“It changed a lot (getting a win),” Waston said. “You can see it on all the faces when they come to practice, because winning brings happiness, so everyone is happier now and it’s like a release. Winning three points takes a little of that weight we were carrying off our backs. We got three points, but now we have even more work to continue doing, and hopefully this next game with Orlando we can get it as well.”