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With four FC Cincy starters out Sunday, players on the bench have a great chance to prove themselves

The more competition, the better for the team
Posted: 9:55 AM, Mar 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-22 13:55:10Z
PHOTOS: FC Cincinnati 2, Pittsburgh Riverhounds FC 1

CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati forward Darren Mattocks would like to return from Jamaican national team duty next week to find a little more competition for playing time among the rest of the squad.

Mattocks is one of five FCC players who were called up to their respective national teams during the current FIFA window and will be unavailable Sunday at New England.

That leaves Cincinnati without starters Alvas Powell, Kendall Waston and Allan Cruz, as well as backup forwards Mattocks and Frankie Amaya. FCC especially will be shorthanded at forward with Fanendo Adi out due to an ankle injury.

“It's time for the guys to come in and show what they are capable of doing,” said Mattocks, who has come off the bench the first three matches and likely would have started in place of Adi. “They are going to get their chance, and they have to make it tough for the guys coming back to get their spot right away, because competition is what is going to drive this team to be successful down the road.”

Mattocks and Powell, the team’s right back, are slated to play in a CONCACAF Nations League match at El Salvador on Saturday, as well as an international friendly against Costa Rica on Tuesday. Cruz and Waston will be on Costa Rica’s 23-man roster for international friendlies at Guatemala on Friday and against Jamaica on Tuesday.

Amaya, the team’s No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft in January, will join the U.S. U-20 MNT’s 20-man roster in Spain for the team’s final training camp before this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. During the camp, the United States will play France on Friday and Japan on Monday.

As an expansion club, FCC already is lacking depth that more experienced clubs have developed over the years, but as Mattocks said, this week is a chance to see what some other players can do.

Kekuta Manneh moved up top with Adi with the switch to a 4-4-2 for Sunday’s home opener win over Portland and could be joined by 2018 United Soccer League Player of the Year Emmanuel Ledesma this weekend.

Ledesma got his first MLS minutes off the bench Sunday and mainly plays a midfield role but was featured up top with Adi at times last year in the USL. There are no other forwards on the roster.

It’s a bit unfortunate that FCC wasn’t one of the majority in MLS who don’t have to play a game this week during the FIFA window. There are only five games scheduled, so 14 teams have a bye.

Waston said his departure to help Costa Rica personally comes at a good time after scoring Sunday and getting the win with FCC, but the timing isn’t as good for the club. The challenge for Cincinnati will be to try to keep momentum going with so many key players gone.

FCC was playing with a lot of confidence Sunday after drawing at MLS Cup champion Atlanta United, and it’s important to keep that going after getting the win over Portland, which was the other MLS Cup finalist last year.

“The identity of the club has to be the same no matter what player is playing or not,” Waston said. “I think everybody knows their role. Everybody knows what the coaches want us to play. Obviously, every player has different qualities and I think next week is huge because we don't want to be a team that is up and down.

"We have to have a certain standard. Winning or creating points is the only way that can lead us to the playoffs.”