Match Preview

What to know as Timbers travel to face FC Cincinnati

Portland Timbers travel to Cincinnati, Ohio for Matchday 9.

Coming off an emphatic win over a club with whom there have been matches with for decades, the Portland Timbers now travel to face a club with whom they have very little history: FC Cincinnati.  Here's what you need to know

Limited history but all to play for

FC Cincinnati may have made their MLS debut in 2019, but since then they've only faced the Timbers twice in an official competitive capacity. It was a little more than four years ago that Portland traveled to southwest Ohio for their first and only MLS regular season matchup. The only other meeting took place in Orlando, Florida during the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament.

On that mid-March trip in 2019, the Timbers did not fare well. A 3-0 loss in FC Cincinnati's first ever home match in MLS. The result was not the showing Portland hoped for against a team new to the league. To add salt to the wound, FC Cincinnati presented a line-up including former Timbers goalscoring phenom Fanendo Adi.

A legend in his own right in the Rose City, Adi netted 60 goals in 145 appearances for Portland from 2014 through 2018. Adi played a pivotal role in the Timbers' 2015 championship season, securing 16 regular season goals. In the playoffs, Adi came up clutch when he was needed most, scoring in the second legs of the Western Conference semis and final against Vancouver and Dallas, respectively. His goals in that postseason were crucial in securing advancement into the following rounds. Fanendo Adi ranks very high in Timbers lore. He sits second on the all-time goal-scorers list for Portland with 60 goals to his name.

The only other encounter was in the Orlando bubble, where the Timbers technically drew with FC Cincinnati in the MLS is Back Tournament's round of 16 elimination match. The Timbers, who eventually won the competition, advanced past Cincinnati via a penalty shootout win 4-2.

What FC Cincinnati looks like today

Even though it's been 1,498 days since their last league meeting, Portland knows exactly who to keep a close eye on the FC Cincinnati roster. Prolific players like forwards Brandon Vasquez and Sergio Santos, or midfielder Junior Moreno are sure to be a focus for head coach Giovanni Savarese and the rest of the Timbers squad.

FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan has developed a defensive powerhouse through the first six matchdays. His typical 3-5-2 formation has been effective, and with slight adjustments depending on the opponent, Cincinnati's 5-1-2 record – good enough for second in the Eastern Conference with 17 points – speaks for itself.

Both clubs performed impressively on Matchday 7, one forgettable, and the other an instant Cascadia classic. In a battle of the top teams in each conference, FC Cincinnati got rocked back to earth landing on the receiving end of a 5-1 thrashing at St. Louis City SC for their first defeat in 2023. Prior to losing, Cincinnati had just four goals against, with three of them coming in a 3-3 thriller at Chicago in matchday 4.

Four of FCC's five wins have been 1-nil, meaning defense is what is putting in performances worthy of their 17 points so far. Last Saturday though, their defense was left exposed, humbled, and embarrassed. On their end, Portland looks to build on the momentum from mauling eternal rivals Seattle at Providence Park 4-1. An offense that has potentially awakened after being dormant early in the season now goes head-to-head with a defense that was a stalwart to begin with and has now been shellshocked. This is a scenario that provides a recipe for an exciting matchup.