After FC Cincinnati's 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact on Saturday, one that began the era of interim head coach Yoann Damet and snapped a seven-match winless stretch, there was a sentiment that the club had tried to ensure the transition from dismissed coach Alan Koch was more than just symbolic.
The 29-year-old Damet, who's is the youngest head coach in league history and now the youngest with a win to his record, made a slight tactical tweak to bring more attacking to a side that required only seven minutes Saturday to snap a scoreless drought at 528 minutes — or almost six full matches — overall.
While Cincy's formation was officially listed as a 4-3-3, goalkeeper Spencer Richey said Damet opted for two box-to-box center mids playing in front of one holding midfielder, removing the playmaking responsibilities from one specific player in the process. The result was noticeably better possession, especially before halftime.
“We’ve only had three days to prepare the way we wanted to play, but I think the guys did a good job especially in the first half using the ideas that we tried to create in training the last few days and really applying it on the field,” goalscorer Fatai Alashe said. “I think you can see we tried to keep the ball a lot more, tried to be calm in possession and just play. And I think it looked pretty good.”
It wasn't just about tactics of course. The removal of a coach has a way of altering players' mentality, for better or worse. And even an initial morale boost can sometimes evolve to later disorder once the emotion wears off.
But on Sunday, it was clearly a positive influence.
“He was a big factor this week,” Richey said of Damet. “That’s something he preached from Day 1 was to get the enjoyment and the fun back in our play and that will lead to guys working harder, not wanting to let guys down and doing the extra bit of work. Hopefully we can keep that going for as long as we can.”
It still took some gritty late defending — including Richey snuffing out Anthony Jackson-Hamel's breakaway — to preserve Cincinnati's first win since a 2-0 victory in March at a New England Revolution side that has also parted ways with its manager. And Damet appears to be a placeholder, if team president and GM Jeff Berding's comments on Wednesday about finding a "big-time, proven leader" have any truth to them.
But the Frenchman appears intent on leaving his mark in the meantime, and maybe treating the opportunity as an audition of sorts — if not for the full-time job in the Queen City, then maybe somewhere else.
“I hope it’s a fresh start," Damet said. "And again, it’s going to be a long way. It’s always ideal when you try to implement new ideas to get a win quickly — to create that confidence in what we expect them to do. Now I don’t want to lie to myself. I know with the way we are trying to play, there are going to be some moments that are going to be more difficult than others. We saw a lot of good things this afternoon and we’re going to build on that.”