Yoann Damet walks sideline
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Must-win vs. Rapids? Not quite, says FC Cincinnati coach Yoann Damet

CINCINNATI, Ohio —Interim head coach Yoann Damet believes that FC Cincinnati’s new tactics will pay off despite being bottom-of-the-East and suffering two consecutive defeats.

“I told the guys after the game against New York, we didn’t get rewarded,” said Damet. “I think we deserved better in the game. But if we keep working hard and focusing on ourselves, we’re going to get rewarded soon.”

After Alan Koch was dismissed on May 7, Damet pivoted from Koch’s counterattacking style to a possession-based 4-3-3 formation and made several changes to the starting XI. The new coach “bump” resulted in a 2-1 victory over the Montréal Impact in Damet’s first match in charge. 

However, FC Cincinnati’s fortunes quickly reversed and the MLS debutants suffered consecutive defeats to Orlando City SC and the New York Red Bulls. Despite a meager total of 11 points, Damet maintains that Saturday’s contest against bottom-of-the-West Colorado Rapids (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, on DAZN in Canada) is not a must-win match. 

“Not urgency to win, but urgency to react, urgency to push more within the team, to have that mentality, that fighting spirit, to find that hunger to get results too,” Damet said. “I don’t feel the urgency to win, but obviously based on our situation and the ranking within the table, we want to win, we want to get results, and we know it’s going to come.”

The changes underway at FC Cincinnati go beyond Damet and his tactics. On Wednesday, the expansion team introduced new general manager Gerard Nijkamp. The seasoned coach and technical director was hired from PEC Zwolle in the Dutch Eredivisie and will lead an FC Cincinnati reboot that includes the search for a long-term head coach.

Success won’t come easily for FC Cincy as they soldier on in the league with a persistent list of squad injuries and absentees, which now includes captain Kendall Waston, who is suspended for Saturday’s match due to yellow card accumulation. 

“Each game we are reinforcing more the mentality and style of play that Yoann wants us to do,” said Waston of the team’s new approach. “I think that since he came, every first half, we have done every single thing. Second halves have been a little bit difficult, but we are advancing in those situations. Hopefully starting from Colorado and going on we can keep improving. But if we match up with the way they play in intensity terms and the battle and the fight, I think we’re going to have success.”

Waston, Darren Mattocks, Alvas Powell and Allan Cruz will also miss time after Saturday while they represent their respective countries in the Concacaf Gold Cup. The squad that remains will have to rely on a belief in a new coach and a new system while FC Cincinnati’s early MLS growing pains continue.

“Keep on believing in what we are doing,” is Waston’s message to his teammates during this transitional period. “Faith is the last thing we can give away. We have to continue having faith that sooner or later the hard work is going to pay off.”