Jurgen Locadia - FC Cincinnati - jersey pose
FC Cincinnati

Will FC Cincinnati's Jurgen Locadia be in the starting XI vs. Atlanta United?

MILFORD, Ohio — As Atlanta United prepares for life without star striker Josef Martinez, FC Cincinnati have a better kind of problem — a clean bill of health.

"Everybody is available," FCC interim head coach Yoann Damet said after training Thursday. "We have a full roster for this weekend and some decisions to make."

While Damet added full health is often easier and always preferred, there's also a position battle brewing up top between FCC strikers; a good problem to have for any coaching staff.

Forward Brandon Vazquez, a 2019 Expansion Draft selection by Nashville SC who was traded to FCC in November, got the start and an assist in FCC's season opener vs. the New York Red Bulls. But hot on his heels is the club's shiny new designated player Jurgen Locadia, who came off the bench and scored in the 3-2 loss Sunday.

The showdown at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and on DAZN in Canada) is personal for the 21-year old Vasquez, who played three seasons for Atlanta.

When asked about facing his former club, Vazquez didn't shy away.

“Yes of course it's always more of a motivation, going back to where I scored my first professional goal and started my career,” he said. “It’d be great to come back and score at Mercedes-Benz Stadium."

FCC defender Greg Garza knows that feeling well, having run through the same gamut of emotions last year around this time with Atlanta and Cincinnati.

"There's always something extra when you go to a place you once called home," the veteran mused. "I always say we're gypsies of life. We move around and there's never a home sweet home. But when you find a place and you lift a few trophies there, it's special."

It's a cruel twist of fate that Vazquez — once considered an understudy of Martinez in Atlanta — finally gets out from under his shadow only to now face a surging Locadia. But that's not weighing on him.

"Personally, there's always going to be competition," said Vazquez. "It should never be settled down. It pushes me to be the best I can."

He added: "I know that I'm young, but I feel ready. I don't want to be that patient anymore. I'm ready to take any opportunity I can get. The coaching staff has a lot of trust in me and vice versa. There's a plan. I came here with a lot of expectations for myself."

Garza — who first crossed paths with Vasquez at Club Tijuana when the latter was only 13 — once more offered his sage advice on the matter.

"That's the life of football,” he said. “I tell the younger guys trying to reach their full potential: 'you'll always have your moment.’"

Vazquez and Locadia are both new to the club, so that 'moment' may come first to whoever gets acclimated to their new surroundings quicker.

"We try to create experiences through the training environments," Damet said. "We put them through different scenarios in training to get used to each other, the new club, and the new environment."


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