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FC Cincinnati, Columbus Crew — American Soccer Analysis

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Barreal was widely expected to depart during the January transfer window. And when he was still nominally a member of the Orange and Blue in February, it was a short-term solution, until summer, at best. So Barreal’s departure on the eve of the season hurts but Chris Albright looks close to finalizing Barreal’s successor at left wingback in the acquisition of Luca Orellano on an initial loan with an option to buy from Vasco da Gama.  

Like Barreal, Orellano previously played at Vélez Sarsfield as a winger and has little to no experience as a wingback. Given the offensive freedom Barreal enjoyed, the transition shouldn’t be too much, especially with the security blanket provided by FCC’s three centerback system plus Obi Nwobodo’s ball-winning prowess in midfield. MLS watchers will know the winger-to-wingback transition more from SuperDraft picks, not potential multi-million dollar transfers. But Albright’s confidence that Orellano can slot into Barreal’s role will be a must-watch storyline in 2024. 

Centerbacks Anchoring Everything

The fact that we’ve gotten this far into the preview without mentioning the biggest free agent signing isn’t too surprising given the fireworks that the Orange and Blue could provide going forward. But the addition of Miles Robinson will provide additional quality to FCC’s three centerback setup. Robinson replaces loanee Yerson Mosquera but should offer a bit more quality on the ball, potentially helping FCC build out of the back. Robinson, playing alongside Matt Miazga and Ian Murphy, should provide one of best centerback groups in the league. 

Expect to see FCC press aggressively and rely on its centerbacks to snuff out danger high up the field. The Orange and Blue will certainly concede chances when opponents are able to navigate through pressure but FCC should find enough transition opportunities to score a lot of goals, too. FC Cincinnati games should be high on neutral’s League Pass rankings given the defense of the Shield but the soccer should feature lots of scoring. And that should make for an entertaining season.

By Eliot McKinley

2023 was supposed to be a transitional year for the Crew with Wilfried Nancy implementing a new system with largely the same players as the year before and a playoff berth was the mark of a successful season. However, it turned out that impossible is an opinion and the Crew went out and won the whole thing. The Crew started the year with injuries across the backline and found themselves 10th in the East at the end of May. After a midseason re-tooling which included the departure of Lucas Zelarayan and Milos Degenek and the arrival of Julian Gressel, Diego Rossi, Rudy Camacho, and Malte Amundsen, the Crew turned things around and had the second best record in the league after June 1 on their way to the Cup. 

Offseason Changes

As you might expect following a championship season, the Crew didn’t change too much from the 2023 squad. Columbus are returning 86% of minutes, 85% of their g+ contributions, and all eleven starters from MLS Cup. The only key departure was Julian Gressel to Miami as a free agent. The biggest incoming transfer is U-22 Initiative Marino Hinestroza from Pachuca who projects as a dribbly boi wingback/winger. The Crew added depth at midfield by signing free agent Derrick Jones, with the hope that Nancy can develop his obvious but so far largely untapped talent.  To cushion the blow of Patrick Schulte’s likely absence for Olympic duty, the Crew signed Guatemalan international goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen. But the most exciting long term signing may be homegrown Taha Habroune. The 18 year old midfielder starred for the United States at the U-17 World Cup and projects to be the next Crew center midfielder to transition from the academy to the first team following in the footsteps of Wil Trapp and Aidan Morris. While he hasn’t played a lot yet, his performance for the Crew 2 Capybaras is very promising and has already gotten a taste of MLS Cup glory.





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North Carolina Courage’s Brianna Pinto embracing new role in 2024 – Equalizer Soccer

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Gotham FC's Delanie Sheehan battles for a ball with North Carolina Courage's Brianna Pinto


Photo Copyright Rob Kinnan for USA TODAY Sports

CARY, N.C. — When the North Carolina Courage lined up for their opening match of the 2024 National Women’s Soccer League season, an interesting name filled the central striker’s role at kickoff: Brianna Pinto.

The 23-year-old had previously been a midfielder while a member of the Courage, albeit a versatile player who had been used in both defensive and attacking roles. But with North Carolina’s leading scorer from 2023 Kerolin sidelined with a torn ACL for the time being, as well as head coach Sean Nahas having a surplus of midfielders and a track history of playing players in various roles on the field, Pinto got the call as the No. 9, a move that paid immediate dividends.

Pinto drew a penalty to open the scoring in the season opener, a 5-1 romp over the Houston Dash, and notched her second start of the season back at WakeMed Soccer Park on March 30, with her first goal of 2024 in a gritty 1-0 win over Gotham FC.

“I think just being in a new role is obviously a learning moment. But I love playing the No. 9 just because I’m close to goal and there’s nothing more special than getting to score,” Pinto told reporters in the postgame press conference after the win over Gotham.

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Star in the making – Equalizer Soccer

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Emeri Adames stands with her arms folded and a massive smile on her face. She is posing in front of gold drapery in the Reign's dark blue home kit with gold accents.


Photo Copyright Jane Gershovich for Seattle Reign FC

SEATTLE — As calendars turned to December, Emeri Adames was graduating high school and preparing for life playing college soccer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Dallas, Texas, native was not planning on going pro. She had committed to a Tarheels program that is consistently one of the best in the nation as one of the nation’s top recruits.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Seattle Reign came calling. Discussions began in late December and an invite to preseason soon followed. Adames still wasn’t set on going pro but, time training with the Reign changed everything.

“It was definitely a really hard decision. I have so much respect for UNC coaches, and I have such a good connection with them still, I talked to them. But it was just mainly this team,” Adames told The Equalizer.

It has been Adames’ goal ever since she was young to go pro but she didn’t think it would happen so soon.

“It wasn’t like I was just trying to go pro just to go pro,” Adames said. “I found my place and I found a great team that would support me and the staff that really wanted me to grow as a player and I saw their visions for me. And so I talked to my family and we had a lot of conversations and that’s what led me to this decision.”

The Reign were just as excited to sign Adames as she was to join the team. Speaking after Adames’ NWSL debut, in the regular season opener, head coach Laura Harvey admitted that “honestly, within two days [of preseason] I was like ‘we need to sign this kid, she is special.’”

Harvey was almost gleeful talking about Adames, forewarning media “You wait, this kid’s unbelievable.”

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What to keep and what to change from the SheBelieves Cup – Equalizer Soccer

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The USWNT celebrates winning the SheBelieves Cup


Photo Copyright The Columbus Dispatch

On Tuesday night, the United States won its seventh SheBelieves Cup in nine years. This victory was secured in thrilling fashion – a full-time draw led to penalty kicks and featured goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher not only saving shots but also burying one of her own. But, as the post-match excitement died down, fans and followers immediately honed in on the predictable follow-up question to an international tournament: what could this mean for the Olympics? 

In short, a lot! This tournament saw some predictably solid play from Olympic roster shoo-ins like Lindsay Horan, whose abilities to consistently generate plays, draw fouls, and score goals looked as reliable as ever. Mallory Swanson returned from injury to the international stage for the first time in a year and has never looked faster or more eager for a goal. And joining her up front were Jaedyn Shaw and Sophia Smith, who more than earned their keep with goals throughout the tournament. 

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