Perennial title-chasers Addis Ababa slumped to yet another defeat, this time in the Unilever RotW Regional Cup™, losing out to North African side Casablanca. Manager Nick Cip started a youthful squad with an average age of only 21 in an effort to jump-start his team, which has struggled out of the gates in Season 31.
"We've had trouble scoring goals. We win the possession battle, we're creating chances, but for some reason we can't manage to get on the scoresheet," Manager Nick Cip said, shaking his head and bolting out of the press conference before any other questions could be asked.
The Regional Cup historically provides a rare source of joy for the East Africans, as they made the final in both the last two seasons, losing in shocking fashion to Lagos a few months ago but claiming victory in the Season 29 edition. After the managers quick exit, club captain Catalin Biro stepped in to answer questions.
"The Unilver RotW Regional Cup™ was something the players could rally around. Even though we couldn't unseat Chlef in the League, we always found a way in the Cup. It's disappointing to be out," said star striker Biro.
Biro himself rode the bench in this game, in what was seen as a rebuke for his misfiring strike-rate to start the season. That problem though goes all the way back to the Lagos final, where Biro did manage to score the Walias only goal but whiffed on several other gilt-edged chances.
The form-book reads a depressing L-L-L-L-W-L-L-L in the Ethiopians last 8 matches, and it's been a May to forget so far. Something will need to be done if this team don't want to find themselves out of the title race before the halfway point of the season.
"You can't win anything with youth. This is supposed to be our competition. It's ridiculous the squad the manager put out there," Biro continued once Nick Cip had left the podium.
Indeed manager Nick Cip brought in several youths to freshen up the squad, including 3 19-year olds. The central defender Norman Thomas was also shipped out to rivals Ulan Bator in the offseason, and he was a popular and influential presence in the locker room. The squad was an interesting mix of youth and veterans but it was thought they could finally challenge for a league title this season. Those hopes are quickly being dashed and the manager may concede the rest of the season and hope to build for the future. It is unclear if the Addis Ababa board see this manager as the right one for a rebuilding job.