FC Cincinnati’s preseason continues on Wednesday when they face the Chicago Fire in Bradenton, Florida. It’s the second of three games this week at the IMG Academy Pro Classic tournament. The Orange and Blue lost 3-2 to OKC Energy in their first game.
One of the most interesting preseason battles to watch over the next five weeks will be the competition for the center forward position. Both formations used on Sunday (4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1) featured a central striker leading the attack, so let’s take a look at those in contention for that role.
Djiby Fall – Veteran Senegalese front-man Djiby Fall signed with the Orange and Blue last week and will wear the number 9 shirt this season. There’s no doubt that the 31 year old has the credentials to lead the line. His last two seasons haven’t been as productive though, with just five goals in 44 appearances in Turkey and Kazakstan. Can he reproduce the good form that saw him star in Scandinavia? Or is this one too many stops on his world tour? Given the profile of his signing, and a trophy case that features two golden boots, it’s Djiby’s job to lose. He’ll be pushed for that job early in the season by those that follow.
Victor Mansaray – The Seattle Sounders loanee has serious potential, but at age 20, isn’t the finished product yet. Vic has a lot of similarities with the 2016 edition of Sean Okoli. He is a confident and powerful young striker with Sounders roots and MLS potential. Okoli obviously won the center forward job last year and rewarded FC Cincinnati with a Golden Boot and MVP caliber performance. However, Okoli is four years older than Mansaray and didn’t have as much competition for the starting role. Mansaray looks very talented, but is still very raw. He can play wide right and may find a place there before securing a role as the go-to front man.
Daryl Fordyce – The thirty year old Ulsterman was the only forward to score in FC Cincinnati’s first preseason game, netting a well taken 60th minute goal. He is perhaps being overlooked by some due to FC Cincinnati’s more recent, more flashy signings. In NASL, he was also a consistent producer at FC Edmonton for four years. He has the size and skill for the role, and Fordyce has more goals over the past three seasons than any striker on the roster. He also has the highest goals per appearance ratio during that period. On Sunday, Fordyce played centrally behind Djiby, so Koch may fit him in elsewhere even if he doesn’t lead the line.
Omar Cummings – The Big Cat suffered a season-ending knee injury last August in a draw against the Rochester Rhinos. Although he’s attended the early February training sessions, he hasn’t been competing actively with the others. Omar started last season sidelined with injury as well. He demonstrated though that he’s capable of recovering and having a big impact once fully fit. He may factor at lead striker later in the season, but not on opening day. At 34, he’s likely to have the most influence in the locker room and off the bench.
Here’s a look at these strikers stats from the last three seasons, including cups.
Stats aggregated from Soccerway**
This all assumes that the team will be structured around a central forward. Depending on how these players perform in preseason, Koch may try to find space for more than one in the starting 11. The 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 are formations that are out of favor in many coaching circles, but could be an option for this group. Koch will have to identify his best eleven and right size them to a formation that fits their skills. Alternatively, he could settle on a formation that suits his tactics, and let that drive roster decisions. We still have a lot to learn about FC Cincinnati’s coach and players this preseason.
Andrew Wiedeman, Andy Craven, Casey Townsend, and Kadeem Dacres are all attacking options as well. One or two may also get a crack at playing central striker this preseason but are more likely to feature in other roles for the Orange and Blue.
What do you think? Who will start the season up top and what formation best accommodates these attacking options? Leave a message in the comments section below.
** Some small discrepancies have been noted between stats from Soccerway and stats from league websites. The same general pattern emerges however.