Before we start slobbering over all the new talent on FC Cincinnati’s 2018 roster, we’re going to publish a few articles looking back at some of the players we won’t see suit up in Orange and Blue this year, and discuss how we’ll cope without them. First up…
Austin was the first player FC Cincinnati signed and the team’s first captain. The Cincinnati native and Summit Country Day alumnus is the former 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year. What’s not to love about the hometown boy that returned to the Queen City for the birth of FC Cincinnati and wore the armband it for its first two seasons?
He’s one of our own.
There are plenty of great moments to choose from, but it’s hard to look past Austin’s goal against the New York Red Bulls’ MLS squad in this year’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal. Although Bradley Wright Phillips had other ideas about the result that day, it was a massive goal in the biggest game of the club’s short history. The scenes of celebration that followed are now legendary.
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) August 16, 2017
Berry’s game-winning goal in 2016 in the inaugural home opener against the Charlotte Independence deserves consideration too and has to be a close second. Berry’s reaction after the first home game.
The Good News
The 29-year-old isn’t going anywhere. While many of FC Cincinnati’s 2017 roster will find themselves in different pastures in 2018, Berry hung up his boots after last season, retiring from professional soccer and joining the technical staff at FC Cincinnati.
“Berry is currently finishing courses to receive his certification in strength and conditioning and will be a full-time coach for the first team. Working with Head Coach Alan Koch, Berry will be responsible for establishing schedules and tailoring programs for the FCC players to enhance and maintain peak performance.”
He parted ways with his playing days with the following words.
I don’t know how to do the cool MacBook screenshots so iPhone notes will do pic.twitter.com/wJTFFL82am
— Austin Berry (@aberr22) December 7, 2017
Who Can Replace Him?
No one can replace Berry in terms of his status as an “inaugural” and our first hometown hero. In 2018, the roles that Berry played will be divvied up between a number of players. In terms of the captaincy, Kenney Walker, a co-captain in 2017 and last year’s team MVP, appears to be the man. However, there’s going to be a lot of competition for starting places this season, with some very accomplished players arriving in Cincinnati. Some certainly have the credentials to captain this team, so this is a space to watch. Fullback Matt Bahner is now the only native Cincinnatian left on the squad.
In terms of the center back position, FC Cincinnati will obviously have a whole new look in 2018. The most like-for-like replacement for Berry is Dekel Keinan, the veteran Israeli that brings top-level European experience and senior leadership to the club. He will likely be the organizational leader and will carry a stature similar to Berry as a character guy that’s played at a high level in the past.
Keinan just arrived in the Queen City with his family, ahead of preseason training.
— Dekel Keinan (@DekelKeinan) January 11, 2018
In addition to Keinan, talented newcomers Forrest Lasso and Paddy Barrett also will bolster the center of the Orange and Blues’s defense this season. Here’s a look at the full slate of center back’s now on the roster with relevant stats*.
|Dekel Keinan||33||6’0||16||252||18||27 caps for Israel, brief stints in English Premier League and Champions League|
|Paddy Barrett||24||6’0||5||91||7||Irish 1st division and Europa League|
|Forrest Lasso||24||6’6||3||62||10||3 years with Charleston Battery|
|Sem De Wit||22||6’1||5||114||3||10 league appearances with FCC last season|
|Garrett Halfhill||24||6’2||<1||3||0||Signed first pro contract with FCC last year|
*Stats via Transfermarkt
With five center backs on the books, Alan Koch certainly has the depth to feature a five-man back line with three starting center backs, which he did regularly last season. One interesting side note for this position–if you exclude Keinan, who will be the oldest player on the 2018 roster, center back is the most youthful position on FC Cincinnati’s squad.
Thanks Coach Berry
Over the next few weeks, the Orange and Blue faithful will be introduced to new faces and find new heroes to replace the ones that have departed. But Austin Berry has etched himself indelibly into the history books at FC Cincinnati as a player, and he looks ready to continue that legend beyond the pitch.