First Day of Preseason 2018 – My How Things Have Changed

John Harkes and Alan Koch speak to the team during a training session in the first week of preseason 2017.

I was just looking back at the first preseason article of 2017. It’s remarkable how much this team has changed over the past year.

Last Year’s Article: FC Cincinnati’s Preseason Kicks Off

New signing Aodhan Quinn was the cover boy. Preseason started at the end of January last year, and John Harkes was still the manager. Alan Koch had just arrived. He spoke to us about his new role as assistant coach, and head of scouting and analytics. Daryl Fordyce and Matt Bahner had signed two weeks prior to that and they, along with Quinn, were the “big splash” acquisitions of the offseason at that point.

The squad is dramatically different today. Only Kenney Walker, Corben Bone, Matt Bahner, and Jimmy McLaughlin return from the group that trained in last year’s first week of preseason. Djiby and Victor Mansaray had not yet signed. Danni König, Josu, Justin Hoyte, Sem De Wit, and others didn’t ink pen to paper until the USL season had started.

Two weeks later John Harkes was out as head coach and Alan Koch took the reigns at FC Cincinnati just before their preseason trip to Florida.

Off the pitch, #MLS2CINCY was just gaining momentum. The soccer Don visited Cincinnati for the first time at end of November the year prior, and 12 cities had just submitted expansion applications on January 31st.

If the first two seasons are any indication, FC Cincinnati’s offseasons aren’t ever going to be boring.

Preseason Patience and Naz

Fast forward to today. Patience is the watchword that Jeff Berding has been preaching with regard to MLS expansion, as FC Cincinnati’s continues to work through a “competitive situation” with Sacramento and Detroit for the next expansion slot. The most recent rumors suggest that the decision could be delayed beyond January, perhaps even as late as March.

Even more recent headlines suggest Miami may finally be getting their act together down in Florida. Beckham recently met with his new revamped investment group in Kansas City, and the Miami Herald is reporting that they will hold a “team-launch news conference” by late January. There’s been so much misinformation about the timing of these decisions though, I’m won’t believe much until Don Garber is standing in a city with an announcement to make. MLS doesn’t exactly have a great track record in this space.

Patience is going to be a theme beyond MLS expansion. It’s going to take time for Alan Koch to mold this roster into a team given all the new additions. Fifteen of the 24 players currently on the roster have never kicked a ball wearing FC Cincinnati colors. Add to that another three-game away trip to start the season, and the Orange and Blue faithful need to accept that this team might not come flying out of the gates. There’s no doubt that FC Cincinnati has a much stronger overall squad now than at this time last year. Talent does not necessarily equal results, but it sure as hell helps. Even if everything comes together nicely, it will likely take some time for Koch to mold this into an effective group capable of winning the USL Cup.

Here’s one player that will certainly feature in the middle of the field in 2018.

Just today FC Cincinnati announced the signing of Nazmi Albadawi. The Raleigh, NC native is a two time NASL best XI player, and his playmaking ability should be a game-changer for FC Cincinnati in 2018. Albadawi at NCFC and Emanuelle Ledesma (at NY Cosmos) created 129 chances in 2017 if their stats are combined. Heinemann, König and the rest of FC Cincinnati’s attack will have plenty of good service to get on the end of this season. Good times ahead.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 preseason.

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