With the preseason opener just days away, Orange & Blue Press is following the turnover in personnel by covering players who have left the squad for greener pastures. While Mitch Hildebrandt is the only player who left for the MLS, one more player from 2017 has found work in a top tier…
It’s easy to forget that some of the more important players from the inaugural 2016 FC Cincinnati season were not amongst the first eleven who were signed. Solid soon-to-be offensive mainstays like Omar Cummings and Jimmy McLaughlin were signed weeks after the first squad, while USL MVP Sean Okoli arrived only days before the preseason began. One of those later signings proved to be one of the biggest assets to the defensive line. He created a solid base that made FCC a difficult team to score on.
Is it any wonder that “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!” became one of our favorite calls from the Bailey when Harrison Delbridge reversed the flow of the game?
Sixteen months removed from winning a USL title with Sacramento, Delbridge was signed in 2016 as a defenseman with plenty of height and a building resume. Having played a little over half the season at Portland Timbers 2 in 2015, Delbo became an instant name for FC Cincinnati in his third season. He gave FCC two extraordinary seasons as a keystone to the back line, as a workhorse who provided boatloads of minutes, and as a player who could switch the field quickly.
Delbridge grabbed end-of-the-year accolades as a member of the All-League First Team in both 2016 and 2017 for FCC. The 6’4” Sydney native was an ironman on the pitch—of all non-goalkeeper players, Delbo ranked in the Top 10 for minutes played and only missed 4 of 64 games over the past two seasons. Delbridge scored four goals and three assists in his FCC career. But he was known much more for his sweeping slide tackles and ability to reverse course, leading the USL in 2017 with 120 interceptions.
All of the goals from Delbridge were fun to watch. His lone goal in 2016 was a perfect receiving cross from McLaughlin to knot the score against FC Montreal. It turned the tide for a comeback win and provided a celebratory pose that graced the season-ticket booklets in 2017.
While most of his moves were aerial or sliding along the ground, Delbo’s dribbles up the pitch were often understated, as he tended to be more of a weaver than a straight bomber. However, his goal against New York Red Bulls II in 2017 was straight champagne and caviar.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) September 17, 2017
Which defensive play stands out from Delbo? How about this masterful clearance off the line against Ottawa?
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) August 24, 2017
However, the first indelible moment that made Delbridge a fan favorite may have been from back in May 2016. Going up for an aerial challenge in a close game versus Harrisburg, Delbo caught a solid elbow just under the right eye that split him open like an overripe tomato.
After getting patched up, Delbo stuck it out for the rest of the ninety minutes, laying the first brick in an impressive career as FCC’s wall.
The Bad News (and the Good News)
After the final whistle of 2017, a lot of fans felt we had seen the last of Delbridge at FC Cincinnati. After gaining first-team honors for two straight years, MLS had to have noticed the Aussie’s heart and head, right? There was no way that a first-tier team would ignore all the minutes he had compiled.
— Melbourne City FC (@MelbourneCity) November 27, 2017
But while MLS dawdled on making the call, a team from Harrison’s home country picked up the phone. Melbourne City FC from the Australian A-League swooped in to seal the deal, signing Delbridge to a three-year contract. It may be odd seeing Delbo in an Etihad Airways jersey, but it’s great to see him get his shot at a first-division team. Perhaps there’s room in Australia’s World Cup squad?
Who Can Replace Him?
So how do you replace someone who was such an anchor in the FC Cincinnati D-line?
There’s a good guess that Austin Berry’s captaincy will be replaced with Dekel Keinan’s deep experience in the Israeli Premier League, so it makes sense to fill the space next to him with a tall, physical presence who has a knack for clutch goals.
Forrest Lasso seems to be that natural replacement for Delbridge. Lasso’s age and height are comparable to Delbridge’s. While he may not have put in as much time as Delbo, Lasso put six USL and two USOC goals in the net in 2017, contributing quite a bit to Charleston’s +20 goal differential (5th in the USL). His performances in 2017 also put him on the USL All-League First Team with Delbridge. Lasso’s online presence and apparent desire to constantly improve himself should make him a quick fan favorite, but his nine yellow cards in 2017 could be a demerit.
If Koch wishes to give Lasso a rest, he could easily insert Paddy Barrett for defensive stability or Sem De Wit for familiarity with Koch’s system, but this should be Lasso’s position for the 2018 season. If he’s able to give us performances like the ladder he climbed in the 2015 playoffs (or the two goals he scored on FC Cincinnati last year), he should be a perfect fit.
Good On Ya, Harry!
When trivia questions are ultimately written about the Orange and Blue in a future Cincinnati version of Trivial Pursuit, people should store this choice piece of information in their brains—the first-ever game-winning goal for FC Cincinnati was scored by Delbridge in the 2016 preseason against NYCFC. Sure, it doesn’t count in the standings, but it speaks volumes about the type of player Harrison was for FCC.
— Harrison Delbridge (@HarrisonDelbo) November 28, 2017
We’re going to miss Delbo’s unselfish play, his counterattacking ability, and perhaps that slotted PK against Chicago. Heart is something that is difficult to quantify, but as far as we can tell, Harry’s got loads of it.
Take it easy, mate, and good luck in the A-League!
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the FC Cincinnati 2018 season.