Preseason Phase Two Begins – Tactical Work and Florida Friendlies

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Orange and Blue Press visited FC Cincinnati’s training session at Gettler Stadium on Thursday. It was the last practice before Alan Koch’s team heads for warmer Florida climates. There they will play the first of three preseason games in the Sunshine State next Tuesday, February 6th, against the New England Revolution.

Preseason Phase Two

Alan Koch spoke to us about his new cast of characters and what he’s trying to accomplish on the team’s upcoming preparatory trip. This week concluded the third week of preseason and  “Phase One” of the preseason training plan. The focus of the first phase was simply for players to get familiar with each other, begin to develop fitness, and to get touches on the ball.

“We’ve got a great group of guys. They are fun to be around. There’s a lot of energy. … What I like is that they bring the same enthusiasm every single day.”

Phase Two will obviously feature friendly matches against other professional teams and a chance for players to showcase their skills in a game setting. However, the trip to Florida will also be the beginning of a building process that implements the tactical gameplan for the 2018 season.

“Once we get down there we’ll really start to focus on some tactical work. We won’t do much tactical work before the New England game.  We’ll assess that (game) and see where we’re at. We’ll give them a platform before we start and build on it every single week that we’re down there.”

Koch also addressed the recent release of forward Tommy Heinemann.

“It’s a pretty simple one to answer at this stage. … He came in just like all of our players, and he didn’t get through the physical. Everyone else did … and they’re all training. … It’s not good for Tommy. It’s not good for us. It’s disappointing for everyone involved.”

More from Koch’s interview here.

Emery Welshman

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Forward Emery Welshman, a Guyanese international and native of the Toronto suburbs, spent some time with us, discussing his first few weeks at FC Cincinnati and why this preseason is unlike any he’s had recently.

“This is my first full preseason in two years. When I was at Real Salt Lake I was injured. And then last year I came late to Puerto Rico’s (preseason training). So this one’s a little different than what I’ve been used to. … I want to build up on strength and fitness, and technique, and then finish off with match fitness and finishing.”

Welshman was drafted 16th overall by Toronto FC in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft after a standout college career at Siena and Oregon State University. Welshman sustained a hip injury in 2016 during preseason with Real Salt Lake that saw him miss essentially a whole calendar year while undergoing two surgeries.

Listen to more of Welshman’s interview here.

Training Images Courtesy of Ryan Meyer

Training Notes

There’s only so much you can take away from these early training sessions. It’s going to be several weeks until we can draw many conclusions about the team and its prospects for the season, but here are a few takeaways from what we saw on Thursday.

Although I didn’t get the chance to interview him, Nazmi Albadawi seems as affable in person as he presents himself on social media. After training, he walked past those observing (mostly media), flashed a bright smile, and gave us a genuine “Hi guys!” For the record, that’s not normal. The players are always generous with their time when asked but usually look to move quickly past potential interviewers and get on with their busy day.  I get it—I’d do the same thing—but Naz looks the part of a people person.

‘Manu Ledesma does indeed like to shoot from range and bagged a gorgeous left-footed curler from 20+ yards in the 1/3-field game-play portion of Thursday’s session.

There’s a lot of new midfield talent, but veterans Kenney Walker and Corben Bone look right there with them in terms of quality. That shouldn’t be a surprise, and they should still make a strong case for First XI selection this season.

Justin Hoyte looks sharp and his technical ability in tight spaces stands out in small-sided drills. In addition, he blasted at picture-perfect goal from about 20 yards that was about as upper 90 as you can get.

One player that stood out Thursday that we haven’t seen or talked about much is Daniel Haber. He has great close control and tidy passing, and he assisted Naz on a goal after a fine piece of clever dribbling. He’s definitely one to watch in preseason as he competes for a starting spot in a very competitive attacking lineup.

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Daniel Haber

There are still three trialists in training with the regular team. All are believed to be products of local universities.

Jimmy McLaughlin and Josu are on the road to recovery. They jogged at a reserved pace and did other calisthenics (do people still say that?) for the duration of the practice.

Coach Koch referenced three games to be played while in Florida. The third IMG match was announced Friday and will be played against the Chicago Fire reserves on Wednesday 2/14.

We finally get to see the 2018 edition of the Orange and Blue in action next Tuesday in a matinee against MLS competition. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of that match against the New England Revolution.

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