Preseason Opener – Results vs Process, an Unlikely Duo, and More

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Maybe we shouldn’t dive too deep into the details of the first preseason match of 2018, but we couldn’t help ourselves. It’s been a long while since we last “saw” the Orange and Blue in action. So here are a few things we’ve pondered since the final whistle blew on yesterday’s 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution.

The result versus the process

Results don’t matter in the preseason—we’ve heard that several times from Alan Koch in interviews over the last few weeks, and it’s true. And while the results may not matter, confidence does, and the 2018 squad should take some confidence away from Tuesday’s result. Why?

They drew with an MLS opponent that’s further along in their preseason than FC Cincinnati. Granted, the Revolution were missing some good players due to knocks and discipline, but so was Alan Koch’s side. Not only did FCC draw the match, but they would have benefitted from 17 minutes with a red-carded man advantage had they not been playing a friendly. To add to those positives, all three trialists played and contributed to the 1-1 result, and the team suffered no additional injuries. All-in-all, it has to be considered a good start.

Before leaving for Florida, Koch’s encouraged fans to focus on the process during the preseason rather than the results.

“It’s the process. The games do not mean anything. We can go lose all 3 games, and it’s not going to change how we approach anything. We can go win all 3 games, and it won’t change anything. You obviously feel better when you win. In terms of where we’re going and what we’re doing, it doesn’t change anything at all.”

Not Your First XI

The first eleven selected yesterday doesn’t give us any clues about who will start on March 17 against the Charleston Battery. Koch said as much prior to the match—“The game [against New England] is a chance to get to know each other, [We] also want to see how player relationships develop.”

The first eleven featured six of the seven returning players from 2017 on the roster (that were healthy) with an injection of new talent. The second eleven entered after 45 minutes (excluding goalkeepers) and, except for Matt Bahner, showcased a cast that was entirely new. Here’s a look at the two squads again.

First Half Lineup:
König
Laing – Bone – Ledesma
Halfhill – Walker
Smith – De Wit – Lasso – Hoyte
Newton (replace by Village)

Second Half Lineup:
Welshman
Cicerone – Albadawi – Haber
Trialist #1 – Seymore
Trialist #2 – Barrett – Keinan – Bahner
Village (replaced by Richey)

Unlikely duo shines

Two players that started the game—Corben Bone and Garrett Halfhill—made unlikely contributions during FC Cincinnati’s first outing.

Bone wasn’t even training with the team the day before the game due to a minor knee injury, so it was a small surprise just to see him in the lineup. However, the Texas native showed no signs of wear on Tuesday and bagged the lone goal of the game for FC Cincinnati.

Halfhill surprisingly showed up in the starting eleven as a defensive midfielder rather than a center back, a position we’ve never seen him occupy in Orange and Blue. Additionally, the Xavier product combined with Kenney Walker to protect the back line and keep a clean sheet during the first 45 minutes. Is Halfhill the 2018 edition of Paul Nicholson? He’s a lot earlier in his career development of course, but can he become a player that contributes as a defensive midfielder and a center back, providing minutes for FC Cincinnati when the team is short on depth? Time will tell.

The #45 Jersey

There are several players that FC Cincinnati fans have set high expectations for in 2018, but #45 Emmanual Ledesma might be on top of that list. He didn’t disappoint in the preseason opener. ‘Manu beat two players on the dribble to set up Corben Bone’s opening goal.

You’ve probably heard about Ledesma’s 2017 stats, but they deserve to be repeated; 73 chances created, 10 goals, and 6 assists in only 19 appearances. His ability to play-make, beat players on the dribble, and shoot from range should make him a crowd favorite. I think he’s going to sell a lot of those new diamond-laden jerseys.

Building on tactics

As Coach Koch explained last Thursday, the players went into yesterday’s match with only a very simple tactical “platform.” Now that that is established and they have a game under their belt, the coaching staff will “build on it every single week” during the preseason. Koch also stated that he would experiment with a couple of different systems, so don’t be surprised if they roll out more than one look in these early preseason matches.

Saturday’s game will definitely be streamed, so plan your weekend accordingly. Find a watering hole with reliable internet, and tune in with a new appreciation for the IMG stream.

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

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