Please welcome new Orange & Blue Press writer Steve Buckeridge who shares his thoughts on which players made an impact during FC Cincinnati’s 2018 preseason slate.
Undeniably, the lead up to the 2018 FC Cincinnati USL season has been much anticipated with an overhaul of the roster (17 total new signees in addition to the 9 returning players), Alan Koch imprinting his style, the on-going MLS expansion saga, the search for an ideal soccer-specific stadium site, and the intense expectations of the fervent Orange and Blue fanbase.
As we close out the preseason and set our focus on the USL opener away to the Charleston Battery, it’s worth taking a moment to take stock and reflect on the preseason standouts.
Lance Laing (#14)
One of the club’s key off-season signings was Jamaican international Lance Laing, who joined FCC after playing for USL newcomer North Carolina FC (formerly the Carolina Railhawks). Initially penciled in as one of Coach Koch’s wingers in his 4-2-3-1 formation, Lance also excelled at left back throughout the preseason showing his versatility, strong overlapping runs, and ability to deliver pinpoint service into the box. Lance created Halfhill’s goal to best the Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-0 down in Bradenton, and scored the brilliant golazo against Nashville SC to end the first half.
It will be important to watch the knock Laing took recently that kept him from playing against UC and Sacramento Republic FC. It was good news seeing him back on the pitch in the Wright State friendly yesterday. Once fully healthy, Laing should feature in Koch’s plans along the left flank, whether at the fullback or winger position.
Daniel Haber (#92)
A Canadian international, Haber joined FCC from USL Western Conference side Real Monarchs FC (the MLS2 squad for Real Salt Lake) and had previously connected with Coach Koch during his tenure with Vancouver Whitecaps II. Haber tallied 7 goals and 4 assists in 30 matches for the Monarchs last season and continued his production at FCC factoring in 5 of the 11 pre-season goals (1 goal, 4 assists) prior to Sunday’s Wright State scrimmage.
Haber, in my opinion, has been the biggest surprise and most consistent player this pre-season in his minutes on the pitch. His energy, work rate, movement off the ball, and ability to take on defenders has been a class above the others; his presence as a substitute in the Sacramento Republic FC game enabled FCC to pull back a goal on his perfectly placed corner to Keinan in the 84th. As I watch him, I can’t help seeing flashes of USMNT and Columbus Crew great and brand ambassador Frankie Hejduk.
Haber has earned a spot on Koch’s matchday roster, whether in the starting XI or as a super sub in the final 15-20 minutes of a contest. His accurate crosses and tireless engine will result in him becoming a reliable fan favorite for the Orange and Blue faithful.
Forrest Lasso (#3)
When you see Forrest Lasso in an FCC kit this season, he epitomizes what a center back should look like—an imposing brick wall. For those who enjoyed Harrison Delbridge (now with Melbourne City in Austrailia), Lasso is an inch taller and a year younger. Forrest’s play in the pre-season also has not disappointed—he is a stud, a rock, and vocal leader on the pitch while being a social media darling off the field as well.
Besides his presence, Forrest has already shown a very good understanding of Koch’s desire to build the attack from the back and is a relentless aerial threat to score on any free kick and corner kick opportunity, as he infamously did in last season’s opener against FCC when playing for the Charleston Battery. FCC’s opposition will be preoccupied with placing a body, or several on him, allowing other attacking options to find the back of the net on set pieces. Look for the main center back pairing of Lasso and Keinan to continue to blossom and help provide clean sheets for FCC this season.
Honorable Mention – Keeper Coach Jack Stern
Although not as visible to most FCC fans, the club has also reinforced the team with new coaches as well. One of the early successes has been the addition of Jack Stern as the goalkeeper coach.
Replacing Mitch was on the forefront of FCCs offseason plans, and besides bringing in three quality and capable replacements (Newton, Richey, and Village), they have entrusted them under the innovative tutelage of Coach Stern, who comes to FCC from MLS side Montreal Impact. Stern also claims English Premiership experience on his coaching resume with West Bromwich Albion. The keeper rotation of Newton and Richey throughout the pre-season has been very good and will pay dividends in a long, grueling USL season combined with a hopeful repeat run in the U.S. Open Cup.
Welcome to the Queen City, Lance, Daniel, Forrest, and Jack!
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for the lead up to Saturday’s season opener against the Charleston Battery.