Alas, we have regular season action to dissect and analyze. One of the key themes Alan Koch has been conveying this season is the desire to find and create player pairings. He hopes to accentuate and rely on these pairings to produce results and provide much-needed depth (which has been lacking the first two seasons). This will be key for the demands of a 34 game USL regular season, and hopefully, deep US Open Cup and playoff runs.
The 2018 preseason introduced this concept to the Orange and Blue faithful, and we now have ninety minutes of USL play to paint the following portrait of one of these pairings.
Center Back Duo – Keinan and Lasso
This may have been the clearest pairing to evolve and come together this preseason. In a need to shore up a defense that allowed 51 goals against in 32 regular season games last season, and to replace Austin Berry and Harrison Delbridge, Coach Koch set out to scout and sign Maccabi Haifa captain, Dekel Keinan.
November 10, 2017 – Dekel Keinan signs. [FCC Press Release]
“Dekel is a Leader of men”; “He is quite simply a winner…”
Dekel was the club’s first offseason acquisition and was quickly followed by the signing of two more formidable center-backs all within a ten-day time frame.
November 17, 2017 – Paddy Barret signs. [FCC Press Release]
“Paddy is an uncompromising center back who also has the technical skills to play out of the back.”
November 20, 2017 – Forrest Lasso signs. [FCC Press Release]
“He [Lasso] is a major physical presence and for a big man has very good technical skills. He is a supreme danger on set-pieces.”
Dekel earned the Orange and Blue armband for his leadership on and off the pitch, and he is a natural pairing alongside 24-year-old and budding force Forrest Lasso. Besides their clear physical presence and shot blocking prowess within our 18-yard box, this union provides vocal direction on the pitch, a prominent aerial threat on set pieces, and the ability to control possession and play out of the back in multiple scenarios — First, wide to the outside fullbacks; second, a link to the spine and central defending midfield duo; third up the flanks and over defenses to streaking wingers; or finally to connect through balls to the central attacking midfielder and forward.
As seen in the gutty 1-0 season-opening win at Charleston Battery, this pairing played a significant role in helping to keep the clean sheet and to secure the win. Yes, by all means, Evan Newton’s heroic saves earned him Man of the Match (MOTM) honors, and Blake Smith’s winner will be remembered as the keys to victory. However, the tireless work of this center-back duo throughout the game, especially in the nerve-racking closing minutes, earned them my Player Pairing of the Match.
Of note, anytime there was a scramble inside our box (and there were too many for comfort), one of these two appeared to get a head or a body part on the ball to re-direct it out of danger. They commanded the defensive wall for every dangerous Battery set piece and were able to repel those shots and prevent further peril. The Dekel-Lasso combination accounted for 21 of FCC’s 33 clearances and 7 of the 8 defensive blocks on the night as seen in the following clearance map.
Most importantly though, was the partnership and communication they used to share marking responsibilities for CB93’s athletic threat Ian Svantesson. They limited the Tulsa Roughneck transfer to just two real opportunities, and thankfully Newton’s reaction saves prevented those from reaching the back of the net. The beauty of this pairing is that it should continue to blossom throughout the season and fortify FC Cincinnati’s defense.
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for additional player pairing analyses and more coverage FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.