FC Cincinnati’s Defensive Fortress – 2018’s Unsung Hero

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Image: Joe Craven

With FC Cincinnati pulling away from the pack in the East, it’s clear they’ve found winning form this season. The offensive explosion this season has produced 56 goals to date, compared to 46 for the entire 2017 season. Those goals have helped produce an impressive 67.9% win rate. With only three losses in 28 games this season, there’s another factor at work here — a tough, organized, and efficient defense.

The Orange & Blue have remained unbeaten since May 26th with a 13-0-4 record. During the 17 game unbeaten streak they’ve recorded nine clean sheets and conceded 11 goals.  For the season they currently stand fifth best in all of USL keeping opponents scoreless in 12 matches. The 1-0 blanking of Louisville City FC showcased FCC’s defensive fortitude as last year’s USL champions threw the kitchen sink at FCC’s goal. A barrage of 43 crosses and 19 total scoring attempts resulted in only 5 shots on target for LCFC. These performances have been the norm for the FC Cincinnati defenders throughout the season and will be essential to success in the postseason.

The Orange and Blue Stronghold

The addition of key players this season has proved the difference maker all over the field. The defensive unit is evidence of coach Alan Koch’s commitment to building a championship squad. The center backs continue to impress with Dekel Keinan, Forrest Lasso, and Paddy Barrett sharing the duties of anchoring the back line. These additions have become a staple of the starting 11 this year. The outside of the defense has also had new additions. Blake Smith has seen significant playing time and newly acquired Pa Konate adds speed, depth, and Serie A credentials. Returning players Justin Hoyte, Matt Bahner, and Sam Dewitt round out the Orange and Blue’s concrete barrier. With Bahner coming off an injury and Konate back from international duty, coach Koch has all of his defensive weapons available for Sunday’s match. Here, coach Koch speaks about preparing for a Sunday match and managing training for the returning players.

Workhorses

The unsung heroes of the pitch rack up some impressive numbers. Here’s a summary of the stats for the five defensive players with the most playing time.

  • Dekel Keinan:  20 games played (1,746 minutes), 115 clearances, 94.4% successful tackle rate, 35 interceptions, 2 goals.
  • Forresst Lasso:  24 games played (2,124 minutes), 183 clearances, 79.2% aerial dual success rate, 38 interceptions, 2 goals.
  • Paddy Barrett:  12 games played (1,080 minutes), 64 clearances, 77% passing accuracy rate, 25 interceptions, 1 goal.
  • Blake Smith:  24 games played (2,005 minutes), 81.2% passing accuracy rate, 13 successful crosses, 4 assists, 1 goal.
  • Justin Hoyte:  24 games played (2,160 minutes), 79.4% passing accuracy rate, 15 successful crosses, 2 assists.

Offensive Weapons Too

FC Cincinnati’s defensive fortress has the ability to get forward and push into the attack as well. The back line has combined for a total of 48 shots, 6 assists, and 6 goals. Here’s captain Dekel Keinan bringing the game level against Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

The old saying of a house is only as good as the foundation it’s built on can be used throughout the sports world. Soccer is certainly no exception. The glory and accolades seem to favor the goal scorers, the play makers, the stars. Those of us fortunate enough to experience the game as players and coaches know one thing for certain, a good defense will carry you to championships. FC Cincinnati is showing it has what it takes.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for continued coverage of FC Cincinnati as they finish their regular season and prepare for the playoffs.

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