Alan Koch met with the local media on Monday to provide an update on how preseason camp is progressing. Koch claims to be “quite content” with the team’s first week in Bradenton. When asked about his goals for the final few days in the Sunshine State, FC Cincinnati’s head coach had the following to say.
We want to get through the next few days and stay healthy, then get through another good exercise with D.C. United . . . I’m happy with how last week went, but we want to see further growth. I want to see the guys show more unity and see relationships evolving. We’re less than a month away now, so every day is absolutely vital.
“Culture” on Display
Koch said that his biggest takeaway from the past week and the first two friendlies was the “culture” being cultivated by the group at an early stage. “We put a major emphasis on putting the team first here, making sure that we have the right people, . . . guys that are willing to sacrifice and play for something bigger than themselves.”
He also explained that the team is now entering the “preparation” phase of their preseason program. The past two weeks have been spent in the “orientation” phase, building familiarity both on and off the field. Now efforts shift in earnest to preparing through both training and tactics to play their first MLS match in Seattle on March 2nd .
Eric Alexander Nearly “Up to Speed”
One name that hasn’t made many headlines yet this preseason is Eric Alexander. The ex-Houston Dynamo midfielder and MLS veteran saw his first action Saturday, playing a half-hour in the second half of FCC’s 1-0 victory over Colorado.
Koch had the following to say about the 30-year-old.
He’s the player that has played the most games in the league on this team, and it shows. He very reliable, good in possession, and he’s highly intelligent. That’s why we picked him in the expansion draft. He’s been a little off the pace from a fitness perspective. But he’s doing some extra work with Austin Berry, and we’re trying to get him up to speed as quickly as possible. I’m excited to see him get more game time in the next few games.
While Alexander isn’t the type of midfielder that produces gaudy year-over-year stats, he does boast a wealth of MLS experience and know-how. He’s been a regular starter in the league since 2010 and has over 30 appearances with five different MLS clubs.
D.C. United Mini Preview
FC Cincinnati’s final test in Florida is against D.C. United on Thursday, February 7th. D.C. United finished fourth in the Eastern Conference last season, a full 20 points behind Supporter’s Shield winners New York Red Bulls. The playoff run that followed was brief for Wayne Rooney and company. Columbus Crew eliminated them in the first round of the postseason in a penalty-kick shootout.
Ben Olsen’s squad just completed their first preseason warmup last weekend, a 1-0 victory against Bethlehem Steel FC. Wayne Rooney left the match after just 18 minutes after picking up a minor injury but is expected to be fit for Thursday.
D.C. United made more headlines off the field last week than on it. The team was directly in the spotlight when Paris Saint-Germain tried to land standout forward Luciano Acosta late on European transfer deadline day. The deal fell through in the final hours due to a disagreement over the transfer fee and a lack of support from PSG manager Thomas Tuchel.
Alan Koch didn’t divulge many clues about how the team would set up against D.C. United, but he did say they would use a “slightly different approach.” In the previous two friendlies, FCC featured two separate groups of 10 different outfield players. The second friendly also saw the late match introduction of some of the draftees and Eric Alexander. Koch had the following to say about FCC’s next preseason opponent.
D.C. United are a direct competitor, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they play. They should be further ahead in their preparations than we are, given that they have a big returning group. We’re looking forward to another big challenge.
Darren Mattocks will miss the match against his former club after sustaining a leg injury in training on Monday. Greg Garza is still expected to be out as well. Spencer Richey is now fit enough to play after fully recovering from offseason surgery, and will likely see his first game action per Koch.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.