Spencer Richey, Cinderella, Injuries and #HELLISREAL the Prequel

FC Cincinnati earned an unlikely draw against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday in their second match of the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston. Despite a lackluster performance for the first 70 minutes, a late Roland Lamah thunderbolt and some epic Spencer Richey goalkeeping earned the Orange and Blue a point from the contest.

Spencer Richey

If there’s one name you should take away from this preseason tie, it’s Spencer Richey. He played a blinder of a match on Wednesday, and while we don’t have official match stats, that had to be close to a 10-save-match for the Washington native. The score line could and would have looked a lot worse without his notable efforts between the posts.

Przemysław Tytoń, with his extensive European pedigree, seems a shoo-in as the regular starter. But if Richey can continue to perform at the level he did on Wednesday, Alan Koch and Jack Stern won’t be able to keep him out of the net for long. That’s a good problem to have for the coaching staff.

Cinderella Transformation

The first unit that took the field for the majority of the match struggled mightily against a Fire side that began the match without many of its regular starters. Alan Koch said the following at the game’s conclusion, when speaking about the troubles they encountered.

“We looked completely disconnected. There was no support. When we tried to get the ball forward, Darren was completely by himself. When guys at the back had the ball, there was no movement . . . It’s not that they aren’t capable of doing it, but it’s the tightness in the way they went out and played. Also give Chicago credit. They pressed, and they did a very good job of it.”

In the 70th minute, FC Cincinnati ditched their proverbial rags and transformed into something quite different. Alan Koch rotated his squad, changing 9 players. The difference couldn’t have been more stark. They were immediately able to possess the ball and penetrate Chicago’s midfield, leading to quality chances in the final third. Lamah’s slice of finishing brilliance gave the Orange & Blue the unlikely equalizer.

Injuries

Injuries are beginning to loom quite large for the Orange & Blue, particularly in defense. At this late stage of preseason, those injuries seem likely to impact the start of the regular season. Greg Garza and Kendall Waston, arguably the two most valuable and expensive pieces of FC Cincinnati’s defense, still aren’t dressing for games. What is already an EXTREMELY difficult to start to the regular season will become even more difficult without the quality and experience those players provide. It is difficult to see them being match fit by March 2nd, even if they have recovered from their respective injuries.

FC Cincinnati’s depth will, therefore, be tested early. Players will need to step up to the challenge, and the goalkeeping will have to resemble last night’s display if the Orange & Blue are to claim points out of the early-season schedule.

#HELLISREAL, the Prequel

FC Cincinnati will suit up against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday for the first time as an MLS team. In truth, I would prefer that they didn’t play in preseason, to build up anticipation for the August matches. Because this is an exhibition match, there will be lots of caveats regarding fitness, player selection, substitutions, and the like.

However, on the positive side, it will be a first look at what everyone hopes will become one of the best rivalries in MLS. As one of only two playoff teams that FC Cincinnati will face in the preseason, Columbus should provide a stiff test and give an indication of where the team stands one week before the matchup with Seattle. Given the squad rotation against Chicago, we are likely to see a starting eleven that looks similar to what will run out at CenturyLink Field for the MLS opener.

Oh, and of course, FC Cincinnati also has a chance to take the Carolina Challenge Cup with a win. Not that it matters really at all, but another small cup in the trophy cupboard would be nice, and could give them a morsel of extra confidence as they head into the regular season. This team has had a short runway to get ready for the top flight. Whether they are ready or not, March 2nd is almost here.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for move coverage of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.

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