Images: Charleston Battery 1 – 2 FC Cincinnati

Images of FC Cincinnati’s victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, February 16th at the Carolina Challenge Cup.

Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s 2-1 victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, February 16th. The win was secured in the first of three preseason tune-up contests in the 2019 Carolina Challenge Cup.

When browsing the gallery below, for any given image, a high-resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.” All images are courtesy of Joe Craven.

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All images are copyright protected to safeguard the creative rights of our photographers. We’re very open to sharing our work with those who want to show support for FC Cincinnati. We simply request that you ask (via DM on Twitter or email) and give credit where it’s due. Thanks!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.

Preseason Kickoff: Take Advantage of the Opportunity and “Make Some Mistakes”

After four days of training at IMG Academy, Alan Koch shares his thoughts before FC Cincinnati embarks on its preseason schedule against Impact de Montréal.

Image: Ryan Meyer

After four days of training at IMG Academy, FC Cincinnati embarks on its seven-game preseason schedule on Wednesday against Impact de Montréal. FC Cincinnati does not currently have plans to stream the 7pm kickoff, so social media will be the only outlet to keep up with the action. In a press conference on Tuesday, Alan Koch stressed the importance of “taking advantage of each one of the opportunities” that these preseason games offer.

Overload of Information

MLS mandated a January 21st date for the start of preseason camps, so FCC’s camp started later than last year. In addition, the MLS season starts earlier than USL. The short story is that the coaching staff doesn’t have the luxury of time in 2019. Koch said he’s spent the past four days “overloading” his players with information about how they want to play. “We wanted to give them a lot of information. Sometimes it clarifies things, and sometimes it confuses them, but regardless it’s part of the process.”

Game One Strategy

Alan Koch shared his roster plans for the tomorrow’s match. The strategy is similar to how the technical staff approached last year’s early preseason games in terms of full-squad rotation.

“We’re going to play 2 groups for 45 minutes. So 20 players, if everyone is healthy, will get 45 minutes each. There will be a few guys who won’t be able to get minutes tomorrow, and we’ll do some extra work with them to compensate for that. We plan on playing Tyton for 90 minutes in the game in goal.”

He noted that Spencer Richey is “not at 100% yet” and that goalkeeper Ben Lundt, drafted 37th overall by FC Cincinnati, has a minor injury which will keep him out. Therefore, Jimmy Hague, also drafted in the SuperDraft, will be the backup goalkeeper against Montréal. Koch commented that Hague has done very well so far during preseason,

Greg Garza is still out with a quadriceps strain, but he trained for the first time with a ball Tuesday. “It’s not too far away until he’s fully integrated into training,” Koch said.

Heavy Physical Workload

Continuing on the theme of making the most of preseason time, Koch confirmed that they would need to push the team physically over the next four-and-a-half weeks before the Seattle season opener.

“We’ll push them more than we did last year because we have less time to get ready. Many players had heavy legs and were a little stiff and fatigued today, and that’s expected. If we were in-season, there’s no way we would push them this hard right before a game. Part of it is getting yourself fit and getting ready. Last year we extended our preseason…we didn’t have to push them as much. This year we have to maximize every day.”

So what is the technical staff looking to see tomorrow? Koch gave us a list, which included no injuries, gaining match fitness, developing relationships, seeing some players exceed expectations, and mistakes. That’s right. “We want to see some mistakes. It’s ok to make mistakes at this stage” said Koch.

MLS Kit Fever

Back in Cincinnati, FC Cincinnati fans have been screaming for new kits since the brand-reveal last November, and news finally came on Tuesday. The team’s inaugural uniforms will be unveiled at Cincinnati’s Music Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11. The event will be ticketed with all proceeds going to the newly-launched FC Cincinnati Foundation. The tickets are on pre-sale now to Season Ticket Members, and a select number will be available to the general public starting at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30th.

The new FCC kit will also be available for pre-sale purchase at the event and online at the MLS Store later that evening. Those who attend will receive a 10 percent discount on merch, including pre-ordered kits. See the linked article for official details.

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

Training Week 1 – Top Quotes & Hagglund’s First Session

Quotes, images, and audio from FC Cincinnati’s first week of training at Sheakley Athletics Center, including Nick Hagglund’s first session and interview.

Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati’s first week of training concluded with local product Nick Hagglund joining the squad. The Orange & Blue’s latest defensive signing participated in practice on Friday and addressed the local media after the session. He and the team will now head to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, for one of two trips south this preseason.

After four days of preparation in the Sunshine State, Alan Koch’s men will face the Montreal Impact, Colorado Rapids, and DC United over a span of nine days starting January 30th. Here is our collection of quotes, images, and audio from FC Cincinnati’s first week of training.

Nick Hagglund

Nick Hagglund on the opportunity to come back to Cincinnati.

“It was first on the top of my list and when the opportunity came, I knew I wanted to be here and have an opportunity to be here from the beginning and be a part of the growth of this team in the coming years.”

Hagglund on telling his parents after learning the news that he was returning to Cincinnati.

“They were just ecstatic. My Mom couldn’t stop smiling and my Dad was just giddy. My sister went overseas and came back to Cincinnati. I went to Canada and now I’m here. So for all of us to be back is really special.”

Full interview below.

Fanendo Adi

Adi on what FC Cincinnati fans should expect from defender Alvas Powell, who was acquired in December. Powell and Adi played together in Portland for four seasons.

“He’s a great player. We know how fast he is and how he can get forwards and backwards. We have to use him to the best of his abilities. He has a lot to add to the team, to help us on the back line and to help us attack. For me personally, he’s a guy that can give me a lot of goals, so I’m looking forward to his service. But he’s going to be very helpful to the team.”

Full interview below.

Leo Bertone

Leo Bertone on what he tries to focus on during preseason.

“I try to get confidence and take responsibility, and get into (my) role as fast as possible. . . more (focus on) mentally than in terms of playing style. “

Leo on the transition from living in Europe to Cincinnati.

It was easy really because in Switzerland the weather is a little bit like this, and the people are open and they give a warm welcome, which makes it easy to start.

Full interview below.

Images: First Day of MLS Training for FC Cincinnati

Greg Garza

Garza is currently on a “day-to-day” timeline for return from a quadriceps strain. Greg commented on the injury sustained while with the U.S. Men’s National Team.

“It was something very minor. I sat down with Greg Berhalter and George Chiampas, the national team doctor. We decided that it would probably be better (for me) to come to the new club . . . Especially for my career and starting this new project with Cincinnati, it was better to start here instead of force something that could lead to something worse.

Full interview below.

Alan Koch

On whether last year’s approach to building a team is a blueprint for success this season.

“Because we had so much change, last year was a great learning experience for us. But doing it in the first tier is completely different. The goal is the same but now we are playing at a much higher level . . .We go into the season clearly as underdogs this year BUT, internally we have a lot of confidence in this group. We just need the time, . . I’m sure we’ll go through some difficult times to start the season, but we’ll stay true to the process. I feel confident that eventually we’ll get where we need to get.”

Full interview below.

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

FC Cincinnati’s 2018 Preseason Standouts

New contributor Stephen Buckeridge reflects on the preseason campaign and who stood out for FC Cincinnati in the build up to the 2018 USL season.

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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.

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Sacramento Digested: Result in Context, Injuries, Haber, One and Done

A deeper take on FC Cincinnati’s last preseason match including the result in perspective, injuries, Daniel Haber, and one and done regular season scheduling.

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Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Sacramento Republic brings FC Cincinnati’s preseason slate to its conclusion.** Next weekend FC Cincinnati embarks on a long USL campaign starting with a Saint Patrick’s Day opener against the Charleston Battery. Here are a few thoughts to share after fully digesting Saturday’s preseason rehearsal against Republic FC.

The Result

Well, Saturday was a bit disappointing, wasn’t it? After a six-game undefeated run that included a lot of positives and excitement, yesterday’s result was an anti-climatic conclusion to the 2018 preseason. Sacramento dominated play in our backyard, and they were two goals to the good before an 84th minute Keinan header made the final score respectable. While there are certainly areas to be concerned about, there really is no need to panic at this early stage.

Soccer is the ultimate team sport, and to expect a team with 15+ new players to come flying out of the gates is probably unrealistic. Building a high-performing team is just as much about finding the right chemistry and having a game plan that fits the players, more so than having the best raw talent. Even with a long preseason, expect it to take one-third of the USL season to get that mix right. The players need to develop enough familiarity with each other and the system to deliver to their potential. If FC Cincinnati isn’t looking good in the late-May timeframe, the hard questions should come to the surface.

There were some positives to make note of, as well. Another goal means that the Orange and Blue scored in each of their seven preseason matches. The Bailey was rocking again, and you could feel the pent-up energy in the drums and chants after a long offseason. The new kits looked pretty in the cold midday sunshine. There was even a player that stood out despite the result (which we’ll get too soon enough).

From a coaching perspective, Saturday’s result might not be a bad thing heading into the season either. Sure, it would have been nice as a fan to see the team thump an MLS expansion rival to build the excitement heading into game one. But Saturday’s loss knocks the team back a bit and reinforces that, even if they have a lot of talent, they are going to have to work hard and execute every time out. No trophies are handed out for having a good roster.

Injuries

Small injuries are continuing to mount for the Orange and Blue. We expected Lance Laing (bone bruise) and Danni König (back spasms) to miss out, but Emery Welshman was surprisingly absent from both the first team and the bench. The Toronto native took a tumble in Friday’s 11-v-11 training and stayed down for a couple minutes. He continued thereafter but perhaps a small knock kept him out of Saturday’s action. No details are available yet, but stay tuned.

Tomi Ameobi also went down with an injury during Saturday’s match after a collision with Sacramento’s goalkeeper. He recovered and appeared to be ok, but our forward depth is being tested early. It’s worth noting that Manu Ledesma could quite comfortably fit into that role for some cover if needed.

Fortunately, most of these seem like small problems as opposed to more serious damage that could keep players out for sustained periods of time. Tyler Gibson, of course, continues to be out longer-term with a fractured fibula.

Daniel Haber

One player that we called out early and has impressed throughout preseason is another Toronto native, Daniel Haber. The Canadian international finished preseason with five assists and a goal to his name. He’s consistently produced quality service, threatens the opposition on the dribble, makes clever runs off the ball, and has end-product results. He’s beating loudly on the door of the first team right now, and even if he doesn’t start, he should be one of the first substitutes off the bench. He had 30 appearances and seven goals for a good 2017 Real Monarchs squad. This is a player accustomed to starting and is making his case to do so in the Queen City.

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Daniel Haber

One and Done

FC Cincinnati has a strange start to their USL season from a scheduling perspective. They go to South Carolina for another “Groundhog Day” season opener against Charleston. After that, they get a two-week break from league action before their next match away to Indy Eleven. While this calendar wrinkle might be annoying to soccer-starved fans, it could be quite beneficial to a team looking to figure out its identify and solidify its tactical plan for the 2018 season. Hopefully, it will also provide an opportunity for some of these minor injuries to clear up as well, so Koch has the full roster to select from for back-to-back rivalry matches against Indy Eleven and Louisville City.

So that’s a wrap for FC Cincinnati’s third preseason. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue press for coverage of next week’s season opener, including the return of our cheat sheet previews for the Charleston match.

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**In truth, FC Cincinnati also snuck in a Sunday, March 11th friendly against Wright State Men’s Soccer and cruised to a 5-0 win.

FC Cincinnati 1 – 2 Sacramento Republic FC: A Disappointing Finish to the Preseason

In a preseason match between MLS hopefuls, FC Cincinnati loses 2-1 to Sacramento Republic FC at Nippert Stadium.

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Graphic: Connor Paquette

At the end of the preseason schedule last year, FC Cincinnati made their first trip to the West Coast and scratched out a last-second 2-2 draw against Sacramento Republic FC. With both teams waiting for MLS to make an expansion call, FC Cincinnati played the role of the hosts to close out this year’s preseason.

Unfortunately for the Orange & Blue, they could not duplicate last year’s performance, falling 2-1 to the Republic at Nippert Stadium.

Sacramento had most of the offensive control early in the match, applying pressure in the FCC half for the majority of the first period. Evan Newton was challenged a few times by his former team and appeared to have left the net open in the 18th minute, only for Sacramento forward Cameron Iwasa to muff the shot.

While FCC was laboring to get their passes to connect, Sacramento took advantage of their possession. Midfielder Kevin Aléman got a shot on Newton in the box in the 33rd minute, only for the save to be deflected to Iwasa for an easy rebound to make the score 1-0.

After the goal, Cincinnati appeared to get their bearings, as runs by Corben Bone and Justin Hoyte applied more pressure to Sacramento’s defense. A late first-half header by Forrest Lasso was swung aside by Sacramento’s Josh Cohen with a fingertip save, keeping the score 1-0 at halftime.

The second half led to a bit more physical play from both teams, as FCC tried to pressure the midfield for possession, only for incidental contact with Sacramento to twice halt the momentum. FCC’s best chance, a Jimmy McLaughlin breakaway in the 68th minute, was snuffed out by a fine save by Cohen.

Sacramento increased the lead to 2-0 in the 72nd minute. Kenney Walker was unable to clear out a ball in the defensive half, and after a series of pinballing deflections, midfielder Villyan Bijev fired a shot from the left that snuck under Newton’s sprawling effort to save.

FCC finally made it a game in the 84th minute. A Daniel Haber corner kick sailed high to the left of the box, where Dekel Keinan looped a header past Cohen. Sacramento managed to salt much of the remaining time away, despite a chance by Ameobi to tie it up late, giving the Republic the 2-1 final score.

Key Events

33′ – SRFC GOAL – Cameron Iwasa (assisted by Kevin Aléman)
72′ – SRFC GOAL – Villyan Bijev (unassisted)
84′ – FCC GOAL – Dekel Keinan (assisted by Daniel Haber)

Yellow cards
20′ – Forrest Lasso (FCC)
25′ – Cole Seiler (SRFC)
61′ – Emmanuel Ledesma (FCC)

Match Notes

FC Cincinnati suffered its first loss of the seven-game preseason (4W-1L-2T), while Sacramento heads home with its second win in the preseason (2W-2L-1T). Newton gave up his first goals of the preseason, but FCC still managed to score a goal, giving the team at least one in all seven preseason games. Keinan is the only FC Cincinnati player to bag more than 1 goal. Keinan also sported the captain’s band for FCC.

Starting XI (4-2-3-1)
Newton (GK)
Hoyte – Keinan – Lasso – Smith (Bahner 77′)
Walker (Seymore 77′) – Ryan
Ledesma (Haber 73′) – Bone (Albadawi 77′) – McLaughlin
Ameobi

Of note, Lance Laing (bone bruise) and Danni Konig (back) were left off the starting roster due to injury concerns. Emery Welshman, Sem De Wit, Garrett Halfhill, Josu, and Mark Village were also left off the starting roster.

What’s Next?

The 2018 USL regular season starts next Saturday with what people should be dubbing the “Groundhog Day Derby”, as FC Cincinnati travels to South Carolina to face the Charleston Battery. Both of the past two seasons have started with one-goal losses at Charleston, but hopefully, FCC will have the luck of the Irish on their side this time for the St. Patrick’s Day tilt.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more images from Saturday’s match and more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.

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Who Should Be in FC Cincinnati’s Starting XI?

With just over a week before FC Cincinnati’s USL opener against Charleston, which eleven players do you have lining up in Orange & Blue?

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With only nine days until the season starts, the smoke is starting to clear after the off-season demolition job done to this FC Cincinnati squad. By the time the first whistle is blown at Nippert a month from now, the team will be almost unrecognizable to the average FCC fan. One can almost imagine the hours Coach Koch and company have spent going through scouting and sorting just to get the semblance of a Starting XI.

Personally, my own lineup has gone through multiple edits as well, but it’s probably the best time to unveil what I could design. Of course, this doesn’t come without warnings; I’m not, nor have I ever claimed to be, someone who can put together a Starting XI for a competitive squad, but I feel that anyone on this FCC team could start in Week 1 and produce numbers.

This is also not a claim that I think negatively about the people I’ve left off my squad—I think each player has something positive to bring to the team, and I hope they both enjoy their stay in the Queen City and bring a great vibe to it.

My predicted Starting XI vs. Charleston:
Newton (GK)
Bahner – Keinan – Lasso – Smith
Walker – Ryan
Ledesma – Albadawi – Laing
Welshman

Subs: Richey (GK), Hoyte, Barrett, McLaughlin, Haber, Bone, Ameobi

I still feel that four or five players on my 4-2-3-1 formation could be replaced if others perform well against Sacramento on Saturday. However, I do see some solid pairings over the past two games, especially in the backfield. Both Dekel Keinan and Forrest Lasso have demonstrated the ability to be vocal on the defensive end, as well as toughness and command at the offensive end, producing some solid goals on corner set-pieces. I can see Paddy Barrett giving Keinan some breaks, but Lasso should be the workhorse this season.

I went with Evan Newton in goal, even though I think Spencer Richey is a solid backup option. I’ve been open about my belief that we overplayed Hildebrandt in goal the past two years—it just didn’t seem that Harkes or Koch believed in giving the backups a few games. I’m hoping that we see a 65/35 distribution between Newton and Richey (with a game or two given to Mark Village) so that our keepers can remain fresh.

For the midfield, Kenney Walker and Richie Ryan appear to be establishing good work between them, and their experience makes them indispensable. I think Manu Ledesma and Nazmi Albadawi should be sensible starts in the midfield, even though the tweak in Nazmi’s back has me wondering if Corben Bone gets the nod. (Of course, I also thought that Aodhan Quinn would be the perfect piece with Walker and Bone last year, so take my midfielder suggestions with a grain of salt.)

The edges could see some variation, but right now I feel sold with Blake Smith and Lance Laing on the left. Smith showed some frustration in the first half against Nashville, but gradually developed flexible movement with Laing in the second half. If Smith blitzes up the side, Laing is capable enough to drop back, as well. On the other side, I think either Matt Bahner or Justin Hoyte would work well, but I’ll go with the Cincinnati native for Week 1. At the moment, this spot is a coin flip that could be determined by the game vs. Sacramento.

The forward position could end up being the most difficult to predict. It appeared that Laing and Emery Welshman clicked against Nashville, while Daniel Haber and Tomi Ameobi worked best together against NKU. I wouldn’t be surprised if those combinations became Koch’s preferred pairings. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you found all three forwards (Welshman, Ameobi, and Danni König) getting equal minutes and goal distribution by the end of the year. For the sake of this lineup, I went with maneuverability over muscle and put Welshman with Laing to begin.

Koch has put together a squad with individual experience, but also a little bit of a higher average age by the time the first game begins. The team’s average is higher than last year’s (27.3 vs. 26 in 2017), but the Starting XI I’ve concocted has an average age of 28.7. Koch will tell you that age means nothing in this league, but hopefully, the overall boost in talent will make this Starting XI flexible enough to give people plenty of rest and opponents plenty of nightmares.

Does your Starting XI look the same? Would you tinker with the lineup or seek additional pieces? Let us know, and stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press as we wrap up FC Cincinnati’s 2018  preseason slate.

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FCC vs. Nashville: Goal Distribution, PK Concerns, and Goalkeepers

Analysis of FC Cincinnati’s goal distribution, defensive concerns, and goalkeeping battle after the preseason tilt vs. Nashville.

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FC Cincinnati finally made its 2018 home “debut” on Saturday before a sold-out throng of soccer-hungry fans, but there is one last week of preseason work before the team begins the harsh 2018 USL season. Let’s dive into how the team looks after its 2-2 preseason tie with Nashville SC.

Offense By Committee

The “closer by committee” concept may not exactly work for a baseball team, but so far, the idea of spreading around the offense is working for FCC. The goals by Lance Laing and Emery Welshman gives the squad 9 preseason goals in 5 games, and each has been scored by a separate player. So far, the midfield has scored the most (5), while the defenders and forwards have both scored twice.

Granted, a span of five games is a very small sample size, and we’ve only seen the team performing at a preseason level. But the distribution of goals could lead to some good results, especially if the offense scores at a click close to twice a game. Let’s consider some of the stats that came from the past two USL champions:

  • In 2017, Louisville City got 65 USL regular season goals from 17 players, even though their leading scorer (Luke Spencer) only had 11. By comparison, FCC only got 46 from 14 different players (Djiby with 15).
  • In 2016, New York Red Bulls II got 61 goals from 17 players, Brandon Allen leading with 15. While Sean Okoli led the league with 16, FCC only got a total of 41 from 11 players.

Simply put, the key to winning in the USL may be to not only score in high quantity but also to make sure the offense can come from any direction. One of the biggest problems FCC had last year was goal production outside of the forward position; 54% of the goals were scored by the forwards. That likely changes this year.

Preseason MVP?

The “Preseason MVP” is an absurd concept, but so far, we’ve seen some strong midfield performances, and if such an award existed, Lance Laing would garner a lot of votes. His movement along the left has provided speed and skill, and the crosses he’s delivered in previous games have been precise.

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Lance Laing

Laing’s goal from outside the box right before halftime against Nashville was deceptively filthy, catching the corner of the net past Pickens. While he put more shots on frame in the second half, Laing’s approach and hustle appeared to be contagious, as Blake Smith shook off a frustrating first half to burst up the side from feeds by Laing. Good things are happening on that side, which should also open Manu Ledesma on the opposite side of the field when the defense focuses on Laing.

Defensive Concerns

While it has been hard to let Harrison Delbridge leave for Melbourne City and watch Austin Berry retire, it’s safe to say that the FCC crowd has rallied behind the new pieces in the defensive line.

Early in the game, Dekel Keinan suffered a brutal and bloody injury over his right eye from contact during a header in the Nashville box. Keinan could have easily been taken out as a precaution. But after a few minutes on the ground, he patiently got medical treatment on the sidelines, then returned to the game to play a full 70 minutes. While it’s great to see Keinan stick it out, this was a scary moment that almost brought out the stretcher.

Let’s hope it’s merely a flesh wound.

While Keinan and Forrest Lasso played solid defense, the second squad’s late foul for a penalty kick is still a cause for concern. FC Cincinnati has given up only four goals in five games so far, but two have been from the penalty spot. The team will have to reverse the trend from last year, as they gave up many more penalty kick goals (8) than they created (3).

Who’s The New Mitch?

Spencer Richey looked relatively solid in net over the full 90 minutes, despite giving up a sun-screened first-half goal and a penalty-kick goal that went out of reach. So it’s still hard to say how Koch and goalkeeper coach Jack Stern will deploy the trio of goalkeepers this season.

On one hand, Richey has played the most minutes of all three goalkeepers and has played in all five games in some capacity. However, Richey and Village have both given up the four preseason goals, while Newton has not yielded any yet. An argument can be made that Newton hasn’t been fully tested yet, so it’s still difficult to make a final decision.

What we can assume is that it’s a two-keeper race for now, as Village appears to be in place for third on the depth chart. The game versus Sacramento should spell out the goalkeeping situation between Richey and Newton. Realistically, it appears that Koch can have more confidence in playing two goalkeepers than he did in 2017.

One More Week

The Orange & Blue will wrap up their preseason schedule this week with a match at Gettler Stadium versus the University of Cincinnati on Wednesday, followed by the first 2018 game in Nippert Stadium against Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday. By then, the team should be set in stone and ready to start the 2018 USL season.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press as we wrap up FC Cincinnati’s 2018  preseason slate.

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Richie Ryan

NKU Norse 0 – 3 FC Cincinnati: One Step Closer to Home

Taking another step closer to the regular season, FC Cincinnati defeats Northern Kentucky in a local preseason tilt.

NKU-FCC-Header2-20180227After three undefeated games on the road (2-0-1), FC Cincinnati was almost back home, as their most recent stop took them to a tangle at Northern Kentucky University on Tuesday night. While this was not officially a home game for FC Cincinnati, 1,497 fans from both sides crammed the stands to watch the Orange & Blue take down the Norse 3-0 with a well-balanced attack on a chilly February evening.

Enjoying their first game since a 2-1 away win against Indy Eleven, Alan Koch trotted out a starting eleven that may have been heavier on personnel that could make up the second team. New forward Tomi Ameobi got the start as the lone striker, and Spencer Richey got the nod in goal. Much like the Indy game, Koch had the starting squad play the first 60 minutes, while the second squad finished the final 30.

FCC possessed the ball for most of the game, developing the attack along the sides through Daniel Haber and Russell Cicerone. In the 11th minute, Haber cut along the goal line and looped a cross back to Ameobi, who sent a header past the NKU goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead. The midfielders did well to pressure the defense and force NKU to deflect shots out for corner kicks. Haber’s corner piece in the 34th minute settled easily for defender Dekel Keinan, who headed home his first goal for FCC to make it 2-0.

By halftime, FCC had plenty of chances that just weren’t going in. Nazmi Albadawi was stifled in the 36th minute from a sprawling save by the NKU keeper, while Garrett Halfhill was denied a goal right before halftime when a close-up screamer clanged off the top of the frame (and likely went in if VAR was in place).

The second half began with Danni König coming on for Ameobi, but after fifteen minutes, the entire team was subbed off for a new squad. With the fresher legs, FCC started to produce crisper passes and deep crosses, particularly from Lance Laing and Manu Ledesma, that were often denied by offside calls. FCC finally broke the second-half drought in the 72nd minute, as Forrest Lasso cleaned up a corner kick from Kenney Walker to bring the score to the final 3-0 count.

Key Events

12’ Goal – Tomi Ameobi, assisted by Daniel Haber (FCC)
35’ Goal – Dekel Keinan, assisted by Daniel Haber (FCC)
73’ Goal – Forrest Lasso, assisted by Kenney Walker (FCC)

Photos via JES Photography

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Match Notes

Just about the entire team took the field at some point in the game. Goalkeeper Mark Village was held out of the game, indicating that perhaps Spencer Richey and Evan Newton are the two names that could get the brunt of the work between the pipes. Defenseman (and birthday boy) Josu saw some playing time after sitting out the entire preseason to this point, the Spaniard finally back after recovering from off-season knee surgery. He played seven minutes after coming on for Laing near the end of the game.

This game was also somewhat of a reunion between Cicerone and NKU head coach Stu Riddle. Riddle was Cicerone’s head coach back when both were at the University of Buffalo from 2013 to 2016.

First 60 Minutes:
Ameobi (König – 45’)
Haber – Albadawi – Cicerone
Ryan – Halfhill
Smith – De Wit – Keinan – Bahner
Richey (GK)

Second 30 Minutes:
Welshman
McLaughlin – Bone – Ledesma
Walker – Seymore
Laing (Josu – 83’) – Lasso – Barrett – Hoyte
Newton (GK)

Next Up

FC Cincinnati finally…FINALLY…returns to the confines of the University of Cincinnati, but their next game will not yet be at Nippert Stadium. Instead, the Orange & Blue will play USL debutantes Nashville SC at Gettler Stadium on Saturday, March 3rd at 4PM. Tickets are still available for the tilt and can be purchased at the FC Cincinnati webpage.

Northern Kentucky will also get another game against a USL opponent on Saturday, as they will host defending USL champs Louisville City FC for a 1PM friendly. Just saying…

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 preseason.

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Preseason Match Two – Takeaways, Player Selection, and Who Looked Good

More on FC Cincinnati’s second preseason match including takeaways, team selection, and who looked good.

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All photos courtesy Ryan Meyer Photography

Two preseason matches have translated into a draw and a win for FC Cincinnati. Here are a few observations from yesterday’s 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies, as the Orange & Blue continue their preseason preparations in Florida.

Match Takeaways

First and most importantly, the squad escaped the match with no additional injuries. After Heinemann’s release and Gibson’s broken leg, the team can’t afford more injury trouble in the preseason. The players continue to build fitness, and the focus now is on learning the tactical system that the coaching staff is putting in place. Saturday’s win is a nice plus, and the team should take some confidence from it.

On the other side of the coin, the Rowdies controlled much of the first half and created clearer chances despite being only a week into preseason. That Tampa Bay squad looks solid, and they strengthened an already strong roster in the offseason. We shouldn’t analyze anything too closely at this point, but it would have been ideal if our first eleven was able to possess the ball more and create more clear chances versus their stronger counterparts. The starters did show some sustained pressure in the closing minutes of the first half and also earned a number of corners and free kicks.

The second-half unit did well to grab the lead and hold onto it with four trialists in the squad. They were playing against a weaker Rowdies eleven, but one that still had good quality (see one Marcel Schäfer).

Closer to a Starting XI

The first preseason match against New England featured two mixed lineups in each half, that blended likely starters with less experienced players pretty evenly. In contrast, Alan Koch fielded a very strong first half lineup against the Rowdies, again in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

First Half Lineup:
König
Haber – Bone – Ledesma
Walker – Albadawi
Smith – Lasso – Barrett – Hoyte
Richey

One could tip quite a few of these players to start in the March 17 opener against Charleston, although it’s still way too early to be certain. The second-half roster was definitely more experimental and aimed at getting a good look at the trialists, while mixing in the experience of players like Keinan, Laing, Bahner, and Newton.

Second Half Lineup:
Trialist #1
Laing – Trialist #2 – Cicerone
Halfhill – De Wit
Trialist #3 – Keinan – Trialist #4 – Bahner
Newton

There were definitely some new faces in the mix yesterday that we haven’t seen in training before. Notably, two of them started in the center forward and attacking midfield roles. Keep an eye on this space, as Alan Koch looks to add additional quality to the roster and find a suitable replacement for Tommy Heinemann.

Who looked good?

1. The goalies. Both Spencer Richey and Evan Newton looked sharp and made key saves to keep the Rowdies off the score sheet. The whole team has to be satisfied any time it can produce a clean sheet, even if it’s preseason.

2. Garrett Halfhill. Halfhill made the headlines with his goal and had another nice outing as a central defensive midfielder, this time lining-up next to Sem De Wit.

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Garrett Halfhill

3. Lance Laing. Laing showed his versatility on Saturday. He started the match on the left wing and provided the assist for Halfhill’s goal. Later in the half, he moved into the back line after McLaughlin entered the match. There, Laing made a critical clearance at the back post to keep to Rowdies off the board late in the game. It was also great to see Jimmy McLaughlin back on the field after his early season foot injury.

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Lance Laing

Two preseason matches are now in the books. FC Cincinnati will conclude its Florida friendlies with a match next Wednesday against the Chicago Fire Reserves.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati 2018 preseason.

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