FC Cincinnati vs Bethlehem Steel FC: Back to the Valley

O&B Press explores who can fill a six goal Djiby void and checks in with Evan Villella on this weekend’s matchup with Bethlehem Steel FC.

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Photo Credit: Joe Schmuck / JES Photography

FC Cincinnati packs their bags and heads back to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley on Saturday. There they will face Bethlehem Steel FC on the seventh match day of their young USL season. Those who can remember all the way back to April 9th know that the Orange and Blue lost to Steel FC by a score of 2-0 under unpleasant circumstances. Justin Hoyte got injured. Paul Nicholson saw red. Not much went right. They’ll be looking for revenge in two days time. They’ll also be looking to put the drama of Djiby Fall’s recent suspension in the rear view mirror.

Who Can Fill a Djiby-Sized Six Goal Hole?

Unless you’ve been living under a soccer rock in Cincinnati, you’ll know that the USL suspended striker Djiby Fall for six games plus an undisclosed fine for his red card against LCFC, and subsequent altercation with Niall McCabe.

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He’ll miss upcoming matches against Bethlehem, Richmond, Orlando City B, Bethlehem (again!), Toronto FC II, and Rochester. It’s not immediately clear whether the suspension also includes FC Cincinnati’s US Open Cup match on May 17th.

FC Cincinnati spent plenty of time and money this offseason recruiting attacking talent and depth. They’ll have to put it to good use over the next six games in order to earn points against some beatable competition. Victor Mansaray is the heir apparent to Djiby at center forward, but there are plenty of other options as well. More than one striker may get a crack at trying to fill Djiby’s shoes. Our preseason article on depth at center forward provides statistical details on the forwards Alan Koch has at his disposal. Note: Reference is made to Casey Townsend in the article. Townsend is now on loan to the Charlotte Independence.

Q&A with Evan Villella

In preparation for this weekend’s match, Orange and Blue Press checked-in with Evan Villella to see what Steel FC has been up to over the past three weeks. Evan is the host of the Eastern Conference Confidential podcast, and the Bethlehem Steel staff writer for the Brotherly Game.

What has changed with Steel FC since these teams met 18 days ago? 

“We’ve finally seen what forwards Chris Nanco (1 goal) and Santi Moar (1 goal, 1 assist) can do fully, which should be horrifying if you have a slow defense. Other than that midfielder James Chambers is back with the team as of yesterday. He’s been out of soccer for a bit so I wouldn’t expect a start, but he’s the locker room leader and his ability to pick a pass out is second to none. If he comes in during the second half, be careful!”

Steel FC has lost 3 of 4 and sits in last place in the East, do you get any indication that it’s affecting the morale of the team at this early stage?

“They’ve been pretty close games and the team is scoring, which is a big improvement. I think it’s bummed me out as a writer (I’m also a Union fan, oh my god help me I’m going to die) more than the team. It’s also a small sample size and I’m not at training every day so I’m not 100 percent sure.”

If Steel FC has a weakness that FC Cincinnati could expose, what would it be?

“Giliano Wijnaldum hasn’t lived up to billing so far this year. OCB put him on skates a few times and came out with two goals. Attack that side of the field (left) and you might be alright.”

Saturday’s match against Bethlehem Steel FC will be a character test of sorts for FC Cincinnati. They’re back on the road. They’re playing a team that toppled them just three weeks ago. They’re coming off a draining three game home stand that finished with an emotional derby draw. They’re playing without their front man and top scorer for the first time. How will the team respond?

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of match day seven in the Lehigh Valley.

Love FC Cincinnati? O&B Press is looking for contributors in writing and design for the 2017 season. Contact us at orangeandbluepress@gmail.com if interested.

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FC Cincinnati vs Saint Louis FC: Home Opener and Three Game Gauntlet

FC Cincinnati opens a 3 game home stand against 1st place Saint Louis FC. Phillip Grooms joins us to discuss MLS expansion, Preki, and STLFC’s early success.

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FC Cincinnati finally returns home to a newly renovated Nippert Stadium on Saturday for their 2017 home opener against Saint Louis FC. A three game season-starting road trip was unkind to the Orange and Blue. It yielded just three points and left the team with a few notable injuries (Berry, Fordyce, Hoyte). FC Cincinnati currently sits 13th in the Eastern Conference, with just two teams below them. They were most recently defeated 2-0 by Bethlehem Steel FC, where an early injury and a red card put Koch’s men behind the eight ball.

Saint Louis FC currently sits on top of the Eastern Conference on 10 points, having played one more game than FC Cincinnati. Orange and Blue Press caught up with Phillip Grooms of the STL Soccer Report to talk about Saint Louis FC’s early season success, new head coach Preki, and their troubled MLS expansion bid.

Q&A with Phillip Grooms

Saint Louis FC opened the season with a series of good results and sits on top of the East. What have they done well so far that has led to their early success?

“The biggest calming improvement from this team in preseason to the regular season is goal scoring. It’s easy to see how Preki’s system pays off all around the pitch. One-v-one battles typically go in St. Louis’ favor. Effort and fitness make fan’s hearts swell with joy, but early on, the goals weren’t coming and they didn’t look to be in our near future. Well, in our first game at home something clicked. Strangely it’s clicked with five or six different forwards in use. It looks as if the “Preki System” is in play and having its effect.”

Former US International and MLS star Preki is now the head coach. What is one key thing that Preki does differently than Dale Schilly / Tim Leonard that is positively impacting the team.

“Tim Leonard, who was the assistant for Schilly and the interim after Schilly, is still the assistant for Preki. That said, this list could be a mile long, but in an interview with Tim Leonard in preseason he told me that, surprisingly, the passionate, on-field coach that is Preki has a very calming presence among his players. Tim told me that it was clear that previous coach, Dale Schilly, was under a lot of pressure. That pressure seeped into the locker room and, as many saw, onto the pitch. Preki brings personal talent and experience to the team that just lets the players trust him and relax. He proved his calmness when I sat down with him in preseason. I asked about the goal scoring woes early on. He merely shrugged it off and said the goals will come in time. Well, they have.”

In the wake of the recent failed MLS stadium vote, how is the Saint Louis soccer community responding and is there still a chance to get a stadium built to support the January MLS application?

“I’m going to say no–pretty confidently. I’ll also use these pictures to illustrate my point. Current Mayor, Francis Slay, tweeted the day after the failed vote that he didn’t think MLS was done in St. Louis.

Many saw this and thought the county would decide to help after all, or that a new investor would come in and save the day. Well, then we saw the following tweet:

No ideas?? Ok, my hope just went out the window with the bathwater and is laying on the ground next to the Rams Stadium. The ownership that made the MLS bid in St. Louis said, over and over again, that there was no plan B. I’m finding that it wasn’t a bluff. I’ve heard nothing.”

Saint Louis FC revamped its roster and brought in A LOT of new players during the offseason. Who’s having the biggest impact? Are you surprised they are playing so well out of the gate?

“I think the biggest impact players in this system are the cogs of the machine: the two central midfielders. They are Ivan Mirkovic and Dragan Stojkov. These two are professional frustrators. One is constantly hitting the guy with the ball, while the other cuts off passes. If a pass gets off, they switch it up and on and on we go. They get in pushes. They nip at ankles. They get lots of yellow cards. Best yet, they get turnovers high up the pitch. These turnovers have been the most consistent form of goal scoring for St. Louis, but even if we do get goals from run of play, these guys often have a hand in that too. So, if you’re watching St. Louis, start with those two (Ivan is injured, so watch for Tyler David to play the same role, but more…politely), and watch the talent revolve around them. 

As far as the strong start (minus the Louisville opener)–yes. I’m shocked. Two weeks before the season started, the front office went on a campaign telling everyone that Preki’s teams typically get off to a slow start but finish strong. We were still having the goal scoring problems, and I think they wanted to get out ahead of the losses they saw on the horizon. Well, St. Louis eked out two last minute wins at home, scoring three goals per game in the process I am indeed surprised. If this is the slow start we were promised, the USL could be in some trouble. That said, the team is about to go on a three game in a week run–two of those away. We’ll see how the team deals with the travel, recovery, and the growing list of injuries.” NOTE: This interview was before Wednesday’s 2-1 Saint Louis FC victory over Pittsburgh.

Three Game Gauntlet

FC Cincinnati topped a struggling Saint Louis FC side twice last season, both times by a 2-1 scoreline. The team they will face on Saturday looks very different however. They have a new coach, a revamped roster, and will come into the match full of confidence. Saint Louis FC did play midweek however, so FC Cincinnati should have an advantage in terms of freshness.

Saturday’s match against Saint Louis FC is the first of a three game gauntlet where FC Cincinnati will face the best of the USL’s Eastern Conference. Koch’s men will square off with the Tampa Bay Rowdies next on Wednesday. Like Saint Louis FC, the second place Florida outfit is competing with Cincinnati for an MLS expansion bid. They are also a NASL defector who eliminated FC Cincinnati from the US Open Cup last season. Finally, the Orange and Blue play Louisville City FC in the first installment of the Dirty River Derby next Saturday. Louisville currently sits third in the USL’s Eastern Conference.

It’s going to be an epic week of soccer in the Queen City, and a chance for FC Cincinnati to put themselves right back in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the 2017 home opener.

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FC Cincinnati at Bethlehem Steel FC – History Making Matchup

FC Cincinnati made history last season in the corresponding fixture with Bethlehem Steel FC. Plus, inside intel from Evan Villella of the ECC podcast.

Tyler Polak. Photo courtesy JES Photography / Joe Schmuck

FC Cincinnati finishes its three game road series on Sunday when they take on Bethlehem Steel FC at Goodman Stadium. The Orange and Blue currently sit seventh in the Eastern Conference on three points with one win and one loss after two games. Last Saturday they earned their first points of 2017 with a narrow 1-0 victory over a 10 man Pittsburgh Riverhounds side.

Bethlehem Steel is the MLS 2 side for the Philadelphia Union, and like FC Cincinnati, are playing just their second season in USL. Unlike some MLS 2 sides, Steel FC has their own branding and plays outside of their MLS team’s metro area.

Bethlehem played their first match of the year last Saturday and lost 3-2 to Rochester as the result of an 88th minute goal from Jochen Graf. Steel FC controlled 60% of possession and outshot Rochester, but came out on the wrong end of a match where three goals were scored from the penalty spot.

Q&A With Evan Villella

Orange and Blue Press caught up with Evan Villella to get the run down on Steel FC. Evan is the host of the Eastern Conference Confidential podcast, and the Bethlehem Steel staff writer for the Brotherly Game.

I remember talking to you last year after the match at Goodman Stadium and you thought that Steel FC was a playoff team. Bethlehem finished 11th in the East. What happened to a team that looked good early? 

“Losing Ryan Richter and Mickey Daly midseason to New York Cosmos and NCFC respectively was a huge blow for the defense. It didn’t help that defender and Union loanee Anderson was outplayed consistently by Union homegrown Auston Trusty. Between that and no one stepping up to grab goals consistently, Steel was stuck on the outside looking in.”

Steel FC lost their season opener to Rochester in a game that featured 3 PKs, what did they do well in that match?

“I thought they controlled possession really well against a very tough Rochester side. Between that and getting quality performances from academy products Tomas Romero (16 year old keeper who will be away on YNT duty with El Salvador) and Josue Monge (looked pretty good in the CM role next to Brian Carroll), there’s a lot to like from a narrow defeat.”

Charlie Davies scored for Bethlehem last weekend. It’s not often that we see a former US international matched up against us. How has Davies looked in preseason, and will see him on Sunday?

“Davies was a short term loan, which all MLS 2 sides have the ability to do at any time during the season. Really those are just to get guys minutes and Chuck needed them this preseason. He looked, fine, burying a penalty at the death of the first half and generally being one of the more dangerous guys on the pitch for Steel in the opening 45. That being said, for the way Steel play, Jamaican International Cory Burke or even Seku Conneh is a better bet.”

Steel FC featured eight Union loanees last week. Are we going to see that much MLS talent again this Sunday?

“I hope not. Perhaps for selfish reasons (I saw a ton of Derrick Jones before he lit up MLS last year), but I really enjoy seeing the next crop of young talent in the organization apply their craft in USL. Chris Nanco should be available and I would be very wary of him and Marcus Epps out wide.”

Unlike some MLS2 teams, Steel FC has unique branding and plays in a removed market from the parent club. Do you think this model works better in terms of drawing fan support? Are there other benefits?

“The Lehigh Valley (kind of the surrounding area where Bethlehem play) is a hot bed for development teams. The Philadelphia Flyers have their AHL team in the LV and the Philadelphia Phillies have their top affiliate (AAA) in the LV as well. From that stand point, it’s a real smart move. In terms of drawing fans I didn’t get an attendance number this last weekend but 800-1600 is not bad all. From a marketing stand point I think the “MLS 2″ team name is lazy and boring, but that’s one man’s opinion.”

Anything else we should know about Bethlehem Steel ahead of the match?

Auston Trusty (#26) helped the USMNT u-20’s take home their first CONCACAF crown this summer. He is frightfully good at knowing where he is and plays strong for a young kid just out of the Academy. We also might have Adam Najem who was the crown jewel of the Red Bull academy, and could turn into one of the best attacking mids in USL.”

History Making Fixture

In FC Cincinnati’s inaugural 2016 season, the away match at Bethlehem Steel produced the team’s first ever goal and their first ever win. Andrew Wiedeman has the honor of being the team’s first goalscorer.  He opened FC Cincinnati’s account with a low near post drive assisted by Kenney Walker in the 25th minute. Sean Okoli doubled FC Cincinnati’s lead in the 35th minute with a goal that featured some great combination play with Wiedeman. The match was also history making for Steel FC. It was their inaugural home opener at Goodman Stadium.

Re-live those trivia-making moments here. The second goal is especially good to watch.

The match kicks off at 4pm Eastern on Sunday and can be viewed on Star64 (WSTR) or streamed on YouTube.

FC Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: Three Rivers Roundup

John Krysinsky of the Pittsburgh Soccer Report gives the inside scoop on FC Cincinnati’s week two opponent. Plus, Justin Hoyte and a score prediction.

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Photo Credit: Ross Almers

FC Cincinnati looks to rebound from their opening day loss when they face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Highmark Stadium on Saturday. The Riverhounds began their season with an impressive 3-3 draw against last years’ USL champion, New York Red Bulls II. Before turning more attention to the Riverhounds, one has to mention some notable transfer business.

Just Hoyte Signs for FC Cincinnati

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Photo Credit: JES Photography / Joe Schmuck

FC Cincinnati’s front office dropped some headline-making news on Wednesday, announcing the signing of former Arsenal defender Justin Hoyte. Hoyte appeared as an unnamed trialist with FC Cincinnati in preseason and inked a deal for the 2017 season this week. Hoyte made 68 appearances for Arsenal, including 50 starts between 2003 and 2008. He primarily featured as a right fullback. Hoyte was part of the Arsenal Invincibles squad that went undefeated in the Premier League in 2003-2004, but didn’t make enough appearances to earn a winner’s medal. Hoyte spent the most of his time with Middlesbrough in the English Championship after leaving Arsenal in 2008. He was an England Youth International and also made several appearances for the Trinidad and Tobago senior national team. Hoyte obviously has the quality to go straight into FC Cincinnati’s lineup, but hasn’t played competitively since April of 2016. We may not know how he fits into Koch’s defense until he spends more time with the team and reaches full match fitness. Hoyte will travel with FC Cincinnati to Pittsburgh.

Riverhounds Roundup

The Pittsburgh match on Saturday is the second of a challenging set of three consecutive road matches for FC Cincinnati to start the 2017 season. Last season, FC Cincinnati fared well against a Riverhounds team that finished near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They won twice and drew once against Pittsburgh. All three matches were low scoring.

Orange and Blue Press caught up with John Krysinsky of the Pittsburgh Soccer Report for some inside information on this weekend’s opponent.

The Riverhounds had a good 3-3 result again New York Red Bulls II last week. What did they do well in that match?

“Unlike a year ago, the Hounds were persistently able to sustain an attack and were creating opportunities in the final third.” 

Which Riverhounds player could ruin FC Cincinnati’s day on Saturday? Why?
 
“Corey Hertzog has an uncanny ability to score anywhere in and around the box if he gets the ball near his feet.  He is playing with a lot of confidence coming off a career high 13-goal season, a strong preseason and having scored twice in the opener.” 

Who is the best offseason addition that the Hounds have made (one we will likely see on Saturday)? Why?
 
“It’s early, and we haven’t seen some new players that didn’t start vs NYRBII that I think could have an impact. Based on what I saw in the preseason and in the opener, the outside backs Taylor Washington, the 2016 Philadelphia Union 1st Round SuperDraft pick and Rich Balchan, a veteran who played for Ottawa Fury last season, are going to be solid, reliable contributors to an area that had a lot of turnover and players out of position a year ago.”
 
How will the Riverhounds set up against FC Cincinnati? How defensive of an approach should we expect? 
 
“It was unique to watch in this era some may have declared the end of the 4-4-2, that on Saturday in the opener to see two teams playing this formation. When on the attack, the Hounds are more or less in a 4-2-2-2.  Unlike the Riverhounds teams under Mark Steffens that played a lot of diagonal balls and relied on attacking midfielders in 4-2-3-1, and slightly more deliberate in trying to develop more of a possession game, this unit will try to get into the final third quickly and get the ball to their two savvy, veteran forwards. Defensively, they still have work to do. Each of the three center backs (Agbossoumonde, Jack and Adeleye) had shaky moments and Head Coach Dave Brandt acknowledged that they are “going to need to get way, way better” in that area. Victor Souto, a Brazilian that played at Akron, had a decent debut in one of the defensive midfield spots.”
 
Score Prediction from John Krysinsky

I think this is another draw for the Hounds.  Since these teams played 1-0, 0-0 and 1-0 last year I’ll go with 1-1.”

Orange and Blue Press Prediction

Like FC Cincinnati, there have been a lot of offseason changes for Pittsburgh, the Columbus Crew SC affiliate. Based on a small sample size, they appear to be an improved outfit and should be more dangerous in the final third than last year’s squad. Expect the Riverhounds to play a defense first style and try to hit FC Cincinnati on the counter.

FC Cincinnati’s offense should find more joy against Pittsburgh than they did against a stout Battery back line. Look for the Orange and Blue to find the back of the net twice and Djiby to be on the scoresheet again. The defense isn’t watertight yet, but they’ll show an improved performance after another week of employing Koch’s system. FC Cincinnati wins 2-1 in front of a loud traveling Cincinnati contingent.

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Preview: FC Cincinnati at Charleston – Behind the Battery

Andrew Miller of the Charleston Post and Courier gives the inside scoop on FC Cincinnati’s week one opponent, the Charleston Battery. Plus, a score prediction.

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Matt Bahner is one of 10 new FC Cincinnati players in 2017. Photo courtesy JES Photography/ Joe Schmuck

FC Cincinnati begins its second season on Saturday when they take on the Charleston Battery at MUSC Health Stadium. This match pairs the Queen City’s newcomers against one of the longest standing outfits in American soccer. The Charleston Battery can now boast 25 years as a professional franchise, an impressive accomplishment.

It also pairs FC Cincinnati with a team that they could not beat last season in three attempts. Charleston defeated FC Cincinnati 1-0 on opening day in 2016. Romario Williams scored a late winner to settle that contest in stoppage time. The two teams drew 1-1 at Nippert in July with Charleston grabbing a late equalizer. The same Battery team also knocked FC Cincinnati out of the USL playoffs in the first round, defeating the Orange and Blue 2-1, and ending their inaugural season.

Andrew Miller of the Charleston Post and Courier answered a few questions from Orange and Blue Press about FC Cincinnati’s week one opponent.

Which Charleston Battery player could ruin FC Cincinnati’s opening day on Saturday? 

“Charleston Battery striker Romario Williams. Williams has lost 10 pounds since last year and his fitness level appears to be in mid-season form. He scored a goal against the Seattle Sounders in the Battery’s preseason tournament – the Carolina Challenge Cup – and was certainly the club’s most dangerous offensive player a year ago.

Watch out for Ataulla Guerra as well. He’s going to be central midfielder, tucked in right behind Williams and the two have had great chemistry during the preseason. Midfielder Maikel Chang is probably the Battery’s most gifted and creative playmaker and normally plays on the outside, crossing balls into the box. Midfielder Justin Portillo is always dangerous on the free kicks and corner kicks.”

Why do you think the Battery have been a bogey team for FC Cincinnati?

“That’s hard to explain. I don’t know that there’s any logical explanation for it. The Battery just seems to match-up well against Cincinnati for whatever reason. It’s a mystery of sports sometimes why some teams match up better against other teams. Is it style of play? Is it talent level? The Battery has just seemed to have Cincy’s number. Of course, all that can changed with the amount of personnel turnover from season to season.”

Who is the best offseason addition that the Battery have made (one we will likely see on Saturday)? Why?

“Defender Skylar Thomas. He was a First Round pick in the 2015 MLS Super Draft (Toronto FC) and played in 47 games with Toronto FC II over the past two seasons. He’s a big, rangy defender that will play left back with O’Brian Woodbine out for three games with a league suspension. He can play in the middle if needed as well. With his speed and strength, he can match-up with any forward in the league.

You could see Mikey Ambrose, who was loaned by Atlanta today, on the field Saturday. He played five games last year with Orlando City SC. They have a couple of other new guys, including Kotaro Higashi and Andrew Carleton, but they are not with the club right now.”

Has Charleston’s affiliate agreement with Atlanta United benefitted the club in your opinion? Do you think it gives the Battery an advantage/disadvantage vs. independent clubs like FC Cincinnati?

“I think right now, it’s too early to tell. I can say with confidence that the affiliation with Atlanta is better than the previous ones with Vancouver and Houston. Romario Williams and Jeffrey Otoo will be with the club all summer. Other players likes Andrew Carleton, Mikey Ambrose, Alex Tambakis and Chris Goslin will probably shuttle between the two clubs throughout the season. I think anytime you have young, hungry, talented players it’s going to make your club better.

I think the jury is still out on the advantages/disadvantages question. I still think the MLS is trying to figure out if having a reserve team in the USL or having straight affiliations is better. I think it’s more cost efficient to have affiliations, but do your players develop? That’s what every MLS team is trying figure out. I do think if you’ve got a strong affiliation then it works to your advantage against independent clubs. If not, then I think it works against you because you put guys on the field that either are not ready to play at this level or are not good enough.

Orange and Blue Press Prediction

Charleston uncharacteristically lost five matches at home in 2016. MUSC Health Stadium may not be the fortress it has been in years past for the Battery. But make no mistake, this is a difficult first week matchup for FC Cincinnati.

Charleston is a defense first team with dangerous counter attacking options. Last year the Battery’s physical midfield disrupted FC Cincinnati when they tried to impose a possession based style on the game. Look for similar tactics tomorrow.

FC Cincinnati is certainly capable of winning this match. They have showed positive progress in preseason, but Alan Koch is still working to figure out his best team. Team captain Austin Berry was injured in the Sacramento match and has been sidelined with an elbow sprain. He returned to training this week, but is still a long shot to start. Paul Nicholson or new signing Mélé Temguia are the backup options. FC Cincinnati doesn’t look cohesive enough yet to get three points away to Charleston with so many new pieces in the puzzle. Look for a scored draw in the season opener. Charleston Battery 2 – FC Cincinnati 2.

You can watch the match on Star 64 (WSTR) locally in Cincinnati or stream on the USL Youtube Channel. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s first match of 2017.

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Preseason Battles To Watch: Wingers

FC Cincinnati retained last year’s starting wide players and added two more in the offseason. Who will earn a starting spot in 2017?

Wieda-Winger-CoverThis article is the third installment of a series from Orange and Blue Press on preseason battles. The focus of this article is on one of the more well defined areas of the field for FC Cincinnati, wingers. Let’s look at the players in contention to start in these wide positions.

Andrew Wiedeman – He is FC Cincinnati’s first ever goalscorer and, after Okoli, was the leading goalscorer last season with seven goals. He also brings a lot of intangibles to the team. He provides leadership, MLS credentials, and uses the ball well every time it’s at his feet. In preseason, we’ve seen Wiedeman start in two positions: in his customary wide right role, and as part of the central two midfielders in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Jimmy McLaughlin – McLaughlin was constant on the left wing last season under Harkes. He was also the one player on last year’s roster that consistently wanted to dribble at defenses. He had a hot streak in the middle of the 2016 season where he was scoring goals and providing assists, but faded a bit statistically toward the end of the year.

Kadeem Dacres – Dacres terrorized FC Cincinnati’s defense in three matches last season while playing for Louisville City. He looks excellent in preseason, playing most often in a wide right position. Like McLaughlin he specializes at dribbling at defenses and making them uncomfortable. Kadeem’s quickness with the ball at his feet is unparalleled on this roster.

Andy Craven – The Seattle Sounders product can play center forward but has featured mostly on the wing for FC Cincinnati in preseason. He did get some time leading the line last weekend against UC. He’s looked decent enough in preseason, but hasn’t made quite the impression that Dacres has given similar amounts of playing time.

Casey Townsend – Casey was signed late last season for depth at forward after Omar Cummings went down with a knee injury. In preseason, he’s only featured in wide attacking positions. He was active on the left wing in Bradenton, and provided a nice assist on Delbridge’s last minute equalizer against Sacramento.

Prediction

Andrew Wiedeman and Jimmy McLaughlin featured heavily in 2016’s starting eleven and were a big part of what made FC Cincinnati’s offense, and Sean Okoli, successful last year. This pair will start on the wings early in FC Cincinnati’s season. Alan Koch needs to find a way to get Kadeem Dacres on the field though. Every time he touches the ball, it looks like something good will follow. Kadeem will be the first player off the bench for FC Cincinnati, with a good chance to break into the starting eleven as the season progresses. Andy Craven is a good player and hasn’t put a foot wrong in preseason. He hasn’t done enough though to break through the established players in front of him. Like Craven, Townsend can operate as a forward or a wide player but will have difficulty breaking through for playing time.

One of the challenges for Koch and FC Cincinnati this season is that good players are going to sit on the bench in 2017. They have multiple good players in each position. It’s a good problem to have as a coach, and the depth will be needed for a long, physical USL campaign. Omar Cummings is one last name to mention in this conversation. Cummings is a forward, but played primarily on the right when he was healthy last year. Once he returns to full fitness, the veteran may again be an option on the right side of FC Cincinnati’s attack.

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