Preseason Battles to Watch – Central Midfield

FC Cincinnati retained last year’s central midfield starters and added three more in the offseason. Who will earn a starting spot in 2017?

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FC Cincinnati’s preseason continues on Saturday when they face the University of Cincinnati Mens side at Gettler Stadium. The squad returned to the Queen City this week and practiced in familiar settings after earning a last gasp 2-2 draw in Sacramento.

This article is the second in a series from Orange and Blue Press on preseason battles. The focus here is on the heartbeat of the team, central midfield. There are a lot of players in contention to start in these key positions.

Corben Bone – Corben Bone was FC Cincinnati’s Most Valuable Player of the 2016 season. He also was the tied for the team lead in assists last year with five. Bone started the 2016 campaign as the attacking central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation. As the season progressed, he dropped deeper into midfield and was often responsible for picking the ball up from the defenders and staring the attack. In preseason, he’s played in a more advanced midfield position with Aodhan Quinn behind him.

Aodhan Quinn – Quinn joined from Louisville City in the offseason. Given his key role with FC Cincinnati’s rival in 2016, he’s expected to earn a spot in the starting 11. He’s played a lot in preseason, primarily as the “pivot” midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation. He’s a free kick specialist and has taken all the team’s free kicks when on the field. He also took and converted the penalty kick against Sacramento.

Kenney Walker – Walker played the midfield destroyer role in many of Harkes’ starting 11 lineups last season. He was the only starting midfielder with real bite in his tackle. He should not be pigeon-holed as just a defensive midfielder though. He is a complete box-to-box midfielder with vision and the ability to score from distance.

Eric Stevenson – Stevenson got a foothold in the team last June, displacing Ross Tomaselli who started 7 consecutive games at the start of the 2016 season. Stevenson scored a couple of phenomenal goals that were USL Goal of the Year contenders. He tallied four goals and three assists in only 1207 minutes played.

Marco Dominguez – Marco Dominguez joined FC Cincinnati this offseason in the wake of the dissolution of FC Montréal. The Canadian youngster is a defensive midfielder with buckets full of potential. He’s played in preseason as the midfield 1 in a 4-1-4-1, and will likely be the reserve option at that position while he continues to grow his game.

Here’s a look at these players stats from the 2016 season (including playoffs).

Player Age Appearances Mins Goals Assists Shots Shots on Goal
Corben Bone 29 31 2585 0 5 26 10
Aodhan Quinn 24 31 2611 3 5 30 10
Kenney Walker 28 27 2264 1 1 24 8
Eric Stevenson 26 27 1207 4 3 22 9
Marco Dominguez 21 15 1004 0 2 5 1

Stats from USL website.

The Best of the Rest

Andrew Wiedeman and Daryl Fordyce paired twice this preseason as the central midfield two in a 4-1-4-1 formation. It was an interesting combination, but is an experiment that does not seem likely to stick. Wiedeman returned to his normal right wing role against Sacramento. Koch needs to find a place for the talented Fordyce, but right now it’s not clear where that is. Paul Nicholson is listed as a midfielder, but is more likely the team’s third center back. He’s only played in defense this preseason, and will be needed there immediately given Austin Berry’s arm injury. Francisco Narbon was getting minutes off the bench for FC Cincinnati at the end of last season, but we’ve barely seen him in 2017. Aaron Walker made the team through the open tryout and is likely a depth player. In preseason, he has featured at left back rather than in midfield where the team needs cover with Derek Luke sidelined.

Prediction

Koch has a lot of options in central midfield and may continue to experiment, even early into the regular season. Corben Bone will be a starter. He’s likely the most complete midfielder of the bunch and is coming off a great 2016 season. Aodhan Quinn looks like a lock as the holding / pivot midfielder in the 4-1-4-1 formation. He’s got a great USL pedigree, has played a big role in preseason, and will take the team’s free kicks. Marco Dominguez will serve as backup for Quinn in that position. The final central midfield slot will then be a battle between Kenney Walker and Eric Stevenson. Look for Walker to get the nod initially with Stevenson pushing for minutes as the season progresses. Koch could rotate these two players depending on whether he’s looking for a more offensive (Stevenson) or defensive (Walker) look.

A big question mark in this equation is Daryl Fordyce. He’s a player with the talent to start for this club. It doesn’t look right now like he’s going to feature as a striker. Can Koch find a place to work him in as a very attack-minded midfielder?

Who do you think will start in central midfield for the Orange and Blue? Leave a message in the comments section below.

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FC Cincinnati 1 – Ottawa Fury 1: Who Looked Good?

FC Cincinnati drew with the Ottawa Fury in their final match at the IMG Suncoast Classic. Five players stood out from the rest in this preseason contest.

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FC Cincinnati played USL newcomers Ottawa Fury to a 1-1 stalemate at the IMG Suncoast Classic in Bradenton, FL on Saturday. Djiby Fall got the lone goal for the Orange and Blue, his second of the preseason.

First Half

FC Cincinnati set up in the same formation that was featured in the last match, a 4-1-4-1. They’ve used that formation in five of the six halves the team has played this preseason. An unnamed trialist, who will be referred to as “Magic” given his #32 jersey number, started at center back. Kenney Walker and Corben Bone featured in midfield with Marco Dominguez holding. Djiby Fall played center forward. After a dominant possession-based performance in the first 20 minutes, the game evened out. Ottawa played into the match and had a share of possession between the 20th and 40th minutes. Neither side generated many offensive chances. Just when it looked like the half would end goalless, FC Cincinnati’s new number nine sprung into action. Tyler Polak served an excellent ball from the right corner flag. The ball dropped in the box and Djiby punched it into the goal from close range. The half ended 1-0.

Second Half

It wouldn’t be preseason without some stream failures, and the IMG stream went out at the beginning of the second half. During that time, holding midfielder Marco Dominguez got a second yellow card and was sent off. The match referee was unusually quick to show cards throughout the match, especially considering that it was a preseason friendly. As it turns out though, in preseason you can just substitute a player back in. Aodhan Quinn was introduced after Marco’s sending off and the Orange and Blue were back up to 11 players.
FC Cincinnati swapped out most of its lineup around the 60 minute mark. Victor Mansaray came in to lead the line, and Fordyce and Wiedeman featured in central midfield. Last year’s center back pairing of Harrison Delbridge and Austin Berry took up their familiar positions on the back line.
Not long after the substitutions, Ottawa equalized. After a 50-50 challenge outside of the box, the ball fell to Ottawa striker Carl Haworth. He took a touch and curled a shot past the Cincinnati goalkeeper and into the right corner of the goal. The draw played itself out over the final 25 minutes. Kadeem Dacres and Austin Berry both had a chances for a late winner, but the Ottawa goalkeeper prevailed. The game ended 1-1.

Who looked good?

Corben Bone & Kenney Walker – This midfield pairing featured regularly for the Orange and Blue last season, and will likely do so in 2017. They controlled the first half with precision passing and good decision making in the middle of the park.

Djiby Fall – Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do, and Djiby’s got two in three games. Although the team possessed the ball well in the first half they had a hard time connecting Djiby to the play, resulting in few chances for the Senegalese striker. Even so, he got a chance and converted it. He has the look of a true poacher who can find goals even without a great deal of service.

#32 “Magic” – The new center back on trial with FC Cincinnati made a couple of key interventions and distributed the ball well from the back.  FC Cincinnati controlled possession in the first half, so he wasn’t put under a lot of pressure, but did well when called upon.

Kadeem Dacres – Always a live-wire, Kadeem was the most notable of the players that came in after the 60 minute mark. He was active on the right, earned free kicks in dangerous positions, and nearly got a winner in the 74th minute.

Who do you think has been FC Cincinnati’s best player so far this preseason? Let us know in the comments section.

FC Cincinnati will play its next preseason match on Saturday March 4th at the Sacramento Republic, before returning home to two preseason matches. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more analysis and color commentary on FC Cincinnati’s preseason.

NOTE: This article was edited from its original version. The first version reported that Dan Williams was the goalkeeper when the Ottawa goal was scored. Mitch Hildebrandt was likely in goal instead, but there are not official match records to confirm.

FC Cincinnati Falls in First Preseason Friendly

FC Cincinnati played its first preseason match of 2017 on Sunday. They lost to OKC Energy at the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic in Bradenton, Florida.

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Photo Courtesy of USL

FC Cincinnati lost its first preseason game of 2017 by a score of 3-2 to OKC Energy on Sunday afternoon. The game was the first of a three game series the team will play in the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic in Bradenton, Florida.

The match was played just two days after John Harkes was dismissed as head coach of the second year club. Assistant coach Alan Koch has taken the reigns and will lead the team for this year’s preseason and USL campaign.

After going down a goal in the first half, FC Cincinnati got back into the match in the 60th minute. Two new signings combined for the team’s first 2017 goal. Djiby Fall eluded a defender and served a high ball to Daryl Fordyce in the box. The former FC Edmonton striker stuck a leg out and brought the ball down under excellent control for a quick shot. The ball found the back of the net to level the game at 1-1.

Despite controlling possession for periods of the second half, FC Cincinnati conceded two late goals in the 72nd and 81st minutes. Both goals were finished by Danish striker Wojciech Wojcik after OKC exposed the left side of FC Cincinnati’s defense. The first of OKC’s second half goals appeared to be clearly offside.

Austin Berry delivered a headed consolation goal in the 89th minute after a late period sustained pressure from the Orange and Blue.

The second half of the game featured nine FC Cincinnati substitutions, providing new head coach Alan Koch a good look at most of the players on the roster.

Also of note, Kenney Walker left the game in the 24th minute, likely due to injury. Kenney was replaced by Aaron Walker, and just like that we’ve seen our first Walker for Walker substitution of the season. Good thing we had two.

For a full description of the game’s events, see the FC Cincinnati match recap.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more analysis and color commentary on FC Cincinnati’s preseason.

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Photo Courtesy of USL

Three Things Djiby Fall Brings to FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati held a press conference on Monday afternoon to announce the signing of their new #9, veteran Senegalese striker Djiby Fall.

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Photo Credit: Yelena Rybakova for Soccer.ru via Wikimedia Commons

For a second Monday in a row, FC Cincinnati announced the addition of a new striker to their 2017 roster. Djiby Fall joins the Orange and Blue from Irtysh Pavlodar of the Kazakstan Premier League. The news of Fall’s signing comes on the heels of acquiring 19 year-old Victor Mansaray on loan from Seattle last week. Fall will wear the #9 shirt for FC Cincinnati this season, highlighting the role the club has planned for him. For a bio of the Senegalese striker, see the FC Cincinnati press release.

Landing Fall highlights another recent FC Cincinnati acquisition, assistant coach and head scout Alan Koch. Koch revealed during the press conference that he located and landed Fall through an agent in his scouting network.

At 31 years of age, Fall has seen a lot of football in a lot of countries. His career peaked statistically between 2008 and 2010 while playing in Scandinavia. He won the Golden Boot in Denmark before making a move to Lokomotiv Moscow. Unfortunately for Fall, he couldn’t produce the same goalscoring results in Russia and was loaned back to Scandinavia where he again found success.

His jersey reads “Djiby” and in addition to a warm smile, he’ll bring the following to the Orange and Blue this season.

A clear #9 – Not only will he wear the number 9 shirt but he looks built and bought specifically to be a strong target center forward. He’s got plenty of competition for that role with Fordyce, Mansarary, Cummings, and Townsend in contention. They mentioned in yesterday’s press conference that Andy Craven, also a striker, is likely to play on the wing.

International Experience – Europe is the home of the best leagues in the world. Although Fall didn’t feature in Europe’s top leagues, the standard there is high, and he got games and goals in that environment. No one else on FC Cincinnati’s roster can boast the same. Fall and Omar Cummings can provide valuable lessons to FC Cincinnati’s younger players on how to be a professional and how to succeed at the next level.

Proven Goalscoring Credentials – Fall has stuck the ball in the back of the net in France, Denmark, U.A.E., Norway, Belgium, Turkey, and Kazakstan. He’s been doing this around the globe for over ten years. Let’s hope he’s still got it and finds form like he had in Denmark for FC Cincinnati this USL season.

Here’s some recent goalscoring footage from Fall’s time with Randers in Denmark during the 14/15 season. He’s a classic power forward with a penchant for headed goals. This video skips some of the painful music associated with other video montages of Fall. I’ll take Danish commentators over that any day.

The addition of Fall concludes the offseason transfer business for the Orange and Blue. This weekend the team heads down to Bradenton, Florida to begin their preseason and defend last year’s IMG Academy trophy. There are three FC Cincinnati games to take in next week. Count ’em,…1,2,3, starting with the Sunday February 19th matchup against OKC Energy at 3:30pm.

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

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Photo Credit: Yelena Rybakova for Soccer.ru via Wikimedia Commons

FC Cincinnati’s Preseason Kicks Off

FC Cincinnati kicked off its preseason with two training sessions on Wednesday. Alan Koch and Matt Bahner talked to O&B Press about the season ahead.

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FC Cincinnati kicked off its 2017 preseason with two practice sessions on Wednesday. After a morning workout in Mason, coach Harkes put the team through its paces in an evening session at UC’s Sheakley Athletics Center.

Orange and Blue Press caught up with a couple of FC Cincinnati’s newest faces at UC.

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Alan Koch

Alan Koch joined FC Cincinnati’s technical staff in the offseason and has a big assignment. He’s the assistant coach for the first team, the head of scouting and analytics, and is also in charge of FC Cincinnati’s academy project. The Durban, South Africa native most recently served as the head coach of Vancouver Whitecaps 2, and brings a wealth of coaching experience to the organization. FC Cincinnati hopes to capitalize on Koch’s experience working with the Whitecaps academy, one of the most esteemed development programs in MLS. We talked to Alan about his new role, FC Cincinnati’s plan for an academy, and his contributions to the MLS expansion application.

AUDIO (57 seconds):

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Matt Bahner

Cincinnati native and former University of Cincinnati standout Matt Bahner had a good first day on the job. He’s only been in town for a week but is settling in nicely with his new team. “It’s a dream come true” said Bahner about the opportunity to return and play for his hometown club. Bahner spent the past two years playing with the NASL’s Jacksonville Armada. He featured at fullback there, and is looking forward to earning an important role on FC Cincinnati’s roster. Bahner says he’s “comfortable playing anywhere on the back line,…at full back or more centrally.” He’s the only defender signed by FC Cincinnati so far this offseason. His versatility will be important for the squad. Before playing for the Armada, Bahner spent two season’s with the Harrisburg City Islanders. He was the only City Islander selected to the USL All League 2nd team in 2014. The City Islanders went all the way to the USL PRO playoff final that year, losing 2-0 to the Sacramento Republic.

Bahner has end product to his game as well. Check out the assist and game winning goal starting at 1:36 of this video.

FC Cincinnati plays the first of six preseason games against OKC Energy on February 19th in Bradenton, Florida. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue press for more coverage and color commentary of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.

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Daryl Fordyce