FC Cincinnati’s Top 10 USL Moments

In honor of the FC Cincinnati’s time spent in the USL, we’ve decided to share our favorite 10 moments.

MLS is on the horizon for FC Cincinnati. We all, together, made this happen. However, it wasn’t always this way. Only three years ago, in 2015, an ownership group led by Cincinnati magnate Carl Lindner III announced the USL expansion club. Since then, the United Soccer League has served as the humble home for America’s latest (and greatest) soccer story.

In honor of the club’s time spent in the former Division 3 league (upgraded to Division 2 in 2017), we’ve decided to gather our favorite moments. Since we’re focusing purely on FC Cincinnati’s time in the USL, we’ve omitted all moments relating to MLS, U.S. Open Cup, and International Friendlies. Those are the rules. Let’s get started!

10. Stevenson’s Playoff Rocket

Underrated, especially in terms of context, Eric Stevenson’s top-right rocket took the breath away from the 30,000+ in attendance for FC Cincinnati’s first-ever playoff match. This bullet was a fantastic way to kick off the club’s postseason history. Unfortunately, the team eventually fell 1-2 against the Charleston Battery, dropping this moment to the bottom of the list.

9. Greeting the New Neighbor

Image: JES Photography

For those who are unaware, just last year there was another Division 2 soccer league in the United States, the NASL. The Indy Eleven, less than two hours from Cincinnati, played in that league making it impossiible for the two teams to cross. That changed when Indy joined the USL in 2018. They hosted FC Cincinnati for their first-ever home game in not only the USL, but the Colts home, Lucas Oil Stadium. Thousands of FCC supporters flooded into the heart of Indiana to greet them. Big crowds have traveled to other away matches, but nothing quite reaches the level of Orange & Blue that traveled to Indy that day.

8. Origin Goal

https://twitter.com/ConnorWPaquette/status/1054214569638481920

Surely, there’s a metaphor here. When FC Cincinnati first began to sign players, the names Corben Bone, Kenney Walker, and Jimmy McLaughlin were among the few. Three years later, the city has fallen in love with these guys. It’s extremely fulfilling to see men who joined FCC as foundation pieces for their journey in the USL also become the definitive factors for their final USL goal.

7. Djiby’s Spectacular Debut

Djiby Fall was a strange man in all the right ways. His 2017 season was an enigma. It almost doesn’t feel real looking back. He showed up out of nowhere, dominated, and then disappeared into the abyss. It might have been an odd year, but it kicked off with a four-goal epic by the man himself. Thanks, Djiby.

6. Okoli’s Scissor Kick

The first FC Cincinnati home game. The club’s first goal at Nippert Stadium. One of the greatest goals that a man in Orange & Blue has produced. How does this not make the list?

5. 14,658

FC Cincinnati set the USL attendance record a record number of times. But we’ve heard of those accomplishments before. Yet it would be a disservice to ignore the literal game-changing support from Cincinnati and its effect on soccer in America as a whole. Thus, I’ve decided to honor the first ever home game attendance for FCC. It was this moment where a record wasn’t yet broken, but everyone seemed to stop and ponder for a moment, “hey, this could be something special.” The rest is history.

4. Goal-to-Goal Bomber

I’m biased. I don’t care. This landed at #1 on SportsCenters Top 10 plays for good reason. This is the 2018 USL goal of the year. This is the single greatest goal in FC Cincinnati history. The crowd was quiet, the game was frustrating, and then Kenney Walker breaks down our door, drinks our beer, and steals our significant other. The ball doesn’t hit the ground.

3. Undefeated Playoff Finale

It lasted five months and it took the USL by storm. 24 games undefeated will headline FC Cincinnati’s USL Book of Records. And such a historic streak culminated in Cincinnati supporters’ worst nightmare, the first round of the playoffs. For the third time in three years FCC qualified, this time up against fellow future MLS entrant, Nashville SC. Having never conquered their new rival, it took FC Cincinnati a goal in extra time, a moment that also made this list, just to make it to PKs. Ten successful PKs later, Nashville finally popped a shot over the top that let Kenney Walker blast in the winner on the next kick. Cincinnati won a playoff game. How ‘bout that?

2. The Announcement

I debated putting this at #1. Cincinnati has always been a smaller city; a two-sport city is how many described it. But it wasn’t, yet the people had been convinced of that for years. Soccer, hockey, and basketball are all sports that never quite took off in the city like football and baseball. Why would FC Cincinnati be any different? I really don’t know.

Perhaps it was better operations, a more interesting identity, or just quality soccer? Maybe all three? No matter, this is in the past. But this moment is still absolutely crucial for any other moment on this list to happen. FC Cincinnati has only played three seasons, and I’m convinced that without these three years in Divisions 2 & 3 that there would be no talk about MLS here today. FC Cincinnati needed USL. And we learned later on, the USL, to be where it is now, needed FCC. Something like this will not happen again.

1. Regular Season Champions

Image: JES Photography

Shocking, right? If there’s one thing even bigger than announcing your team, it’s winning the most prestigious prize – a Cup/Shield. There are so many teams playing right now that have been around for decades and haven’t won anything. This is what it’s all about. So, for FCC to not only earn the shield, but to do it in the most Cincinnati way – record-setting fashion – we’re reassured of the greatness to come based on what they’ve been through. We’re also reminded that time flies, so worry not about the small things, enjoy what you’ve got. Cincinnati has a lot to enjoy. Thanks USL.

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 Signs Winger Dacres from Rival

FC Cincinnati Signs Winger Dacres from Rival: Read more about FC Cincinnati’s newest player, a former rival who’s signing was announced on Thursday morning.

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Rosedale, New York, native Kadeem Dacres spent last season terrorizing USL fullbacks with Louisville City FC. In 2017, he’ll suit up for the Orange and Blue as a key part of the second year club’s attack. On Thursday morning, FC Cincinnati announced Dacres’ signing as well as the re-signing of midfielder Eric Stevenson.

Read the FC Cincinnati press release

Dacres will arrive in Cincinnati following a two goal, two assist regular season with rival Louisville City. The 25 year old scored the decisive goal in Louisville City’s 2016 playoff victory against the Charleston Battery, sending LCFC to the Eastern Conference finals (see 2 minute mark).

Although his 2016 numbers aren’t gaudy, he stood out in the three games he played against FC Cincinnati. He is an electric attacker with pace, dribbling skills, and the ability to create and score goals.

The MLS site elaborates on his attributes as a player: “He’s tough. Good body: Athletic … Hard player. You knew he was going to bring it with everything he had. … Good wide left, tricky, fast, strong, tough. Good feet.” [MLS Soccer]

Dacres will likely take up position on the wing, opposite of Jimmy McLaughlin. That tandem of wingers, along with a marquee striker to replace Sean Okoli, should provide a fearsome strike force for the 2017 campaign. The signing of Dacres could mean that Andrew Wiedeman continues to plays more centrally in attack as he did toward the end of last season. The final shape of the 2017 offense clearly depends on what additional signings FC Cincinnati makes.

Dacres was drafted by the Chicago Fire in 2014 but not signed. He’s made 73 USL appearances with Arizona United (now Phoenix Rising) and Louisville City since then.

The signing is also interesting in the context of the Dirty River Derby. FC Cincinnati’s Kentucky rival has now lost both Chandler Hoffman and Dacres, two key components of their potent 2016 offense. There’s clearly time left before the start of the season, but Louisville City’s attack looks considerably diminished at the moment.

Looking for more video of the man in action?  His 2015 season highlights are available here.

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FC Cincinnati vs Charleston Battery: Dream Season Cut Short

FC Cincinnati vs Charleston Battery: FC Cincinnati’s record setting inaugural season comes to a close in the first round of the USL playoffs.

FC Cincinnati fell 2-1 to the Charleston Battery in the first round of the USL playoffs in front of 30,187 fans on Sunday. The enormous crowd at Nippert Stadium represents a USL postseason attendance record, breaking a 2013 record held by Orlando City.

The home team started on the front foot, taking the lead in the 19th minute when Eric Stevenson thundered a thirty yard blast into the the top right corner of Charleston’s goal. The show-stopping strike was good enough to earn him a spot on ESPN’s SportsCenter top 10 plays of the day.

The Orange and Blue gave one back in the 40th minute under circumstances that have become familiar in 2016’s storyline. They let in a soft goal five minutes before halftime from a throw-in. There was suspicion of a foul both on the Charleston throw and for a push on Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt as he made a play on the ball. Neither foul was called and the goal stood.

Charleston took a decisive lead, against the run of play, twenty minutes into the second half when Zach Prince redirected Maikel Chang’s corner kick into the FC Cincinnati goal. Tyler Polak got a touch on the ball as it went in, but full credit was awarded to Prince on the score sheet.

FC Cincinnati battled and pushed in the final 25 minutes of the game, as the near capacity crowd urged them on, but a stout and physical Battery defense would not break down. The game finished 2-1 and FC Cincinnati’s dream first season came to an abrupt end.

For more perspectives on the match, see the following worthy sources.

FC Cincinnati Official
Cincinnati Soccer Talk
Enquirer
USL
Charleston Post and Courier

Despite the defeat, FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season must be categorized as nothing short of an overwhelming success. Kudos to the players, coaching staff, front office and especially the fans for making the 2016 season an instant classic. We started the season trying to prove that we were a soccer city, and finished showing that we are THE soccer city. It has been an honor to cover the first season of this club and I look forward to many more amazing moments colored in Orange and Blue.

If you are interested in contributing to Orange and Blue Press in 2017, please contact us at orangeandbluepress@gmail.com.

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