UPDATED: Adi Reinstated and Available Saturday after OVI Ruling

UPDATED: At 7 pm on Wednesday, FC Cincinnati released a statement that Major League Soccer had reinstated Fanendo Adi.

Image: Joe Craven

UPDATED: At 7 pm on Wednesday, FC Cincinnati released a statement that Major League Soccer had reinstated Fanendo Adi. An independent review of the forward’s OVI incident was completed by the league. Additionally, he was cleared to play by MLS’s SABH (Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health) doctors. He will be available to play on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls.

Alan Koch explained at training earlier on Wednesday that he hoped to get the Designated Player back to training with FC Cincinnati’s full squad soon.

“Fanendo is making progress. I just had a chat with Gary (Walker) and he’s working on the side. We hope to include him very, very soon, maybe even tomorrow in terms of training with the team.”

Adi returned to Cincinnati last week but had not been able to fully participate with his teammates until he was cleared by the league.

“He’s doing work on the side,” said Koch earlier on Wednesday. “We have to wait for the proper authorities to make their decisions. He’s allowed to do work and PT on the side, and he’s making significant progress, but we have to wait for decisions to be made obviously before we can move forward.”

Adi had been missing from the squad since March 17th, when he left the match against the Portland Timbers with an ankle injury. That injury, plus an OVI incident on March 31st, resulted in an extended absence for FCC’s target man.

According to today’s reports and court documents, Adi appeared in court on Tuesday and received a $250 fine for his OVI. He was also given a suspended 30-day jail sentence and a 6-month suspension of his driver’s license.

FC Cincinnati went into their mid-April clash with LAFC surprisingly banged-up, but several players are on the mend. Roland Lamah, Alvas Powell, and Kekuta Manneh recovered fully for the match against Real Salt Lake last week. Also, FC Cincinnati will likely add another name to the list of players available for selection for this weekend’s match.

“Ledesma’s been back and training completely for two days now, so that’s exciting,” said Koch.

Things don’t look quite as good for Greg Garza, who was limited to physical therapy on Wednesday, but is making “significant progress.”

Given Adi’s upcoming return, the improved injury outlook, and the new grass playing surface in Milford, morale was high for FCC’s squad on Wednesday, despite a difficult loss just four days ago.

“It’s awesome, and I think I speak for the entire team,” said Koch about the grass surface at the team’s new fields at Mercy Health Training Complex. “We’re incredibly grateful for the club to provide this to us. It feels like we’ve had to play on the turf for a long time, but you can see it in the players, they are energized after training on grass. It makes the adjustment, in terms of going on the road to NY, Philly, and SJ and having to play on grass, and the fact that we can actually train on grass all week long. It’s great from that perspective.”

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for our Match Program preview and coverage of Saturday’s matchup with New York Red Bulls.

FC Cincinnati Looking to Take Chances Without Adi

Image: Ryan Meyer

Seven games into their season, FC Cincinnati has now played more games without forward Fanendo Adi than with him. They are surviving so far by relying on a goals-by-committee approach and a system that emphasizes the team.

Kekuta Manneh is helping to fill the void left by FC Cincinnati’s primary Designated Player. He has a goal and an assist since March 17th when Adi was injured.

“I think the team has responded well,” Manneh explained. “We’ve scored a few goals while (Adi) was away. Obviously, he’s a big part of our team. He’s our DP and a starter on our team. We miss him. He brings something different for our game. I’ve always said this though, that we have a system in place and we’re going to do that. Adi’s definitely a big miss. We’d be glad to welcome him back in the next week or so.”

Adi didn’t find the back of the net in the three games that he started before his injury, so FCC wasn’t relying on him early in the season. Alan Koch’s side has scored 8 goals total (tied for 5th best in the Eastern Conference) and boasts eight different goalscorers. Five of their eight goals have come without Adi in the lineup.

Times have been tougher recently, however. They’ve only scored once in the past three matches. The good news is that they are still creating enough high-quality chances.

“Obviously he’s a big piece of our attack and our main focus,” said midfielder Victor Ulloa about Adi’s absence. “But I think that Darren (Mattocks) has stepped up really well and I think we have the players and the group to fill that spot and I think they’ve done a great job. We’re missing the goal a little bit right now, but we’re creating chances and that’s the most important thing.”

Based on expected goals (xG) metrics, FC Cincinnati should have scored 1-2 more goals than the single goal they netted against Sporting Kansas City two weeks ago. They also should have bagged at least one against LAFC last week, but were shut out instead. LAFC’s Tyler Miller produced a highlight-reel save in that match to deny Darren Mattocks a goal in first-half stoppage time.

Although the timeline for Adi’s return still remains unclear, he is back in Cincinnati and is now training alongside the team. However, he cannot fully participate until further notice from MLS.

“He’s still doing some rehab, at this time, and we’re still waiting for his situation to be resolved before we can move forward with planning with him,” said Koch. “It’s such a grey area, we’re waiting for any situation to get resolved first before we can do any preparations with him.”

The short story of Adi’s absence so far is that FC Cincinnati is both creating chances and scoring goals without him. They are underachieving recently on their expected goals, however, and need to show that they can finish their chances on home turf this Friday against Real Salt Lake.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Sporting Kansas City

Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program provides and infographic and the fast facts you need to ready for FC Cincinnati versus Sporking KC this Sunday.

Design: CSDIV / Image: Joe Craven

After a sunny start to the season, reality delivered a damper to FC Cincinnati last week. The 2-0 loss to Philadelphia left the Orange & Blue in 5th place in the East with a depleted lineup and a potentially dangerous opponent on Sunday.

The first of three straight Western Conference opponents, Sporting Kansas City come to Cincinnati with momentum in league play. SKC feasted on the Montreal Impact last Saturday, 7-1. SKC are also the only MLS club remaining in the current edition of the CONCACAF Champions League. However, Peter Vermes and company suffered a demoralizing 5-0 defeat to Monterrey in Mexico on Thursday and come into Sunday’s match wounded and looking to rebound.

Both teams come into the match with some injury concerns. FCC will definitely be without Fanendo Adi (ankle/suspension) and could also be without forward Kekuta Manneh and midfielder Emmanuel Ledesma (hamstring). SKC will be without right back Jaylen Lindsey (knee), while Dániel Sallói (ankle) is questionable.

Fast Facts

Here are five facts for FC Cincinnati’s first match against the team once called the “Kansas City Wiz”.

  • Although much of their offense came last week, Sporting Kansas City’s attack has been bolstered by Krisztián Németh’s resurgence. Over all competitions, the Hungarian forward has scored eight goals in seven matches.
  • FC Cincinnati have had to tap into their roster depth early. 19 players have received starts over the first five matches. Only Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls have started more in the Eastern Conference, as both have played 20 players. Two additional FCC players, Caleb Stanko and Frankie Amaya, have made appearances coming off the bench as substitutes.
  • SKC manager Peter Vermes is currently the longest-tenured head coach in Major League Soccer (314 games). He is the all-time leader in games coached with one club in league history and is fourth in all-time wins as a coach (133). Additionally, Vermes has won four major trophies as a manager—three US Open Cups and one MLS Cup—the second most of all active coaches in MLS.
  • With FCC potentially missing three attackers (Adi, Ledesma, Manneh), it’s likely that midfielder Kenny Saief sees his second start of the season. Even though he has only been on the pitch for 125 minutes, Saief leads the team in combined points with one goal and two assists.
  • SKC demolished Montreal Impact 7-1 at home last week, matching the biggest win in their 23-plus-year history. However, history has shown that the next game is not a guaranteed win. In April 2018, SKC defeated Vancouver 6-0 at home, only to lose at New England the next week 1-0. Also, in June 1999, back when they were known as the Kansas City Wizards, the team beat the New York Metrostars 6-0, only to lose 3-0 to D.C. United the following week.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press as FC Cincinnati tries to weather another storm at Nippert Stadium this weekend.

FC Cincinnati’s First-Month Rollercoaster

As FC Cincinnati concludes their first month of play, let’s take a moment to recognize their accomplishments and “firsts”.

Five games down, twenty-nine to go. As the inaugural month of MLS play concludes for the Orange & Blue, let’s recap what FC Cincinnati has accomplished in the Eastern Conference. A lot has happened in a short amount of time, leaving room for statements like, “If you had told me [insert interesting fact] a few weeks ago, I’d say you’re crazy!” and “Is it too soon to start thinking playoffs?” So, let’s try to make sense of the most exciting month in Cincinnati soccer history to date.

Notable “Firsts”

Look at these notable ‘firsts’:

  • First MLS goal, courtesy of a Leonardo Bertone wonder-strike
  • First MLS point, at Atlanta, the reigning MLS Cup champs no less
  • First-ever MLS win against the Portland Timbers in the home opener

Let’s take a look at that first goal one more time.

Bipolar Narrative

Simply put, this doesn’t tell the whole story. The FC Cincinnati narrative, in the media and public perception, has been bipolar. 

Here’s a team that got soundly defeated by a (we know now) still-undefeated Seattle side, and even the most optimistic fans were worried. Were the pundits correct? Is the roster not constructed well? Are we Minnesota 2.0?

Surprise, surprise, then came 7 points in the next 3 games, momentarily lifting FCC to second place in the table. They did it by grinding out results and effectively using counter-attacks when opportunities allowed. They did it by controlling the tempo at Nippert. And they did it due to Koch’s tactical flexibility against different types of opposition. He utilized multiple 4-back formation variations and entrusted 19 different with playing time in these three matches.

The narrative flipped. A few weeks prior, the Orange and Blue looked defensively unorganized and offensively inept. Now? The defense is stable, the team selection stronger, and the offense balanced with seven different goalscorers. There even appears to be some depth, allowing FCC to survive international breaks.

March of All Marches

The march to the stadium before the Portland game forced even the most skeptical voices to take note of, and appreciate, the incredible soccer culture in the Queen City. Perhaps even more impressive were the supporters who stuck out miserable conditions to watch Philadelphia bring Cincinnati back down to Earth.

Has Koch’s side cemented its place in the Eastern Conference as a threat, or only capitalized off the poor form of recent dominant sides like Atlanta and Portland? Only time will reveal FC Cincinnati’s true level. For now, they rest in 5th place in the Eastern Conference.

Alan Koch summarized it best in his comments in training about the start of the season

“We knew we were going to have some tough moments, and we’ve had them already, and we’re going to continue to have tough moments. Saturday night was one of those moments. But we’ve also had some very positive moments too . . . It’s been a rollercoaster of a start and it’s going to continue to be a rollercoaster as we go through the next few months.”

Awards

Here are the unofficial first month awards as voted on by yours truly.

MVP – Spencer Richey

Richey is the only USL holdover to get significant playing time in the first month of action, primarily due to Tyton’s hamstring tendonitis which has kept the Polish keeper out since the Seattle match. Determined not to be a placeholder, Richey has made the most of his opportunity. He has kept two clean sheets in four starts, and earned MLS Team of the Week honors for his performance against the Timbers in Week 3. Although far from flawless, Richey has been a strong shot-stopper in the net. In my opinion, he picks up this month’s MVP award as he has played more consistently than any of FCC’s field players.

Most Improved – Alvas Powell

After getting slated following a poor inaugural match outing, Koch showed faith in the pacey, attack-minded fullback by giving him two more starts. He may not always prove to be first choice in a system without natural wing backs, but Powell rebounded and has improved considerably.

Most Disappointing – Fanendo Adi

An expansion side is normally reliant on its Designated Players. Adi has a very specific playing-style that some may construe as lazy, slow, and one-dimensional if he’s not producing goals. Once he went down injured during the home opener, Adi has not been part of the 18-man game day squad. Now his future with FCC is in peril due to his own reckless behavior, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what happens from here.

Most Promising – Greg Garza

The quality is evident any time Garza starts or is subbed on, and when healthy, he instantly makes FC Cincinnati a more threatening team. If he can stay fit, expect some big performances from the MLS veteran.

Do you agree with these awards? What do you make of the season so far?

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for all of your 2019 FC Cincinnati coverage.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs. Portland Timbers

Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program provides an infographic and the fast facts you need to get ready for FC Cincinnati vs Portland Timbers.

Graphics: CSDIV

I may not speak for everyone, but I’m guilty of letting my mind jump directly to this Sunday’s match against the Timbers when FC Cincinnati’s schedule was released. The stands will be packed, and the Bailey will be roaring.

The Cincinnati faithful grabbed the nation’s attention, earning the title of Soccer City, USA, during FCC’s magical U.S. Open Cup run. Ultimately, the supporters are the reason FCC hosts Portland in their MLS home debut this weekend. Now, for the first time, fans have the chance to reap the rewards and enjoy the highest level of professional soccer right in their own backyard.

Portland, of course, will be looking to spoil the party and both sides are eager to tally their first win of the season. However, the Timbers will be without Colombian midfielder Diego Chará, who collected two yellows last weekend against LAFC. If you’re at Nippert Stadium, bundle up and enjoy the electric atmosphere. If you’re watching at home, FS1 will carry the game.

Fast Facts

  • The main storyline of the week: Fanendo Adi and Alvas Powell square-off against their former club for the first time. With 247 combined games in the Portland green and white since 2013, these two are known well by the opposition. Also of note: Darren Mattocks (49 games) and Eric Alexander (31 games) also are former Timbers, but further removed.
  • FCC’s 1-1 draw against Atlanta United on Sunday was possible thanks to an improved defensive shape from Alan Koch’s side. That defensive progress must continue, as Portland are averaging 18 shots per game, led by Sebastian Blanco with 5.5 shots per game.
  • Newly acquired midfielder Kenny Saief already has one game and one assist under his belt in Major League Soccer. With Saief’s Europa League and Champions League experience at their disposal, Alan Koch’s staff is hoping Saief is fit to start this weekend. The player says he’s ready.
  • Portland are currently last in the league with 8.5 aerial duels won per game. This could spell good news for Adi up top. His first goal of the year, a header, was disallowed in Atlanta after being called offside by just a whisker.
  • The Timbers attack could spell danger for the expansion side, as Portland have three set-piece goals in two games already. The team from the Northwest is already dangerous from the run of play, so FCC must stay alert if they want to get a result.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus Portland Timbers this Sunday.

Place Your Bets: Staff Predictions for the 2019 MLS Season

We asked our staff what their expectations and predictions were for FC Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS season. Here’s what happened when they shook the Magic 8-Ball.

Believe it or not, we can now count down thedays until the beginning of FC Cincinnati’s first MLS season on one hand. Butterflies are locked and loaded in our stomachs, and the beer is chilling in the coolers.

We have guesses as to how well FCC will perform. This team has been rebuilt so quickly with known and unknown quantities that we could be pleasantly surprised or swallowing our pride. Regardless, the first season will be fun, even if we can’t see where the roller coaster goes from here.

We asked our staff what their expectations and predictions were for the 2019 MLS season. Here’s what happened when they shook the Magic 8-Ball.


From what we’ve seen from the 2019 preseason, what do you think FC Cincinnati’s apparent strengths and weaknesses are?

Michael Walker (Founder/Managing Editor): On the strengths side, FC Cincinnati showed their physicality and athleticism during preseason. Darren Mattocks scored a pure pace goal in the first match. The twin towers of Ndam and Lasso scored a nice set piece goal against the Colorado Rapids. Alvas Powell and Mattocks set up Adi’s opener against Charleston in the CCC with some attractive work down the right flank. As a new and unfamiliar team, set piece and individual effort goals will be important this season.

The biggest weakness is clearly familiarity with each other and with the tactical plan. This group has basically been together for just over a month, and at times during the preseason, that showed. It’s going to be a bumpy start to the regular season against top opposition, and this team simply needs time together before we’ll know what they can do. The good news is that it’s a low bar to get into the playoffs and MLS is letting one more team per conference into the postseason in 2019.

Geoff Tebbetts (Writer/Editor): Defensively, I feel we have a ton of options to keep the score low and competitive. Even if the offense stalls this season, getting a positive goal differential will provide a good shot at making the playoffs. The experience at the back line with Waston, Deplagne, and Hagglund feels solid, and Lasso has provided a solid preseason of work. I also feel that our set-piece work will be better than advertised. We still have a dangerous specialist in Ledesma, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of Bertone’s work.

However, the nagging weakness is likely going to be in discipline. Last year, Coach Koch managed to guide the team through many yellow-card accumulation suspensions. The only red card was a questionable second yellow to Blake Smith (and FCC still won that game). Already this preseason we’ve seen two straight reds. I worry Koch won’t be able to calm the team down at this level when they get aggressive.

Stephen Buckeridge (Writer/Editor): For weaknesses, I’ll start with easier one to address.

  • The biggest gap appears to be missing a bona fide difference maker and chance creator in the center of the midfield, a true #10 that will dictate possession and creativity. Is a possible summer DP signing in the works?
  • Short preseason and time-period to establish chemistry and optimal formation.
  • Strength of schedule over the first 9 matches; FCC has a brutal start for an expansion side.
  • A proven first-division keeper, though I have confidence in Jack Stern developing Spencer Richey into a reliable option.

Strengths? Two main ones.

  • Home field advantage and atmosphere.
  • Underdog status.

Connor Paquette (Contributor/Graphics): Chemistry. By now FC Cincinnati fans should be well versed in this team-building exercise. In year 2 we replaced our head coach weeks before the season. In year 3 we rebuilt basically from scratch, and in year 4 we’re doing it all again. No matter the level of talent, each player needs time to develop a relationship with their team—learning their mannerisms, understanding their attitude, and matching their pace. That can take months, sometimes years before things truly click. With that, I encourage you to endure the first four months and save judgment until the midseason mark.

Jeff Bull (Writer): Based on the preseason games I watched, it’s all weaknesses so far. FC Cincinnati’s formula worked against Charleston, but Columbus Crew SC put Cincy’s alleged strength—its defense—through a mile-long paddle-wheel. The chatter I heard said they didn’t look much better for the first 70 minutes against the Chicago Fire. I believe the defense will improve, but it’s going to have to have a damned high ceiling in light of the decision to short change the attacking side of the team. The attack has been…unattractive and largely ineffectual, a wail-it-forward-and-chase affair. I wouldn’t be against giving players from last year’s USL team a greater role in the attack; call it a bet on collective chemistry and muscle memory over raw talent.


Where do you see FC Cincy finishing in the Eastern Conference table? Do they make the playoffs in their first year?

Michael: FCC will finish 9th and outside of the playoff spots. They’ll find some good form and work their way up the standings later in the season after a start that produces precious few points. If they sign a DP CAM in the summer, they might have enough to sneak into that 7th and final playoff spot. Don’t worry about FCC fans bailing if they don’t make the postseason. Some fair-weather fans may be turned off, but Cincinnati sports fans have a thick skin. The excitement of playing in the first division and the prospect of what’s to come will outweigh any first season blues.

Geoff: It’s hard to envision a Top 7 finish. I ask for the team to stay healthy and gain experience this season to build confidence. Considering only 11 players on this roster played MLS minutes last year, we can’t expect magic right away. They could finish ahead of Orlando and New England, but unless teams like Toronto and Chicago stumble, I don’t see them going further. 10th place for me.

Stephen: I don’t see FC Cincinnati making the playoffs their inaugural season. FCC will finish with 34 points, one point per match played, likely placing them in the 9th to 11th place range overall.

The top 8 teams that will compete for the 7 Eastern Conference playoff spots appear to be Atlanta, Red Bulls, NYCFC, D.C. United, the Union, Crew SC, Chicago Fire, and Montreal. FCC, TFC, Orlando City, and New England will compete for the bottom 4 spots.

Connor: I imagine we finish between the middle and bottom of the Eastern Conference Table. Our talent and team budget are below average. We’ve signed only one true DP (Cruz was more a financial move than a talent one), and I’m not sold on Koch’s ability to out-coach at this level. I think the playoffs are a reasonable goal, and we’ll definitely put up a fight thanks to the MLS hype, but prepare for a good beating headed our way.

Jeff: Barring some changes, FCC finishes low. Even the teams that struggled last year—your Torontos, Chicagos, San Joses, and even Orlandos—have a baseline talent as solid as any team Cincinnati faced last season, and they have individual players capable of doing damage to boot. Moreover, I have yet to see a clear outline of how Cincinnati will function on the field. The Portland Timbers played a similar “defend-and-counter” scheme last season, but they had two players (Valeri and Blanco) capable of both connecting and driving a functioning attack. Cincinnati has a defense, a handful of solid forwards, and nothing much in between.


Which teams will meet in the MLS Cup, and who will win it all?

Michael: New York Red Bulls are due and have been for a while. They did some nice work in the offseason inking Aaron Long and Tim Parker to long term deals. Sure, Tyler Adams is gone but they have a great pipeline of talent into their system. They will be the best team in the East, but will lose out in the playoffs to D.C. United, who take advantage of the unpredictable single-elimination playoffs. Seattle Sounders will return to the final capture the Cup, beating D.C. in the final.

That’s right, I didn’t mention Atlanta. They’ll be great, but I think it will take De Boer at least a year to sort it out and claim trophies again for the Georgia outfit.

Geoff: I’m going to cheat a little and predict that the two “MLS 2” teams from the 2016 USL Cup get to the 2019 MLS Cup. There’s only one team in the East that is stocked with talent and angry from last year’s result—New York Red Bulls. Despite dealing Adams to Leipzig, their academy is too deep to worry about losing a step. I also think that Sporting Kansas City stole some talented backup pieces in Rodney Wallace and Kelyn Rowe in the offseason to buffer their depth even more. This time around, I see New York Red Bulls finally breaking their cupless drought over SKC, as much as the New Englander in me HATES to admit.

Stephen: Sporting KC appear to be clear frontrunners in the West. Peter Vermes is the longest-tenured manager in the league and has done a quality job of creating a winning culture at the club. If their recent 3-0 CONCACAF Champions League drubbing over Liga MX side Toluca is any indication, they are primed to repeat top of the Western Conference table and make a 2019 MLS Cup run.

The East is more interesting than many are predicting by stamping Atlanta United in as MLS Cup 2019 favorites. There could be a longer transitional period in the Peachtree State to adapt to new manager Frank de Boer’s style of play, training methods, and player control off the pitch. Because of this, I’m going with the New York Red Bulls in the East.

Sporting KC wins the 2019 MLS Cup 2-1 over RBNY.

Connor: It will be Atlanta United vs. LAFC, with Atlanta repeating. Why wouldn’t they? They have a new coach, but the core of their team is perfectly intact. Their best player got replaced by an even better player. And they’ve got the depth to challenge at every level and competition. There’s really no other team at their level, attendance-wise, money-wise, and talent-wise. It’s Atlanta, and then everybody else.

Jeff: I’m gonna play the stats and say Sporting Kansas City and New York Red Bulls, but I know that’s wrong, and you should too. Wild cards abound, and the likeliest suspects (and the first one pains me) are Seattle Sounders FC and (again) Atlanta United FC. Unless Frank de Boer deranges that system (something I’m pricing in for some damn reason), they have kept the team that won it and should have a good shot of doing it again.


Who on FC Cincy’s roster do you predict to be the team’s MVP?

Michael: If there’s going to be a team MVP this season, I think it will be on the defensive side of the roster. Kendall Waston has the size and experience to do the job. Just a couple of short years ago at Vancouver, he was the only true defender on any MLS roster that was a DP. He’s going to have to shine and lead the team during the inaugural season if FCC’s going to have any shot at the playoffs.

Geoff: There are no obvious MLS-level all-stars on this squad, and Adi needs talent around him to be considered the team MVP. If he can’t be fed enough, I see the likes of Darren Mattocks leading the team in scoring. Considering that he was our first supplemental pick, that would be an immense steal. As for the other positions, I see a ton of leadership potential, but not a lot of stand-out names. I would love to be proven wrong.

Stephen: Two names come to mind, although neither are currently targeted to start—Allan Cruz and Spencer Richey.

Cruz could establish himself as the workhorse and conduit in the midfield that FCC needs to stay competitive this season. The 22-year-old Tico is a dynamic box-to-box player who can eat up minutes, tackle cleanly, and link the back line to the attack. If Richey ends up being the team’s MVP, it will be a result of an onslaught of attempts on goal and some stellar work between the posts to keep the Orange & Blue in games this year.

Connor: Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to our new Kenney Walker—Caleb Stanko.

Based on what I’ve seen from Stanko in preseason, I truly believe he’ll fill a territorial, possessive, and transitional role. I’ve seen Koch use him as a defensive midfield leader, like Wil Trapp in Columbus, and also move him back to fill the CB role when FCC needs a fifth defender. He’s not going to be a sexy player like Ledesma, but he will be a solid and consistent field general.

Jeff: Whoever it is that connects the defense to the forwards. That could be Leonardo Bertone, Victor Ulloa, or maybe even USL holdovers Emmanuel Ledesma or Nazmi Albadawi (who at least have track records with the team). All I know is that someone has to do it, or this team is screwed.


Do you have any strong agreement or dissent with our opinions? What do you expect from our Orange & Blue? Who do you see making it to the MLS Cup?

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for FCC’s maiden MLS voyage and the season opener against Seattle this weekend.

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.

Images: First Day of MLS Training for FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati’s preseason kicked off with a session held on a frigid Tuesday at the Sheakley Athletic Complex on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.

Allan Cruz – Image: Ryan Meyer

Here are images of the FC Cincinnati’s first MLS training session of 2019. The session was held on a frigid Tuesday morning at the Sheakley Athletic Complex on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.

A surprise was in store for the media that attended. Expansion draft pick Roland Lamah, who had been in extended contract negotiations with FC Cincinnati, was present and trained with the team. FCC announced his signing officially later that afternoon. Lamah is currently categorized as an international, although he is in the process of getting his green card.

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 Ryan Meyer.

Images

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 2019 season.

FC Cincinnati Roster Building: Preparing for the MLS Expansion Draft

Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati made another major roster announcement Monday, officially signing center back Forrest Lasso. Props to the club for now cleverly announcing #19 Corben Bone on the 19th of November and #3 Lasso on the 3rd of December. This brings the current Senior Roster to 5 players, one week away from the MLS Expansion Draft.

Five additional roster spots are up for grabs during the Expansion Draft December 11th at 2pm. Assuming no additional roster announcements are made prior, it’s logical to think that one-half (10 of 20) Senior Roster spots will be spoken for by this time next week.

We recently asked via our Discussion Thread series what strategy the team may make during the Expansion Draft. To better understand how best to answer this question, let’s review the following roster graphic.

FC Cincinnati Senior Roster Matrix

The above table illustrates a realistic approach to how FCC may fill out their inaugural 2019 MLS Senior Roster over the next few weeks. Green highlights a higher proposed target opportunity, yellow a mid-level and red a lower probability.

Players Signed (5 players)

The first handful of FC Cincinnati MLS signees represent a great foundation of talent, consisting of:

  • Fanendo Adi, Designated Player – a proven MLS forward with 50 goals in 120 appearances for the Portland Timbers
  • Emmanuel Ledesma, International – the reigning USL Most Valuable Player
  • Forrest Lasso – the reigning USL Defender of the Year
  • Fatai Alashe – a central defensive midfielder with recent MLS experience in San Jose
  • Corben Bone – a fan favorite and FCC original with MLS credibility

Expansion Draft (5 players)

The club has the unique opportunity given to expansion sides to make a significant impact in shaping their roster next Tuesday. As the list of available players will not be released by the MLS until the day before, it’s nearly impossible to predict the best talent available. Additionally, teams will protect their top 11 players, specifically in high impact positions, such as central defenders, center midfielders and forwards.

Therefore, we’ve taken a theoretical approach to what may be available. We highlight below the higher probability positions and a few players that may just be sitting there for the taking on the 11th.

Goalkeepers

Although it’s not likely that a first team keeper will be on the board, there will be several former starters and back-ups available, such as:

  • David Ousted, DC United – the 33-year-old, 6’ 4” Danish keeper has 159 MLS starts (42 shutouts) for DC United (2018) and Vancouver Whitecaps (2013-2017). Yes, Ousted provides the Vancouver connection we’ve witnessed Alan Koch dip into frequently. The return of club legend Bill Hamid to DC United last summer makes Ousted (Oh-sted) expendable and available. Achievable for right around $500k.
  • Brad Stuver, NYCFC – former Dayton Dutch Lion and Columbus Crew SC, 27-year-old greater Cleveland native. With only 4 MLS starts, Stuver could be a possible back-up if the team feels they have a bona-fide starter in Spencer Richey or Evan Newton.

Central Defenders

High quality center backs are in high demand and pivotal for an expansion side. Look for FCC to seek an experienced MLS veteran to shore up a young and MLS inexperienced duo of Lasso and Paddy Barrett (yes, I went there).

  • Tim Parker, RBNY – my O&B Press colleagues will not be surprised with this one. As a self-professed Tim Parker fan, this would be a gigantic pick-up by FCC. Not only is he another former Whitecaps player (2015-2017), he was also Spencer Richey’s first roommate on the road with the Whitecaps FC 2 USL franchise in 2015. Additionally, the 26-year old Parker, and former 2011 High School Gatorade Player of the Year, has two USMNT caps and 105 MLS appearances in 4 seasons. He is out of contract with the Red Bulls and just might be available in the Expansion Draft.
  • Kofi Opare, out of contract with DC United – the Ghanaian born, U.S./Canadian duel national played collegiately at University of Michigan. He has over 6,500 MLS minutes between stops with LA Galaxy and DC United. A recent foot injury may be a concern but will also keep his salary demands in budget.

Outside Fullbacks

This is a position that is a high target need for the Orange & Blue to fill in the upcoming few weeks.

  • Ronald Matarrita, NYCFC – the 24-year-old, Costa Rican international Matarrita should be left unprotected next week. He is the current back up to former Crew and Dayton Dutch Lion Ben Sweat in NY. Matarrita has played over 4,000 MLS minutes with NYCFC the last 3 seasons. He has 23 caps for the Ticos and is versatile as a left winger as well. He would likely require TAM to buy down his salary to fit within the individual player max budget charge. Matarrita would be dynamic in Orange & Blue.
  • Greg Garza, Atlanta United – the 27-year-old former Liga MX player is signed to a multi-year deal for the MLS Cup bound Five Stripes. However, if he is left unprotected by Atlanta, FCC need to jump on the versatile left back/midfielder. He has 10 USMNT caps and would be a great fit for FC Cincinnati.
  • Jordan Harvey, out of contract with LAFC – the 34-year old, eleven-year MLS journeyman would bring tons of experience at left back for a reasonable price. You guessed it, he’s another player with Vancouver connections having played for the Whitecaps from 2011-2017. Harvey could be a low risk, inexpensive roster filler. He certainly knows what to expect on a new expansion side.

Wingers

Alan Koch has shown a desire to have a stable of wingers that burn pass opponents on the flank. Having a true #9 like Adi in the line-up will also predicate the need for outside midfielders/wingers to get service into his path.

  • Juan Agudelo, out of contract with NE Revolution – although I’ve not been a huge Agudelo fan over the years, he has re-invented himself as a winger of late. Only 26-years-old, the upside here is potentially grabbing a savvy player with 175 MLS appearances. For the right price, Aqudelo may be worth a look.
  • Zoltan Stieber, DC United – the 30-year-old Hungarian has bounced around the top European leagues including stops at Aston Villa, Mainz 05, Hamburger SV and FC Kaiserslautern. He has made 35 appearances for DC United the past two seasons scoring 6 goals. Stieber has UEFA Europa League experience and 22 caps for the Magyars.

Keep in mind, FCC can only take one player from each of the 18 available unprotected team rosters. Toronto FC, Columbus Crew SC, Sporting Kansas City, Seattle Sounders, and the San Jose Earthquakes are all exempt from the Expansion Draft as LAFC chose players from their rosters in the last Expansion Draft.

The positional tactics above appear to align with some of the incoming but unsubstantiated rumors of possible FCC open market transfer targets.

Transfer Rumors

  • Alfredo Morales, recent media reports state that both FCC and NYCFC are interested in the 28-year-old former USMNT center midfielder. Morales currently plays in the Bundesliga for Fortuna Düsseldorf. His club placed a $1M transfer fee price tag on any potential transfer.
  • Ozvaldo Alonso, the Seattle Sounders announced two weeks ago that they would not re-sign their 33-year-old veteran defensive midfielder. The storied Cuban national and former Charleston Battery player will be a hot commodity in the MLS free agent market. His age and recent injuries raise a few doubts, but the “Honey Badger’s” experience and clever play could be a much-needed asset for an expansion side.
  • Matias Campos López, MLS Transfer News reported this week that FCC are targeting the 27-year-old Chilean striker. He has scored 13 goals in 26 appearances this season for Palestino of the Chilean Primera Division.

Who do you see FC Cincinnati targeting, position, and player-wise, in the upcoming Expansion Draft?

Following the completion of the Expansion Draft, FC Cincinnati needs to fill the remaining half of their Senior Roster from a combination of the following: MLS Free Agency, the Waiver Draft, the Re-Entry Draft, the SuperDraft, the international transfer market and from their former USL roster.

Stay tuned to the Orange & Blue Press for your continued off-season coverage and Transfer News.

Deeper Cuts: Rotation Riches, Finishing Class, and Who’s Up First?

A deeper look at FC Cincinnati’s late-season victory over Indy Eleven including Rotation Riches, Finishing Class, and Who’s Up First?

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Danni König / Image: Ryan Meyer

The Orange & Blue emphatically finished their regular-season home schedule on Saturday with a 3-0 victory over I-74 rivals, Indy Eleven. The post-match celebrations of the USL Regular-Season Championship are now the stuff of local legend. Here are three deeper cuts on how the match played-out in front of 31,478 fans.

Rotation Riches

Alan Koch rotated his roster, changing 10 of 11 players from the team that defeated Richmond on Wednesday. With the Regular Season Championship won, Saturday presented a great opportunity to give some deserved playing time to members of FCC’s squad. Players like Sem de Wit, Russell Cicerone, Matt Bahner, Tyler Gibson, and Tomi Ameobi have been with the team since the start of the season. All are in the bottom ten in minutes played, but contributed to the 3-0 win. Expect to see more of this capable cast in the final two matches of the season.

Make no mistake though, the FC Cincinnati squad was not substantially weakened. The lineup morphed from its customary 4-2-3-1 into a conventional 4-4-2 with a flat midfield. Adi, König, Cicerone, and McLaughlin gave the starting 11 an attacking look. Imagine being the Indy Eleven defenders staring down Fanendo Adi and Danni König starting in a “rotated” FCC lineup.

FCC could have been excused for turning in a less than perfect performance on Saturday. The league was won and they couldn’t improve their playoff position. It was their third match in eight days, including two on the road. Add to that an hour-and-twenty-minute lightning delay on Wednesday, post-match celebrations in Richmond after claiming the regular-season crown, and flight delays returning home. Alan Koch’s team delivered again despite these obstacles. The team showed up for the fans, providing a convincing performance that pumped-up the crowd for the trophy ceremony that followed. It was a fitting end for their last home USL regular season match ever.

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Russell Cicerone started Saturday’s match and made the cross that led to the third goal. Image: Ryan Meyer

Finishing Class

While the final score wasn’t flattering for the visitors on Saturday, Indy Eleven was very much in this match for almost two-thirds of the contest. Indy Eleven managed a 60% possession advantage, and had more than twice as many shots as FC Cincinnati over the entire contest.

FCC’s next-level quality in the final third was the difference. Fanendo Adi struck first with a ferocious long-range strike. Indy pressed hard for the equalizer but were then undone by Danni König’s well-taken counter-attack goal in the 65th minute. An own goal for FCC’s third added insult to injury and the Orange & Blue walked away easy winners. Two goals from 8 shots (excluding blocked shots), produced a 25% FCC conversion rate in this match. Note that the third own goal doesn’t count toward conversion rate.

With two matches remaining, FCC leads the league in goals scored with 69 (2.2 per game). The Orange & Blue can claim 15 different goalscorers in 2018 and if Corben Bone scores one more goal, they will finish the regular season with four players with double-digit goal totals.

It’s fun to talk about offense, but one also can’t overlook the performance of Evan Newton (5 saves) and a bend-but-don’t-break defense that kept their 13th clean sheet of the season.

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Fanendo Adi opened the scoring in the 35th minute on Saturday. Image: Ryan Meyer

Who’s Up First?

The race for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference is very tight indeed, especially in spots 6 through 10. That’s important, of course, because FC Cincinnati will face the team that finishes eighth in the Eastern Conference in the first round of the USL playoffs. It’s difficult to predict right now just who that opponent will be. Currently, based on Orange & Blue Press projections, our first round opponent will be Nashville SC. But things can change quickly based on one or two results.

North Carolina FC continued their good late season form and picked up a 3-2 win against Richmond on Saturday. All of the rest of the teams in the 6-10 spots — Bethlehem, Nashville, NY Red Bulls II and Ottawa — tied and earned one point this weekend.

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Eastern Conference ranked by projected point total

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Both graphics via Connor Paquette

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press through the end of the regular season and we’ll keep you up to date on how thing are shaping-up as the October 20th date for the first playoff game approaches.

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