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.

#LOUvCIN – The Derby That Wouldn’t Drown

FC Cincinnati returns to Louisville to take care of unfinished business on Tuesday in part two of the final regular season Dirty River Derby.

CINvLOU_9218_cover_REVISED.jpg
Design: CSDIV / Image: Joe Craven

Let’s try this again.

FC Cincinnati resumes this weekend’s postponed match with Louisville City FC tonight in Kentucky. Mother nature intervened on Saturday and FC Cincinnati fans now get to celebrate the final regular-season edition of the Dirty River Derby over two separate days. The game will be televised live on WSTR 64 and streamed live on ESPN+ at 7pm Eastern. The contest will resume in the 38th minute with FC Cincinnati leading 1-0.

For details on the first 37 minutes, check out our recap from Saturday.

Louisville POSTPONED_Match Recap
POSTPONED: Louisville City FC 0 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Weather Stops Match in 38th Minute

Do you have questions about the matchup? Our match program from last Thursday has all the details heading into this contest. A few things have changed since this article was released. Louisville City is now in fourth place. Both Pittsburgh and Charleston leapfrogged John Hackworth’s team with wins over the weekend. Also, Emmanuel Ledesma picked up an assist in the early stages on Saturday’s match and now sits on 12 assists total, leading the USL. Former FC Cincinnati midfielder Aodhan Quinn, now with Orange County SC, sits right behind him with 11.

CINvLOU_9218_cover_CROP
Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Louisville City FC

Here is one observation from Saturday to look for in tonight’s match. Fatai Alashe looked for opportunities to move forward and support the attack. On the average position chart below, we see more separation between him and Kenney Walker, the other holding midfielder, than we saw in the matches Fatai played against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. FCC’s customary 4-2-3-1 is looking more like a 4-1-4-1 in attack. Alashe’s advanced position was critical in the buildup to FC Cincinnati’s goal in the first part of the match. Formations, of course, are fluid and the position chart below is only for a partial match. However, it is interesting to note this, especially considering that Louisville City’s attack is one of the best in the Eastern Conference.

LOUvCIN (avg positons).png
Average position from Saturday’s match. FC Cincinnati’s (green) #27 is more separated and advanced from the other CDM (#6) than we’ve seen in previous matches.

One final note on Saturday’s match. If FCC Cincinnati can maintain a lead and collect all three points, they will clinch a top four spot and at least one home playoff match. Check out our playoff scenarios article for more details.

Follow Orange & Blue Press on Twitter for live coverage of #LOUvCIN, and look out for our match recap following the contest.

Atlanta United 2 1-5 FC Cincinnati: Five-Alarm Fire in Georgia

Nazmi Albadawi grabs a brace and Fatai Alashe gets his first goal in the first five-goal game in FC Cincinnati history.

Atlanta 8.22_Match Recap.jpg
Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

Alan Koch and team extended their impressive unbeaten streak to fourteen with a 5-1 thrashing of Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday. The Orange & Blue are on a roll, and have won six of their last seven matches, and seven of 11 played on the road in 2018. They were without leading goalscorer and talismanic playmaker Emmanuel Ledesma for this match. The Argentine maestro was sidelined, serving a one game suspension for yellow card accumulation.

Alan Koch made three changes to the side that beat Charleston convincingly four days earlier. The changes included a debut for Pa Konate, the Swedish left fullback recently acquired from Serie A side S.P.A.L. Another storyline heading into Wednesday’s match was the goalkeeping selection for the home team. FC Cincinnati’s former U.S. Open Cup hero, Mitch Hildebrandt, minded the nets for Atlanta United 2 against his former team, and had an evening to forget.

FC Cincinnati was the early aggressor and opened the scoring in the 18th minute of play. Emery Welshman held the ball up in the box, then laid it off to Corben Bone. The Plano, TX native fired through traffic, and his deflected shot looped over Hildebrandt and into goal. Nazmi Albadawi then doubled FCC’s fun just seven minutes later. Jimmy McLaughlin’s penetrating run attracted Atlanta’s attention on the right-hand side. He dished to Nazmi in the box, who took a touch and delivered a blistering strike into the corner. Hildebrandt had a decent look at the shot and might have done better. Alan Koch’s team comfortably managed the rest of the first half and went into the break two goals to the good.

Just eight minutes after the whistle that started the second half, FC Cincinnati thumped in another pair of goals. Fatai Alashe, recently loaned from the San Jose Earthquakes (and signed to an MLS contract), grabbed his first goal in Orange & Blue, cleaning up a rebound from a close-range Nazmi Albadawi shot. Albadawi then secured his brace by scoring again just two minutes after Alashe’s goal. The score was 4-0 to FC Cincinnati and the rout was on.

Atlanta United 2 got a consolation goal in the 65th minute. Fullback Shawn Nicklaw beat Spencer Richey with a thunderous long-range effort that found the top right corner. Not to be outdone, FC Cincinnati added a record-setting (most goals-scored in a FCC game) fifth when Emery Welshman struck with just three minutes remaining in regulation.

Final Score: Atlanta United 2 1-5 FC Cincinnati

A fire alarm from an apartment building near to Coolray Stadium rang throughout the end of the first half and most of the second, inspiring the title of this match recap.

Standings Update

The second-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds dropped points on Wednesday after Tampa Bay came from behind to secure a draw at Highmark Stadium. Louisville City FC now occupies third after a convincing 3-0 victory over the Charlotte Independence. FCC is now 9 points clear on top of the USL’s Eastern Conference.

Screenshot 2018-08-22 21.59.42.png

Highlight of the Match

Nazmi Albadawi scored two goals on a night where the big question was how would FCC’s offense perform without Emmanuel Ledesma.

Quote of the Match

Fatai Alashe had the following to say about getting his first goal for FC Cincinnati in just his second start for the organization.

“Whenever a game goes like this, you want to get yourself on the score sheet – especially early in my move here. It’s nice to get a goal. I told my mom before the game I’d score so I’m sure she’s pretty happy about that. It’s a good start and it’s positive so we’ll look to continue it.” 

Stat of the Match

FC Cincinnati had 19 total shot in this match, with 10 on target for a 52.6% shooting accuracy. That ties FC Cincinnati’s highest total of the season for shots on target, and is FCC’s second highest shot total for a game in 2018. Their high shot total and high shooting accuracy paid dividends and resulted in the first five-goal game in FC Cincinnati history.

Who Started?

FC Cincinnati made three changes to the starting eleven that featured last Saturday against Charleston. Pa Konate made his FC Cincinnati debut, replacing Blake Smith at left back. Captain Dekel Keinan returned to the starting eleven after missing two matches with a minor injury. Finally, Jimmy McLaughlin deputized for the suspended Emmanuel Ledesma.

Welshman
Bone (55′ Cicerone)- Albadawi – McLaughlin
Alashe (71′ Lahoud) – Walker
Konate (61 Smith) – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte
Richey

What’s Next?

FC Cincinnati continues its road trip on Saturday with a visit to Al Lang Stadium to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Tampa Bay has recently fallen from their place as one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams. However, FC Cincinnati has never won or even scored a goal against the Rowdies in Florida. They will look to change that narrative this weekend in the Sunshine State.

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

Atlanta 8.22_Match Recap

Deeper Cuts: Dueling FC Cincinnati Midfield Leads the Way

Detailed stats and deeper analysis of FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, August 18th at Nippert Stadium.

Fatai Alashe / Image: Ryan Meyer

After a 3-0 statement victory over the Battery on Saturday, the Charleston monkey is now truly off of FC Cincinnati’s back. Prior to this match, the Orange & Blue had only beaten the Battery one time in six attempts. In the three prior meetings at Nippert, FCC could never muster a win. Charleston was the only Eastern Conference team* that FCC had never defeated on home turf. They erased those bad memories on Saturday with a dueling midfield, a miserly defense, and a plug-and-play squad that is rolling on a 13 game unbeaten streak.

*Stat excludes teams new to the USL this year (i.e.: Nashville SC, Indy Eleven).

Dueling Midfield

Kenney Walker led FCC in passing accuracy vs. Charleston / Image: Ryan Meyer

Adding Fatai Alashe to an already talented midfield reaped rewards that made their way onto the stat sheet. The team passing accuracy (PA) elevated to 82%, which is 5% higher than their season average coming into the game. Kenney Walker led the way in distribution with a standout 91.7% PA on the evening.

FC Cincinnati was noticeably aggressive to the ball throughout the match, winning over 72% of the duels in the first half, and two-thirds of duels over the duration of the contest. Alashe, Walker, and Ledesma led the squad with 7 duels won each. It was a team effort though. Six FC Cincinnati players won 5 or more duels. Alan Koch has an embarrassment of riches in central midfield at his disposal, and he spent his currency effectively in the roster selection against Charleston.

Miserly Defense & Plug-and-Play Squad

Image: Ryan Meyer

Saturday’s victory came packaged with yet another clean sheet. That’s 11 shutouts total on the season, and 7 in the last 10 games. Charleston was kept at arm’s length on Saturday, with the exception of Ataulla Guerra’s ferocious long-range effort that rattled the crossbar. FCC’s defense allowed just 6 total shots and not a single one was from inside the box. What’s more impressive is that FCC has produced two consecutive cleans sheets while swapping in center back Paddy Barrett for team captain Dekel Keinan.

That’s not the only example of FC Cincinnati’s increasingly plug-and-play roster. Alashe entered for Lahoud. Welshman started in place of König, and Spencer Richey was still minding the nets rather than Newton. Neither the offense or defense is missing a beat despite these regular changes.

Early Numbers for Alashe and Adi

Fatai Alashe is the first of FC Cincinnati’s three summer signings to see the starting eleven. Over the 62 minutes he played on Saturday, he showcased a passing accuracy of 82.4%. He also won 5 fouls, 2 tackles, and 7 of 11 duels. He paired with Kenney Walker in the defensive midfield of FCC’s 4-2-3-1 and provided strength on possession, toughness in the tackle, and a partnership that could match the physical Battery attack.

Alan Koch is taking a measured approach to using his most dangerous new weapon, Fanendo Adi. For the third consecutive match, Adi replaced FC Cincinnati’s starting striker in the final third of the contest. Adi now has accumulated 47 total minutes over three appearances. He has 3 shots, all on target. He has earned 2 fouls, won 7 of 14 duels, including all of the aerial duels he’s been involved in.

While there’s not much to go on in terms of numbers for Adi, his impact in the matches is apparent. Defenders react differently when he’s in the match. He has a commanding presence and directs traffic on the field. His calm touches help the team maintain possession. He’s looked capable of scoring during each outing as well. He would have certainly have opened his account on Saturday if it weren’t for Skylar Thomas’ own goal.

While we don’t have a big enough sample size to really assess either Alashe or Adi right now, there’s plenty more to come from these two in 2018 and beyond.

Road Trip

Well, the home cooking has been nice. The Orange & Blue secured 16 of 18 possible points during their two month home stand in Cincinnati. It’s back on the plane this week though, and the team is headed south. On Wednesday August 22nd they’ll face Atlanta United 2 before heading to Florida for a showdown in Tampa with the Rowdies on Saturday.

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

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Nashville SC

FC Cincinnati goes for a sixth straight win at home versus the fighting six strings from Nashville. Join the Blue Out and Orange & Blue Press for all your FCC match coverage.

CINvNSH_8.2.18_COVER_CROP

CINvNSH_8.2.18_INFO_1_CROP

CINvNSH_8.2.18_INFO_2_CROP
Design: CSDIV

Following another eventful week of FC Cincinnati dominating the headlines, the team returns to USL action on Saturday. The Orange & Blue look to continue their torrid pace at home versus Nashville SC and go for a sixth straight Nippert win. The club is expecting the largest crowd of the season and requesting fans to wear blue for the “Blue Out”!

Since these two teams slogged out a 0-0 draw on July 7th, their paths have varied greatly. NSC has had a difficult time earning points and finding the back of the net. Over five matches in July, Nashville SC has scored only one goal and allowed six. They have lost three, tied FCC, and secured one win, dropping them from third to seventh in the Eastern Conference race.

Over the same time span, the Orange & Blue rattled off 4 wins and a tie (against NSC), secured 4 clean sheets, and solidified their mantle atop the table. FCC is now 7-2-2 at home this season and riding a 10-match unbeaten streak, the second longest in club history. In 2016 they went on a 7-0-4 run over an eleven game stretch.

As if you needed another reason to attend Saturday’s match, FCC boasts newly acquired talent. Fanendo Adi has been declared eligible to face Nashville and will don kit #9 (Tomi Ameobi has agreed to change to #24). Per Alan Koch, there’s also a good chance fans will see Adi’s debut on Saturday. Fatai Alashe is unlikely to make the game roster, as he looks to return to full match fitness. The availability of the newest teammate, Pa Konate, appears contingent on his final Visa paperwork.

This may be the last time we see these two teams face each other in Cincinnati until the 2020 MLS season.

Fast Facts

Here are some fast facts to get you ready for Saturday’s 7:30pm kickoff at Nippert Stadium.

  • FCC’s last four goals have come from their talented center back crew. Forrest Lasso has headed in goals in back-to-back matches, joined by tallies from Dekel Keinan and Paddy Barrett. All of these coming from first-half dead-ball opportunities.
  • Twelve players have now scored for FC Cincinnati this season. Including assists, 14 different FCC names have shared the scorer’s sheet. For comparison’s sake, in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, 16 players scored either a goal or an assist for FC Cincinnati.
  • Nashville has lost three straight road games (at Charlotte, Ottawa, and Toronto) and were held goalless in each. They are 2-5-4 away from the Music City this season.
  • NSC brings up the rear in several USL offensive categories through 20 matches. Nashville is tied for last in goals scored (18) and conversion rate (10%). In contrast, FCC is tied for the league lead in conversion rate (19%) and currently sits second in goals scored (41).
  • Defensive midfielders Michael Lahoud (89.1%) and Richie Ryan (87.7%) lead the Orange & Blue in passing accuracy. Nashville’s own midfield is bolstered by Bolu Akinyode, who is the only starter with a higher passing accuracy (90.6%).

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus the Nashville SC.

What Fatai Alashe Brings to FC Cincinnati

A closer look at Fatai Alashe including his MLS pedigree, his all-American path to the pros, and what attributes the player will bring to FC Cincinnati’s central midfield.

Photo Credit: Noah Salzman

FC Cincinnati held a press conference on Monday to officially introduce their shiny new MLS signings. Midfielder Fatai Alashe and striker Fanendo Adi joined the Orange & Blue as the team’s first two top-division acquisitions. Both will join in short order and play the rest of the 2018 USL season with the club.

For our feature article on Fanendo Adi’s transfer, look here.
Fanendo_Adi_Portland_Timbers_vs_RSL_2016-09-10_(29613845965)
What Fanendo Adi Brings to FC Cincinnati

Fatai Alashe joins as a 24-year-old defensive midfielder and a U.S. U-23 International. He’s been with the Quakes since 2015 when he was the fourth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Facing a similar situation to Adi, Alashe saw less playing time when the Earthquakes changed coaches. He then seized the opportunity to join FC Cincinnati’s upstart MLS project. Alashe is on loan from the Quakes through the end of the 2018 season, but FCC has obtained his rights for 2019 in exchange for $60,000 in TAM and $75,000 in GAM.

What Fatai Alashe Brings to FC Cincinnati

Young but MLS Tested

At 24 years old, Alashe is now one of the youngest players on FC Cincinnati’s roster. Only Sem De Wit is younger. However, Alashe has amassed a fair bit of MLS experience despite being on the early side of his career. He has three and a half years in the league and was a fixture in Dom Kinnear’s Earthquakes in 2015 and 2016. He has accumulated 69 MLS starts and 89 total appearances.

Alan Koch had the following to say about Alashe joining FC Cincinnati:

“Fatai is a player who brings a wealth of MLS experience at a young age. He’s shown his quality over the last few seasons in MLS, and we envision him contributing to our team both short and long term.”

This 2017 MLS feature “The Prospect” highlights his potential.

All-American Development Product

One interesting aspect of Alashe’s development is the path he’s taken to FC Cincinnati. He’s an unmistakably all-American soccer product. The Michigan native has traversed all of the U.S. soccer stops including the Development Academy (DA), NCAA, PDL, U.S. U-23 squad, USL, and of course MLS.

He played elite youth soccer at the Vardar Academy in Michigan where his U17/U18 team won the U.S. Development Academy national championship in 2010. Alashe went on to Michigan State University where he captained the team his senior year. He also started every match in 2014 and took the Spartans to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.

While in college he played PDL soccer with Reading United in 2013 and the Portland TImbers U23s the following year. In January of 2015 he was drafted by San Jose and began his MLS journey, immediately featuring in the starting roster. He also made a brief stop in the USL in 2017 on two separate loans stints at Reno 1868, San Jose’s affiliate.

Alashe earned his soccer stripes in the American system, and his success underlines the importance of leagues like the PDL that provide players opportunities to prepare for the professional game.

Alashe said of his time in the PDL:

“I would say the PDL helped me a lot in order to reach my dream of playing professionally. I was exposed to high-level soccer playing with some of the best players in the country on every PDL team I played with. My time spent at both Reading United and Portland Timbers U23 were huge parts of my development as a player.”

Player Attributes

Alashe joins FC Cincinnati in the most crowded position on the current roster, central midfield. He’s a rangy holding midfielder with a tireless engine. He’s known for being “very physical” and having “tremendous athletic attributes.” [MLS]

After the MLS Draft, Top Drawer Soccer described Alashe as being a “disruptive force in the center of the field that can cover a lot of ground.”

In a “24 Players Under 24” piece assembled by MLS, one technical staffer described Alashe’s playing style. “He chews up ground. He’s an uber-athlete. He’s one of those guys that if you tacked a paintbrush to his pants, he’d paint the whole field.”

Fatai should be a fine complement to technical and possession-oriented midfielders like Richie Ryan and Corben Bone. Alashe can provide pace, physicality, and ball-winning ability, all while protecting the back four and continuing to grow other aspects of his game.

The following piece from 2017 also gives you some insights into Alashe’s interests,  personality, and favorite Premier League team.

With two signings in the door, the MLS transfer business is officially underway. However, some more news might be right around the corner. Luke Sassano suggested that he is “looking to add maybe one more piece” before the MLS secondary transfer window closes on August 8th.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 USL season and future MLS transactions.

What Fanendo Adi Brings to FC Cincinnati

Reports indicate that Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe are heading to FC Cincinnati as the team’s first two MLS signings. Here’s what Adi will add to FCC’s roster.

Fanendo_Adi_Portland_Timbers_vs_RSL_2016-09-10_(29613845965)
Photo Credit: Ray Terrill via Creative Commons

On Sunday afternoon, ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman reported that FC Cincinnati will imminently announce the signing of striker Fanendo Adi and midfielder Fatai Alashe as the club’s first two MLS signings.

Update: The transfer of both Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe was officially announced by FC Cincinnati on Monday July 30th. Adi’s rights were exchanged for $450,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and $400,000 in MLS Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). Portland can also receive up to $100,000 in future TAM for Adi’s on-field performance, as well as future transfer value through the 2020 summer transfer window.

Adi, a 27 year-old Nigerian forward currently with the Portland Timbers, is a Designated Player, and would presumably have the same designation for FC Cincinnati. Following the departure of coach Caleb Porter at the end of 2017, Adi wasn’t getting the starts he’s seen the past few years in Portland. He reportedly requested a trade earlier in July.

Fatai Alashe is 24 year-old defensive midfielder and a U.S. U-23 International. He’s been with the Quakes since 2015 when he was the fourth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Similar to Adi, Alashe fell out of favor when the Earthquakes changed coaches and has made only two starts this season. He now appears to be on the move to the Queen City.

As an added benefit, both Adi and Alashe will reportedly play the rest of the 2018 USL season with the club.

FC Cincinnati is holding a noon press conference on Monday to officially introduce two MLS signings. Assuming things play-out as Twellman advertised, here are some thoughts about what Adi will bring to FC Cincinnati as a player.

What Fanendo Adi Brings to FC Cincinnati

A Mobile Power Center Forward

If you’re looking for a physical presence and clinical finishing ability, Fanendo Adi is the striker for you. He’s 6’4” tall, but in addition to his size and physicality, he’s known for his mobility, the quality and timing of his runs, dribbling ability, and having a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Here is his match-winning goal Saturday evening versus the Houston Dynamo.

He’s been described as “one of the best natural finishers in the league” and well-respected Crew and Sounders center back Chad Marshall said the following about him.

“Even as a big guy, he’s not afraid to hit you with a move and create space for himself. He’s a complete player and he’s a handful.” [Four Four Two]

Proven MLS Credentials

The Lagos, Nigeria native netted 54 regular season goals in 126 regular season MLS appearances with Portland. He ranks second in all time goals scored for the Timbers, behind only Diego Valeri. He holds the Timbers club record with 13 career braces, including one in his first Portland appearance.

Adi hit double-digit goals for three consecutive seasons prior to 2018, and helped the Timbers claim the 2015 MLS Cup, starting every playoff match. He netted two goals in that playoff run.

Ace Card in FCC’s USL Campaign

The Orange & Blue already boast one of the most powerful offenses in the USL. They have the second most total goals, the best goal difference in the Eastern Confernce, and are tied for first in conversion rate. Both Danni König and Emmanuel Ledesma are in the top 10 for goals scored, and now they add a proven MLS-caliber striker in Adi.

If FCC wasn’t the favorite for the USL Cup already, and arguably Real Monarchs and Pittsburgh have had great seasons too, they are certainly the favorites now.

The following MLS Insider feature on Adi from 2017 provides some good insights into the player.

Fits the FCC Mold

Not only is Adi a proven #9 that will immediately add DP-level MLS talent to FCC’s roster, he fits the character type that Alan Koch has pursued over the past year. A fan favorite, Portland provided Adi with a home tribute Saturday evening against the Houston Dynamo. Adi entered the match as a substitute in the 75th minute and went on to score the winning goal in the 80th minute. The admiration from his fellow teammates, the Timbers Army, and the Portland fans was palpable in his send off.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more on Fatai Alashe and coverage of the announcement of FC Cincinnati’s first two MLS player signings.

Fanendo_Adi_Portland_Timbers_vs_RSL_2016-09-10_(29613845965)
Photo Credit: Ray Terrill via Creative Commons