Thoughts On Harkes’ Departure

In the aftermath of the dismissal of coach John Harkes, FC Cincinnati fans are left to speculate about what went wrong and where FC Cincinnati goes from here.

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A day after the dismissal of John Harkes as head coach of FC Cincinnati, there’s no additional information about the circumstances of his departure. I’m sure the club prefers not to air its laundry any more than is necessary and wants to refocus attention on the team and the season ahead. Time will tell whether Harkes comes forward with more information about what actually transpired. Until that happens or some inside information leaks, any analysis of the reason for his dismissal is just speculation.

People are going to speculate. It’s human nature to speculate whether it’s helpful or not. Without a clear understanding of what happened and why, speculation will result.

John Harkes, both as a name and as a man, brought excitement and passion to the club. He also presented himself as a genuine guy that cared about the city, the club, its supporters and its success. He brought a sense of humor to most of his interactions that many appreciated. Just last Monday, I brought my two young daughters to a book signing and he was there at the end of a two hour session, happily engaging with them in a fun and genuine way. People connected with that and will miss it.

It’s ok for fans to be shocked and angry about the change. Supporters need time to react, have their say, think about what it means, and get over it to whatever extent they need to. People adjust to change and bad news differently, and at different speeds. What seems certain though is that Harkes isn’t coming back, so let’s get that process started.

The firing is significant and shocking because of the weight of the Harkes name, and the perceived success of the first season. He is a U.S. soccer legend. It was clearly a successful 2016 season. There must have been a very good reason to change the recipe so significantly just before the start of this year’s campaign.

The dismissal is also significant and shocking because of the unusual timing of the event. Coaches and players come and go. Their time with any particular club is often no more than a few years. They usually go as the result of clearer circumstances such as poor results or another opportunity elsewhere. Neither applies in this case.

This portion of yesterday’s press release is interesting. It describes new head coach Alan Koch as follows, “Alan leads by example, is a strong communicator and has established very clear expectations for himself and the players. We feel his disciplined approach will be key for a successful season.” It could be just wording but the words imply that Koch brings a level of discipline and organization that was perhaps not there before. Again, this is speculation.

Alan Koch is certainly an impressive soccer professional and qualified to lead this club forward. Orange and Blue Press recently interviewed Koch about his role with the club. While his role is much larger now as head coach, check out the segment (which includes audio) for more background on the new man in charge. There’s a lot more to be said about Koch but we have the rest of the season to do that.

No coach or player is bigger than the club, even with a club this young. FC Cincinnati will move forward and still has the ability to continue its rapid growth and have a successful 2017 season. The talent and depth on this squad is better than most in USL. As long as Koch can get his players refocused quickly, favorable results should follow.

Well that was all a bit too serious wasn’t it? The one certain cure for all this drama is some football. That football arrives tomorrow at 3:30pm when FC Cincinnati takes on OKC Energy in the team’s first preseason match.

What do you think? Air your grievances in the comments section.

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Rise Together Book Signing

FC Cincinnati closed out the week with a training session at UC. Season ticket holders were invited to watch and then participate in a book signing event.

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Coach John Harkes greets the fans that came out for the Rise Together book signing.

FC Cincinnati closed out this week with another preseason training session at Sheakley Athletics Center on Saturday. Season ticket holders were invited to watch the last half-hour of practice and then participate in a book signing event. FC Cincinnati recently released Rise Together: Celebrating FC Cincinnati’s Inaugural Season which documents last year’s historic campaign.

You can get a copy of the book by visiting the FC Cincinnati website here. Stay tuned to FC Cincinnati for information on additional book signing events. There will be one specifically for those who preordered the book. There will also be a public book signing at Joseph Beth in Hyde Park on Monday, February 13, from 5:00-7:30 p.m.

Saturday Practice

Photos courtesy of JES Photography/Joe Schmuck.

Book Signing

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

Como FC Cincinnati cambio la ciudad

Como Cincinnati paso de ser una ciudad de baseball o fútbol americano a ser una de las ciudades más futboleras de los Estados Unidos. Comenzó con FC Cincinnati.

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En agosto del 2015 hubo un anuncio que cambiaría a toda la ciudad de Cincinnati por completo. FC Cincinnati, nuevo equipo profesional de fútbol/soccer. Al principio hubo muchas preguntas si este equipo iba a ser exitoso, ya que han habido otros equipos en el pasado en esta ciudad que por problemas financieros y falta de apoyo de la afición, tuvieron que cerrar puertas en Cincinnati. La pregunta era, este club podrá ser diferente a los otros que han intentado estar en la ciudad en el pasado?

FC Cincinnati, estaba determinado a ganarse su afición, y tomo algunas decisiones para llegar a ello. Los siguientes puntos fueron los pasos que el club tomo que fueron ganando la confianza de los amantes al fútbol/soccer y residentes de Cincinnati.

  • Anuncio MLS: En agosto cuando el equipo fue anunciado también anunciaron que su meta no solo era tener un equipo profesional en la USL (al momento 3ra división) sino su meta principal era tener un equipo profesional en la  MLS (1ra división de Estados Unidos.) Cuando el club anuncio esto, hubo una reacción mixta en la ciudad, hubieron las personas que se emocionaron con algún día tener su equipo en primera división; mientras otros fueron un poco más difíciles de convencer, y hasta el momento estaban en lo cierto, era un nuevo equipo que todavía no había ni jugado su primer partido oficial y ni jugadores habían contratado hasta el momento. Pero este pensar estaba por cambiar.
  • Contratación de John Harkes: Cuando empiezas un equipo profesional de cero tienes que hacerlo en orden y así el club lo planeaba. El primer paso fue la contratación del primer Director técnico en la historia del club, John Harkes. Para los que no saben esta contratación hizo mucha bulla. John Harkes es una leyenda del futbol Estadounidense. John en su carrera colegial jugo en el medio Campo de la universidad de Virginia  1985-1987, fue la promesa del fútbol estadounidense de ese entonces, de ahí jugo en clubes muy importantes en Inglaterra como Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, West Ham United y Nottingham Forest. También fue la estrella y capitán del New England Revolution cuando regreso a Estados Unidos. Jugo para selecciones del Pais de 1987 al 2000, siendo así el referente del fútbol Estadounidense. En otras palabras la contratación de John Harkes en Cincinnati fue una gran noticia en toda la nación y el primer paso a algo grande que comenzaría a ganarse la confianza de la ciudad.
  • Formando Plantilla: Sabemos que formar una plantilla de cero no es algo fácil, pero antes de hace público que John Harkes estaría al mando del equipo, él ya estaba trabajando. Viajando a diferentes países, mirando jugadores como en España  donde  encontró a Alvaro Anton Ripoll, también asistió al mundial sub 20 en nueva Zelanda, donde encontró a una de las más grandes promesas de Panamá, Francisco Narbon.
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    Francisco Narbon

    Pero John sabía que iba a necesitar a alguien local al cual los amantes al fútbol/soccer reconocieran. Ahí fue cuando contacto a Austin Berry. Austin nacido en Cincinnati, Ohio en 1988 fue uno de los mejores jugadores colegiales en la nación, jugando para la Universidad de Louisville. Comenzó su carrera profesional siendo escogido en la primera ronda del super draft por Chicago Fire equipo de la MLS, también jugo para el Philadelphia Union (MLS) y FC Anyang de la K League Challenge (primera división de Corea del Sur). La plantilla fue tomando forma en pretemporada, ganado el torneo de la academia IMG en Florida, obteniendo victorias ante equipos de Islandia y al gran NY City FC de la MLS, con jugadores como el italiano Andrea Pirlo y el español David Villa.

  • Temporada inaugural: Antes de que la temporada inaugural comenzara Jeff Berding (presidente de FC Cincinnati) menciono que la meta era tener un promedio de 10 mil aficionados por partido en la temporada 2016 Teniendo en cuenta que la USL (3ra división) a la cual el club seria miembro, tuvo un promedio de asistencia de 3,369 por partido. Muchos pensaron que FC Cincinnati no podría obtener su meta de 10 mil por partido, pero el club cayo muchas bocas, cuando su partido inaugural en Nippert Stadium tuvo más de 14 mil en asistencia, nadie lo podía creer, este fue el momento donde muchas personas se dieron cuenta que este equipo tenía algo grande planeado para esta ciudad, la asistencia solo siguió creciendo hasta romper el récord de la liga en asistencia con 30,189 en asistencia en el juego de postemporada ante Charleston Battery.   No solo eso, FC Cincinnati invirtió en traer a Crystal Palace equipo de la Premier League de Inglaterra (1ra división) para un amistoso, y teniendo así  asistencia de más de 35,000 aficionados en Nippert Stadium. En su primera temporada el club termino con un promedio de 17,296 en asistencia por partido.
  • Proceso a la MLS: Mientras tanto, el comisionado de la MLS Don Garber tomaba nota de todo lo que ocurría en Cincinnati. El club se puso en contacto con Don y lo invito a que viniera a Cincinnati a conocer la ciudad y a un evento junto a la afición; esto ocurrió en noviembre del 2016 y fue todo un éxito, Don menciono como la ciudad ha crecido en su cultura futbolística y que Cincinnati se merece un equipo de la MLS.

La competencia por tomar uno de los cupos de la expansión MLS está difícil, hay equipos luchando por su cupo, al igual que FC Cincinnati, pero lo que sabemos de seguro es que la directiva está haciendo todo lo posible para estar en la MLS en un futuro, la afición se ha enamorado de este nuevo club profesional de la ciudad. MLS o USL, donde quiera que juegue FC Cincinnati tendrá apoyo de la afición.

Actualmente el club está a punto de comenzar su pretemporada para este torneo en la USL, que ahora es 2da división por su excelente organización, calidad dentro de la cancha y rápido crecimiento. Ya han vendido más de 9,000 boletos de temporada, se espera que en la segunda temporada del club sigan rompiendo récords, creciendo fuera y dentro de la cancha y ya hay planes de construcción de su propia cantera donde estrenaran a los futuros jugadores promesas de Cincinnati. Únete, asiste a los partidos y se parte de lo grande que está pasando en nuestra ciudad.

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FC Cincinnati vs Charleston Battery – Matchup

FC Cincinnati vs Charleston Battery: FC Cincinnati opens its USL playoff campaign against the Charleston Battery on Sunday at Nippert Stadium.

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FC Cincinnati opens its USL playoff campaign this Sunday at Nippert Stadium against the Charleston Battery. They are the number three seed in the Eastern Conference and are hosting a Charleston team that beat them on opening day and drew them at Nippert in July.

The Orange & Blue are in better form coming into the match, having won four of their last five games. The defense has been sharp lately producing four clean sheets in a row. Nippert stadium has been a fortress for Harkes’ men this season. They have only lost two matches at home all season and those have been to the two best teams in the USL regular season, Louisville City FC and New York Red Bulls II. Aside from Omar Cummings long term injury, the team is healthy heading into Sunday’s contest.

Charleston have had an up and down season but can boast some very decent road results, including 6 away wins overall. They defeated New York Red Bulls II in New Jersey earlier in the season and just beat the playoff bound Richmond Kickers in Virginia in their last match away from home.

The USL playoffs opened with an early upset in the Western Conference on Friday, as the three seed Colorado Switchbacks fell at home to Vancouver Whitecaps FC II by a score of 2-1. That result will serve as a good reminder to the Orange & Blue that despite their good form and home field advantage, they will have to be at their best on Sunday to advance.

FC Cincinnati general manager Jeff Berding announced on Friday night that over 25 thousand tickets have already been sold for the match, which is a USL record attendance for a playoff game already. The game is a white out, so fans are encouraged to wear white in support of the club.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue press for news leading up to Sunday’s big playoff game at Nippert.

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Harkes and FC Cincinnati Issue 35K, Founders Box Challenge

John Harkes and FC Cincinnati issue a challenge to fans to sell out Nippert Stadium. Additional playoff promotions are revealed.

FC Cincinnati coach John Harkes issued a challenge to the city of Cincinnati to sell-out the team’s October 2nd playoff game and pack Nippert Stadium with 35 thousand fans. The challenge was laid out on the Toyota John Harkes Radio Show on Thursday evening, a program hosted by FC Cincinnati play-by-play announcer Tommy Gelehrter.

“I don’t think we’re out of line asking for that.” said Harkes of his request for the large crowd. He referenced the three times his club has broken the USL single game attendance record. He also cited the sell-out friendly against Crystal Palace as a reason to believe an enormous crowd is possible.

In addition to the challenge issued by Harkes, two additional playoff promotions were announced on the show. First, the playoff game will be a “white out” where fans are encouraged to wear white in support of the hometown club. Second, a Twitter challenge was announced encouraging fans to retweet a 7pm FC Cincinnati tweet promoting the white out. The goal of the Twitter promotion is to get at least 1,000 retweets. If that happens, one winner will be selected from the fans that retweet, and will get the honor of being on the field for the coin toss at the playoff game. The lucky fan will also be invited to watch the match from the Founder’s Box, where the FC Cincinnati owners and general manager Jeff Berding sit.

FC Cincinnati players Casey Townsend and Corben Bone also joined the hour long radio program. Townsend, a recent acquisition, scored the game winning goal last Saturday against Orlando City B to secure the home playoff game.

The humble Townsend described the goal, heaping praise on midfielder Eric Stevenson for the buildup play that led to his strike. “That goal was mostly Eric’s, he played a great ball…I got the slightest of touches. The goal was mostly his.”

Corben Bone spoke about Townsend joining the team late in the season and his contribution.  “We just want to make him feel welcome, but he’s a veteran guy. He’s made an immediate impact…and it proves that he should be here.”

Before turning their attention to the playoffs, FC Cincinnati must play their final game of the regular season this Saturday against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Orange and Blue cannot improve their third place standing, so they may rest key players for the weekend contest in Pennsylvania. Harkes was tight-lipped about what lineup changes might be made, but suggested that he would evaluate who needs rest on an “individual” basis. He also referenced the importance of going into the playoffs with momentum and a winning mentality.

FC Cincinnati fans should pay close attention to other results in the Eastern Conference this weekend. The games played on Saturday and Sunday will determine final playoff seedings and FC Cincinnati’s opponent in the playoff game. FCC could face any one of Charlotte, Richmond, Rochester or Charleston in that matchup. For the full lineup of USL action this weekend, see the schedule on the USL website.

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Cummings Out for “Several Weeks”, Could Miss Playoffs

FC Cincinnati issued a press release on Wednesday with more information about Omar Cummings’ knee injury.

FC Cincinnati issued a press release Wednesday with a little more information about the knee injury Omar Cummings suffered during the August 24th draw against the Rochester Rhinos. The injury occurred when Cummings collided with Rochester goalkeeper Tomas Gomez in the penalty box in the first half of the match. The FC Cincinnati forward had to be substituted out of the game, but was able to leave the field under his own power. Cummings underwent an MRI in the week that followed to assess whether any significant damage was done. FC Cincinnati’s press release does not report any specifics on the injury itself, but states that Cummings will be out for “several weeks.” The time frame stated is vague but brings into question whether he will be available for FC Cincinnati’s playoff run, which starts around the beginning of October.

Cummings has been a valuable part of FCC’s offense this season. He is the joint assist leader (along with Corben Bone at 5 assists) and has scored 3 goals for the Orange and Blue in 16 appearances. Orange and Blue Press and FC Cincinnati’s fans certainly wish Omar a speedy recovery and quick return to first team action.

Coach Harkes made the following comments about Cummings injury:

“Omar is an important player to our organization, both on and off the field. He has been tremendous for us in our inaugural year and we hope to see him healthy and back soon!”

FC Cincinnati is in action this evening at 7pm ET against the Charlotte Independence. For details on tonight’s matchup, see our cheat sheet segment.