FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 Louisville City FC: Deeper Cuts

In our Deeper Cuts segment we dive deeper into the statistics from FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 loss to Louisville City FC in the home opener.

While the fans were able to finally welcome FC Cincinnati home to Nippert Stadium for the all-important first clash against Louisville City, the Orange & Blue dropped a disappointing 1-0 decision to the defending USL champions. FCC dictated pace and play, especially in the second half, owning the numbers game over Lou City. However, the statistics also indicate that FC Cincinnati could not capitalize on the offensive side of the ball.

Let’s dive deeper into the numbers and consider the Orange & Blue’s approach in their next game against LCFC.

Reversing Fortune

Over the first two games of the season, FCC got out to an early lead, then held the defensive line for the final 60 minutes or so. But Lou City managed to do the defending in Saturday’s match. They jumped out to a quick lead by playing the ball deep to the end line and depending on clutter in the box to get the goal.

Lou City did this a few times to start the game, but once the lead was taken, they were content to fall back and dare FCC to beat them offensively. The heat maps and possession numbers (55% to 45%) indicate that FCC won the possession battle by the end of the game. However, the heat maps also show that Louisville owned the ball more in their own box later in the game and kept FCC from penetrating too deeply.

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FCC (left) and LCFC heat maps in the 1st half
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FCC (left) and LCFC heat maps in the 2nd half

With Luke Spencer out of the lineup, Lou City played a 3-4-3 formation. This put early pressure on the FCC defense and allowed the midfielders to pull back in the second half. The clearances showed just how anxious Lou City was to play keep-away, owning a 44-16 advantage in that statistic. Defenseman Paco Craig alone had 13, including the goal line clearance in the first half that kept the 1-0 lead.

Pushing through

For the most part, FCC did a good job in keeping possession of the ball and controlling the stats when it came to duels (52% to 48%) and passing accuracy (83% to 77%). However, one unseen set of numbers was not in FCC’s favor—dribbling.

A successful dribble is defined as one where a player has the ball and is able to beat the defender while retaining possession. FCC managed to dominate that statistic, successful 10 times to Lou City’s 5. However, FCC also lost the dribble 10 times (as shown in the red triangles), while Lou City lost it only once. While FCC was doing well to challenge the defense and get around them, they were only successful half the time.

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This may be a minor development since FCC was willing to challenge the defenders in the first place. However, a lot of those unsuccessful dribbles were lost and cleared around the Lou City box. No matter how many passes they put together, FCC couldn’t get past the last line of defense.

Finishing the job

In general, while FC Cincinnati enjoyed plenty of runs at the Lou City box, the team could not put the finishing touch past Lou City’s defense and goalkeeper. They hammered 16 shots at goal in the game, but only managed three on target, all in the first half. Much of the rest of the attacks on frame flew astray.

While there was a ton of pressure put on Louisville City late in the game, the crossing passes were not on target. FC Cincinnati launched 37 crosses in the game to Louisville’s 10, but only 6 hit their mark. As the game got closer to the end, FCC resorted to a constant barrage of crosses from Lance Laing and Jimmy McLaughlin on the left, but very few found their mark.

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Perhaps the cross selection got a bit predictable and allowed the Louisville back line to settle in place. Maybe Kenney Walker’s absence forced play too far to the edges. Perhaps the switch to a two-man midfield made the middle approach obsolete. Regardless, Lou City appeared more comfortable parrying the crosses, as FCC’s approaches tended to be late.

Despite all of the unsuccessful crosses and shots, FCC kept the game manageable for the full 90. Louisville showed their cards as a team that will rely heavily on a defensive front, especially when their offense is depleted. However, FCC is in a very similar “defensive-ball” situation. Until the offense leans more on passes within the box and less on deep crosses, you can expect more 1-0 games in the future.

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

FC Cincinnati’s 2018 Preseason Standouts

New contributor Stephen Buckeridge reflects on the preseason campaign and who stood out for FC Cincinnati in the build up to the 2018 USL season.

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Please welcome new Orange & Blue Press writer Steve Buckeridge who shares his thoughts on which players made an impact during FC Cincinnati’s 2018 preseason slate.

Undeniably, the lead up to the 2018 FC Cincinnati USL season has been much anticipated with an overhaul of the roster (17 total new signees in addition to the 9 returning players), Alan Koch imprinting his style, the on-going MLS expansion saga, the search for an ideal soccer-specific stadium site, and the intense expectations of the fervent Orange and Blue fanbase.

As we close out the preseason and set our focus on the USL opener away to the Charleston Battery, it’s worth taking a moment to take stock and reflect on the preseason standouts.

Lance Laing (#14)

One of the club’s key off-season signings was Jamaican international Lance Laing, who joined FCC after playing for USL newcomer North Carolina FC (formerly the Carolina Railhawks). Initially penciled in as one of Coach Koch’s wingers in his 4-2-3-1 formation, Lance also excelled at left back throughout the preseason showing his versatility, strong overlapping runs, and ability to deliver pinpoint service into the box. Lance created Halfhill’s goal to best the Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-0 down in Bradenton, and scored the brilliant golazo against Nashville SC to end the first half.

It will be important to watch the knock Laing took recently that kept him from playing against UC and Sacramento Republic FC. It was good news seeing him back on the pitch in the Wright State friendly yesterday. Once fully healthy, Laing should feature in Koch’s plans along the left flank, whether at the fullback or winger position.

Daniel Haber (#92)

A Canadian international, Haber joined FCC from USL Western Conference side Real Monarchs FC (the MLS2 squad for Real Salt Lake) and had previously connected with Coach Koch during his tenure with Vancouver Whitecaps II. Haber tallied 7 goals and 4 assists in 30 matches for the Monarchs last season and continued his production at FCC factoring in 5 of the 11 pre-season goals (1 goal, 4 assists) prior to Sunday’s Wright State scrimmage.

Haber, in my opinion, has been the biggest surprise and most consistent player this pre-season in his minutes on the pitch. His energy, work rate, movement off the ball, and ability to take on defenders has been a class above the others; his presence as a substitute in the Sacramento Republic FC game enabled FCC to pull back a goal on his perfectly placed corner to Keinan in the 84th. As I watch him, I can’t help seeing flashes of USMNT and Columbus Crew great and brand ambassador Frankie Hejduk.

Haber has earned a spot on Koch’s matchday roster, whether in the starting XI or as a super sub in the final 15-20 minutes of a contest. His accurate crosses and tireless engine will result in him becoming a reliable fan favorite for the Orange and Blue faithful.

Forrest Lasso (#3)

When you see Forrest Lasso in an FCC kit this season, he epitomizes what a center back should look like—an imposing brick wall. For those who enjoyed Harrison Delbridge (now with Melbourne City in Austrailia), Lasso is an inch taller and a year younger. Forrest’s play in the pre-season also has not disappointed—he is a stud, a rock, and vocal leader on the pitch while being a social media darling off the field as well.

Besides his presence, Forrest has already shown a very good understanding of Koch’s desire to build the attack from the back and is a relentless aerial threat to score on any free kick and corner kick opportunity, as he infamously did in last season’s opener against FCC when playing for the Charleston Battery. FCC’s opposition will be preoccupied with placing a body, or several on him, allowing other attacking options to find the back of the net on set pieces. Look for the main center back pairing of Lasso and Keinan to continue to blossom and help provide clean sheets for FCC this season.

Honorable Mention – Keeper Coach Jack Stern

Although not as visible to most FCC fans, the club has also reinforced the team with new coaches as well. One of the early successes has been the addition of Jack Stern as the goalkeeper coach.

Replacing Mitch was on the forefront of FCCs offseason plans, and besides bringing in three quality and capable replacements (Newton, Richey, and Village), they have entrusted them under the innovative tutelage of Coach Stern, who comes to FCC from MLS side Montreal Impact. Stern also claims English Premiership experience on his coaching resume with West Bromwich Albion. The keeper rotation of Newton and Richey throughout the pre-season has been very good and will pay dividends in a long, grueling USL season combined with a hopeful repeat run in the U.S. Open Cup.

Welcome to the Queen City, Lance, Daniel, Forrest, and Jack!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for the lead up to Saturday’s season opener against the Charleston Battery.

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FCC vs. Nashville: Goal Distribution, PK Concerns, and Goalkeepers

Analysis of FC Cincinnati’s goal distribution, defensive concerns, and goalkeeping battle after the preseason tilt vs. Nashville.

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FC Cincinnati finally made its 2018 home “debut” on Saturday before a sold-out throng of soccer-hungry fans, but there is one last week of preseason work before the team begins the harsh 2018 USL season. Let’s dive into how the team looks after its 2-2 preseason tie with Nashville SC.

Offense By Committee

The “closer by committee” concept may not exactly work for a baseball team, but so far, the idea of spreading around the offense is working for FCC. The goals by Lance Laing and Emery Welshman gives the squad 9 preseason goals in 5 games, and each has been scored by a separate player. So far, the midfield has scored the most (5), while the defenders and forwards have both scored twice.

Granted, a span of five games is a very small sample size, and we’ve only seen the team performing at a preseason level. But the distribution of goals could lead to some good results, especially if the offense scores at a click close to twice a game. Let’s consider some of the stats that came from the past two USL champions:

  • In 2017, Louisville City got 65 USL regular season goals from 17 players, even though their leading scorer (Luke Spencer) only had 11. By comparison, FCC only got 46 from 14 different players (Djiby with 15).
  • In 2016, New York Red Bulls II got 61 goals from 17 players, Brandon Allen leading with 15. While Sean Okoli led the league with 16, FCC only got a total of 41 from 11 players.

Simply put, the key to winning in the USL may be to not only score in high quantity but also to make sure the offense can come from any direction. One of the biggest problems FCC had last year was goal production outside of the forward position; 54% of the goals were scored by the forwards. That likely changes this year.

Preseason MVP?

The “Preseason MVP” is an absurd concept, but so far, we’ve seen some strong midfield performances, and if such an award existed, Lance Laing would garner a lot of votes. His movement along the left has provided speed and skill, and the crosses he’s delivered in previous games have been precise.

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Lance Laing

Laing’s goal from outside the box right before halftime against Nashville was deceptively filthy, catching the corner of the net past Pickens. While he put more shots on frame in the second half, Laing’s approach and hustle appeared to be contagious, as Blake Smith shook off a frustrating first half to burst up the side from feeds by Laing. Good things are happening on that side, which should also open Manu Ledesma on the opposite side of the field when the defense focuses on Laing.

Defensive Concerns

While it has been hard to let Harrison Delbridge leave for Melbourne City and watch Austin Berry retire, it’s safe to say that the FCC crowd has rallied behind the new pieces in the defensive line.

Early in the game, Dekel Keinan suffered a brutal and bloody injury over his right eye from contact during a header in the Nashville box. Keinan could have easily been taken out as a precaution. But after a few minutes on the ground, he patiently got medical treatment on the sidelines, then returned to the game to play a full 70 minutes. While it’s great to see Keinan stick it out, this was a scary moment that almost brought out the stretcher.

Let’s hope it’s merely a flesh wound.

While Keinan and Forrest Lasso played solid defense, the second squad’s late foul for a penalty kick is still a cause for concern. FC Cincinnati has given up only four goals in five games so far, but two have been from the penalty spot. The team will have to reverse the trend from last year, as they gave up many more penalty kick goals (8) than they created (3).

Who’s The New Mitch?

Spencer Richey looked relatively solid in net over the full 90 minutes, despite giving up a sun-screened first-half goal and a penalty-kick goal that went out of reach. So it’s still hard to say how Koch and goalkeeper coach Jack Stern will deploy the trio of goalkeepers this season.

On one hand, Richey has played the most minutes of all three goalkeepers and has played in all five games in some capacity. However, Richey and Village have both given up the four preseason goals, while Newton has not yielded any yet. An argument can be made that Newton hasn’t been fully tested yet, so it’s still difficult to make a final decision.

What we can assume is that it’s a two-keeper race for now, as Village appears to be in place for third on the depth chart. The game versus Sacramento should spell out the goalkeeping situation between Richey and Newton. Realistically, it appears that Koch can have more confidence in playing two goalkeepers than he did in 2017.

One More Week

The Orange & Blue will wrap up their preseason schedule this week with a match at Gettler Stadium versus the University of Cincinnati on Wednesday, followed by the first 2018 game in Nippert Stadium against Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday. By then, the team should be set in stone and ready to start the 2018 USL season.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press as we wrap up FC Cincinnati’s 2018  preseason slate.

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Richie Ryan

FC Cincinnati’s #10 role, Goalkeeping Wall, and Team Two Standout

Putting the Indy Eleven result in preseason context, plus more on Newton, Bone, and Haber as the preseason schedule takes a turn for Cincinnati.

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There are just over three weeks left of preseason before FC Cincinnati’s March 17 “Groundhog Day” opener against the Charleston Battery. Here are a few thoughts to wrap up the week after reflecting on the 2-1 preseason rehearsal against Indy Eleven.

The Result

Results don’t mean much in preseason, and that certainly applies to Thursday’s match, but the win is good for confidence. Both 11-man squads found the back of the net, and the second squad won the game after conceding early, so there are plenty of positives to take away.

It’s worth noting, however, that Indy had plenty of scoring chances of their own, mostly via the counter-attack. If they had been more clinical in front of goal, Indy would have certainly scored more than once. They’re also not as far along in their preseason—Jack McInearny and Soony Saad had just signed this week, and Indy only landed their head coach about a month ago. It’s preseason. Enough said.

Corben as #10

Mr. Bone’s preseason form to date has been notable. The Plano, TX native scored the lone goal against New England in the first preseason match. He also started in the #10 role (central attacking midfield behind the forward) vs. Tampa Bay, and against the Eleven yesterday he got 60 minutes in that same position.

A lot of preseason speculators gifted that role to Nazmi Albadawi, but FC Cincinnati’s #19 is certainly making his case to Alan Koch. Keep an eye on this space over the next four local matches, especially in the two against USL competition. Nazmi certainly has plenty of time to claim a playmaking role, and as a new member of the squad, he probably isn’t as settled yet into the team and the environment here in Cincinnati.

One can also make the case that there should be a fair bit of rotation between Bone, Albadawi, Walker, and Ryan in the central midfield roles. Three of those four players are 29 years old or older, so having depth in central midfield over the course of a long campaign will be important.

Newton Is a Wall

All three goalkeepers are looking good so far, but Evan Newton continues to impress. The former Sacramento Republic netminder had three key saves in the first 60 minutes to keep a clean sheet for his unit. So far this preseason, despite the fact that wins don’t mean much yet, Newton has yet to surrender a goal in the three games he has appeared.

Furthermore, FC Cincinnati’s goalkeeping trio has looked sharp and prepared each time out. All three have only conceded two total goals this preseason, with the second being a penalty kick that was just out of Spencer Richey’s reach yesterday. Jack Stern’s energetic style is infectious and seems to have created quick bonds between the three goalkeepers. They are a bright spot so far this preseason.

Haber Shines on the Second Team

Daniel Haber put his name on the scoresheet in emphatic fashion yesterday. The 25-year-old Canadian winger should have netted twice during his 30 minutes—not only did he score the winning goal from a feed from Matt Bahner, but he put a good chance over the crossbar in the 87th.

Haber is one we called out at the beginning of Phase Two as a player to watch. There’s a lot of competition for places on the wing and there are some heavy hitters ahead of him. However, Haber looks primed to push those veterans for minutes in March and the USL regular season. Additionally, FC Cincinnati needs dynamic substitutes with scoring ability that can change a game. Haber should certainly be able to fill that role if he can’t battle his way into a regular starting position.

So that’s a wrap for the traveling portion of FC Cincinnati’s eight-match preseason slate. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the 2018 preseason including next Tuesday’s friendly against NKU.

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Preseason Match Two – Takeaways, Player Selection, and Who Looked Good

More on FC Cincinnati’s second preseason match including takeaways, team selection, and who looked good.

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All photos courtesy Ryan Meyer Photography

Two preseason matches have translated into a draw and a win for FC Cincinnati. Here are a few observations from yesterday’s 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies, as the Orange & Blue continue their preseason preparations in Florida.

Match Takeaways

First and most importantly, the squad escaped the match with no additional injuries. After Heinemann’s release and Gibson’s broken leg, the team can’t afford more injury trouble in the preseason. The players continue to build fitness, and the focus now is on learning the tactical system that the coaching staff is putting in place. Saturday’s win is a nice plus, and the team should take some confidence from it.

On the other side of the coin, the Rowdies controlled much of the first half and created clearer chances despite being only a week into preseason. That Tampa Bay squad looks solid, and they strengthened an already strong roster in the offseason. We shouldn’t analyze anything too closely at this point, but it would have been ideal if our first eleven was able to possess the ball more and create more clear chances versus their stronger counterparts. The starters did show some sustained pressure in the closing minutes of the first half and also earned a number of corners and free kicks.

The second-half unit did well to grab the lead and hold onto it with four trialists in the squad. They were playing against a weaker Rowdies eleven, but one that still had good quality (see one Marcel SchÀfer).

Closer to a Starting XI

The first preseason match against New England featured two mixed lineups in each half, that blended likely starters with less experienced players pretty evenly. In contrast, Alan Koch fielded a very strong first half lineup against the Rowdies, again in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

First Half Lineup:
König
Haber – Bone – Ledesma
Walker – Albadawi
Smith – Lasso – Barrett – Hoyte
Richey

One could tip quite a few of these players to start in the March 17 opener against Charleston, although it’s still way too early to be certain. The second-half roster was definitely more experimental and aimed at getting a good look at the trialists, while mixing in the experience of players like Keinan, Laing, Bahner, and Newton.

Second Half Lineup:
Trialist #1
Laing – Trialist #2 – Cicerone
Halfhill – De Wit
Trialist #3 – Keinan – Trialist #4 – Bahner
Newton

There were definitely some new faces in the mix yesterday that we haven’t seen in training before. Notably, two of them started in the center forward and attacking midfield roles. Keep an eye on this space, as Alan Koch looks to add additional quality to the roster and find a suitable replacement for Tommy Heinemann.

Who looked good?

1. The goalies. Both Spencer Richey and Evan Newton looked sharp and made key saves to keep the Rowdies off the score sheet. The whole team has to be satisfied any time it can produce a clean sheet, even if it’s preseason.

2. Garrett Halfhill. Halfhill made the headlines with his goal and had another nice outing as a central defensive midfielder, this time lining-up next to Sem De Wit.

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Garrett Halfhill

3. Lance Laing. Laing showed his versatility on Saturday. He started the match on the left wing and provided the assist for Halfhill’s goal. Later in the half, he moved into the back line after McLaughlin entered the match. There, Laing made a critical clearance at the back post to keep to Rowdies off the board late in the game. It was also great to see Jimmy McLaughlin back on the field after his early season foot injury.

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Lance Laing

Two preseason matches are now in the books. FC Cincinnati will conclude its Florida friendlies with a match next Wednesday against the Chicago Fire Reserves.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati 2018 preseason.

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