Preseason Battles to Watch – Central Midfield

FC Cincinnati retained last year’s central midfield starters and added three more in the offseason. Who will earn a starting spot in 2017?

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FC Cincinnati’s preseason continues on Saturday when they face the University of Cincinnati Mens side at Gettler Stadium. The squad returned to the Queen City this week and practiced in familiar settings after earning a last gasp 2-2 draw in Sacramento.

This article is the second in a series from Orange and Blue Press on preseason battles. The focus here is on the heartbeat of the team, central midfield. There are a lot of players in contention to start in these key positions.

Corben Bone – Corben Bone was FC Cincinnati’s Most Valuable Player of the 2016 season. He also was the tied for the team lead in assists last year with five. Bone started the 2016 campaign as the attacking central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation. As the season progressed, he dropped deeper into midfield and was often responsible for picking the ball up from the defenders and staring the attack. In preseason, he’s played in a more advanced midfield position with Aodhan Quinn behind him.

Aodhan Quinn – Quinn joined from Louisville City in the offseason. Given his key role with FC Cincinnati’s rival in 2016, he’s expected to earn a spot in the starting 11. He’s played a lot in preseason, primarily as the “pivot” midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation. He’s a free kick specialist and has taken all the team’s free kicks when on the field. He also took and converted the penalty kick against Sacramento.

Kenney Walker – Walker played the midfield destroyer role in many of Harkes’ starting 11 lineups last season. He was the only starting midfielder with real bite in his tackle. He should not be pigeon-holed as just a defensive midfielder though. He is a complete box-to-box midfielder with vision and the ability to score from distance.

Eric Stevenson – Stevenson got a foothold in the team last June, displacing Ross Tomaselli who started 7 consecutive games at the start of the 2016 season. Stevenson scored a couple of phenomenal goals that were USL Goal of the Year contenders. He tallied four goals and three assists in only 1207 minutes played.

Marco Dominguez – Marco Dominguez joined FC Cincinnati this offseason in the wake of the dissolution of FC Montréal. The Canadian youngster is a defensive midfielder with buckets full of potential. He’s played in preseason as the midfield 1 in a 4-1-4-1, and will likely be the reserve option at that position while he continues to grow his game.

Here’s a look at these players stats from the 2016 season (including playoffs).

Player Age Appearances Mins Goals Assists Shots Shots on Goal
Corben Bone 29 31 2585 0 5 26 10
Aodhan Quinn 24 31 2611 3 5 30 10
Kenney Walker 28 27 2264 1 1 24 8
Eric Stevenson 26 27 1207 4 3 22 9
Marco Dominguez 21 15 1004 0 2 5 1

Stats from USL website.

The Best of the Rest

Andrew Wiedeman and Daryl Fordyce paired twice this preseason as the central midfield two in a 4-1-4-1 formation. It was an interesting combination, but is an experiment that does not seem likely to stick. Wiedeman returned to his normal right wing role against Sacramento. Koch needs to find a place for the talented Fordyce, but right now it’s not clear where that is. Paul Nicholson is listed as a midfielder, but is more likely the team’s third center back. He’s only played in defense this preseason, and will be needed there immediately given Austin Berry’s arm injury. Francisco Narbon was getting minutes off the bench for FC Cincinnati at the end of last season, but we’ve barely seen him in 2017. Aaron Walker made the team through the open tryout and is likely a depth player. In preseason, he has featured at left back rather than in midfield where the team needs cover with Derek Luke sidelined.

Prediction

Koch has a lot of options in central midfield and may continue to experiment, even early into the regular season. Corben Bone will be a starter. He’s likely the most complete midfielder of the bunch and is coming off a great 2016 season. Aodhan Quinn looks like a lock as the holding / pivot midfielder in the 4-1-4-1 formation. He’s got a great USL pedigree, has played a big role in preseason, and will take the team’s free kicks. Marco Dominguez will serve as backup for Quinn in that position. The final central midfield slot will then be a battle between Kenney Walker and Eric Stevenson. Look for Walker to get the nod initially with Stevenson pushing for minutes as the season progresses. Koch could rotate these two players depending on whether he’s looking for a more offensive (Stevenson) or defensive (Walker) look.

A big question mark in this equation is Daryl Fordyce. He’s a player with the talent to start for this club. It doesn’t look right now like he’s going to feature as a striker. Can Koch find a place to work him in as a very attack-minded midfielder?

Who do you think will start in central midfield for the Orange and Blue? Leave a message in the comments section below.

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FC Cincinnati Bolsters Squad at Forward, Midfielder, and Hair

FC Cincinnati announced three new additions to its 2017 squad on Friday, forward Andy Craven and midfielders Aaron Walker and Marco Dominguez.

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Photo Credit: Seattle Sounders 2

On Friday, FC Cincinnati announced the signing of three new players for the 2017 season, forward Andy Craven and midfielders Aaron Walker and Marco Dominguez.

Aaron Walker made FC Cincinnati’s roster via the December open tryouts and will add depth in midfield. Recall that Omar Mohamed made the 2016 roster via the same route and saw a respectable amount of playing time. Let’s hope Walker, a Woodstock, GA native, can make a similar contribution this season. Walker has a personal highlight reel published on Youtube so you can see him in action. The highlights are taken from his 2015 spell with BÍ/Bolungarvik in the Icelandic 1st Division.

It’s interesting to note that FC Cincinnati now has two players with the surname Walker on their roster, which is more Walkers than any other USL club. This is a good move. It could be the first step in a strategy of stockpiling Walkers that sees the second year club accumulate as many as five by 2020.

Marco Dominguez is also a central midfielder and comes to Cincinnati from USL’s recently dissolved FC Montréal. He is a product of the Montréal Impact academy and has represented Canada at the U17 and U20 level. He’s has a physical presence and based on this 2015 academy video, has the ability to strike from range.

The 20 year old Quebec native started half of FC Montréal’s 2016 matches and contributed two assists. FC Cincinnati needed to reinforce their defensive midfield with a player that can deal with USL’s physicality, but still play the team’s passing and possession based style. Dominguez appears to fit the bill.

The race for the best hair on the 2017 FC Cincinnati roster is clearly heating up.

Andy Craven joins FC Cincinnati from USL’s OKC Energy, after spending time in the Seattle Sounders organization. In 2015, Craven made history in a two different ways. Craven has the distinction of being the first ever goal scorer in Seattle Sounders 2 history.

Craven also became the first ever player to be added to the Seattle Sounders’ MLS roster from USL’s Seattle Sounders 2. He split time between the Sounders 2 and OKC in 2016, scored three times, and brings flowing locks that can balance out Pat McMahon’s man bun on the back line. Andrew Wiedeman will be difficult to knock off his lofty perch at the top the FCC hair pyramid, but he’ll have fend off more long-haired competition this year to retain his crown.

Will any of these three will break into FC Cincinnati’s first eleven, or the will they simply provide depth to the squad. Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Who remembers FC Cincinnati’s first ever goalscorer? Comment with the right answer and follow this blog. One person who does will be randomly selected to win a FC Cincinnati winter cap.