International Experience Lines FC Cincinnati’s Roster

As we wish Mike Lahoud and Pa Konate safe travels and good luck at AFCON, we highlight
ALL of the international experience on FCC’s roster.

Last Thursday, FCC announced that two players will take part in the African Cup of Nations qualifying matches scheduled for early September. Midfielder Mike Lahoud and defender Pa Konate will each travel abroad, and represent Sierra Leone and Guinea respectively. The international matches will be played on September 9th, and the pair will miss FCC’s next match against Louisville City at Slugger Field.

The 32nd edition of the African Cup of Nations will be held in June 2019 in Cameroon. Qualification for the tournament is now underway and extends over 5 match days held between June of 2017 to March of 2019. The upcoming September fixtures represent Matchday 2 of the qualification process. Lahoud’s Sierra Leone won its first match over Kenya. Guinea also won its opening match against the Ivory Coast, an African powerhouse. If these two players continue to be selected at the international level, they will play again in October and November of 2018, and March of 2019.

FC Cincinnati actually has three other players besides Lahoud and Konate with appearances at the full international level. Let’s take a look at the players who have grabbed the opportunity to play for their native land.

Dekel Keinan

Need an experienced international defender to captain your squad, and contribute goals in big games, like Saturday’s equalizer against Pittsburgh? Look no further than Dekel Keinan.

Keinan is the most decorated international player on FC Cincinnati’s roster. After extensive time with the Israeli national team at the U-21 and U-23 level, he received 27 total senior caps. The native of Rosh HaNikra was a regular in defense for Israel over a six year period from 2008 to 2013. He made notable contributions during the 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifying campaigns. Israel, unfortunately, did not qualify for the World Cup finals in either cycle.

Justin Hoyte

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Justin Hoyte played extensively for the England at the U-16 through the U-21 levels, making 58 appearances. The native of Leytonstone in the East London suburbs, he had ambitions to play for the senior national team. It wasn’t to be though, and in 2013, he made himself available to play for Trinidad and Tobago, where his father Les was born. He earned 18 caps for the Soca Warriors over a four year period and appeared in friendlies, the Gold Cup, and the early stages of the 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Emery Welshman

Emery Welshman was born in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, a suburb of Toronto. His parent are Guyanese though, and he is therefore eligible to play for their national team. He earned his first cap in 2015 and has made 5 appearances thereafter for the Golden Jaguars. He scored for Guyana in a friendly against Barbados, and also netted in a World Cup qualifier against St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Experience Just Below the Senior Level

While the five referenced above advanced to appear for the senior national team, several others have represented their country at levels just below. Fatai Alashe made several appearances for the United States U-23 squad during qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He even got a call-up to the senior national team for the 2016 January camp under Jürgen Klinsmann. Unfortunately, an injury cut Alashe’s experience short, and he withdrew from the subsequent friendlies.

Fanendo Adi made two appearances with the U-23 Nigerian team in 2011. He was also called-up to the senior team for an African Cup of Nations qualifier in 2017, but didn’t get into the match. Sem De Wit made a single appearance with the Netherlands U-18 team in a match against Austria in 2012. Goalkeepers Spencer Richey and Even Newton also represented the United States at the U-17 level. Spencer Richey went with the U.S. to the 2009 U-17 World Cup in Nigeria.

With the build-out of next year’s MLS roster, FC Cincinnati will add even more experienced international talent to the squad. They might even sign players in the mix for the U.S. Mens National Team. The prospects are exciting, but there’s a trade-off of course. The MLS and international calendars don’t always complement each other well. Alan Koch and Luke Sassano will will have to manage these players time away from the club, just like they have to now for Konate and Lahoud. Senior level internationals come with prestige, but they also come with commitments that must be considered when building a roster deep enough to compete successfully in America’s top flight.

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

Midseason Review: Keys to First Half Success and Questions for the Next 17

Midseason Review: How FC Cincinnati’s first half of 2018 stacks up against previous years, attendance, MVP, and key questions for the second half.

FC Cincinnati is destined for the first division of U.S Soccer in 2019. With their MLS future finally decided, a reasonable person might ask, “How much does the 2018 USL season really matter?”

It matters quite a lot if you consider the words of FC Cincinnati’s manager and front office. Both Alan Koch and Jeff Berding have stated a clear ambition to finish their third and final USL season on top. FC Cincinnati’s head coach said the following at the MLS announcement at Fountain Square on May 29th.

“We still have an amazing season ahead of us this year, and we want to finish that off in style.”

So far, so good.

How 2018 Stacks Up

FC Cincinnati currently sits on top of the Eastern Conference after 17 matches played, the halfway point of the 2018 season. Their position on top is not new. They’ve gone into each of their last 10 USL matches in either first or second place in the Eastern Conference.

Even though the Pittsburgh Riverhounds can match FC Cincinnati’s midseason point total by winning their two games in hand, FCC’s current standing bodes well. In 2016 and 2017, the team’s ranking at the halfway point was a good predictor of where the Orange & Blue would finish the regular season.

At the midway point in 2016, FCC had just beaten Bethlehem Steel FC, the final positive result in an 11 game unbeaten streak. They stood in third place with a 9-2-4 record and 31 points. That season they finished the regular season in third, but fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Charleston Battery.

At the midway point of a less successful 2017 season, FCC drew Orlando City B in Florida. They were 5-5-6 at that point with 21 points, good enough for seventh place in the East. They finished last season just one place ahead of that in sixth, and again crashed out in the first round of the USL playoffs, this time to Tampa Bay.

Comparing the first half of FCC’s three seasons:
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It’s worth noting that the length of the USL schedule was extended each of the past two years; in 2017 the season was 32 games, and in 2016 it was 30.

So their current first place standing is a good omen. They also have talent, depth, and MLS momentum, but there is a lot of soccer to be played.

Attendance

It wouldn’t be an FC Cincinnati article without some attendance talk. FCC is averaging 24,953 in paid attendance through half of the 2018 season. That’s up almost 18% from last year. They currently boast the fifth highest attendance of professional soccer teams in the U.S. and Canada behind Atlanta United, the Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, and the LA Galaxy.

First Half MVP

This is a short conversation. The first 17 games have produced some great moments, supplied by a variety of players, but Emmanuel Ledesma has been a class above the rest. He leads the team (and the USL) in assists with 8, and is tied with Danni König for the most team goals, also at 8. Ledesma also leads FCC in chances created (30), shots (36), shots on target (19), fouls won (26), and crosses (42). He’s had a goal or assist in 9 of the 17 games so far this season. Ledesma can boast 5 USL team of the week selections and 1 USL player of the week award. He’s got a good shot at USL MVP if he can keep up the pace.

Keys to First Half Success

Outside of the heroic contributions of Emmanuel Ledesma, the following highlights tell the story of the first 17 games.

Evan Newton

Early in 2018, the offense hadn’t gelled and goals were hard to come by. It took two heroic performances by Evan Newton to earn maximum points on the road against Charleston and Indy Eleven. FCC probably shouldn’t have won either of those games, and their midseason record might not look quite as rosy without those points. The three-time USL Save of the Week winner has the ability to make stops that change the outcome of games. The defense hasn’t been as airtight recently, but fans have good reason to feel confident with Newton in the net coming down the stretch.

Road Form

Perhaps the most standout feature of the first 17 games has been the road form of FC Cincinnati. Alan Koch’s “road warriors” are 6-1-2 in a travel-heavy first half of the season. The single game they lost was the 4-1 drubbing they took in Charlotte, which looks like an aberration at this point.

Squad Depth

In addition to fine road form, the depth of the squad has stood out. The team has been able to overcome injuries to Tyler Gibson, Kenney Walker, and Evan Newton. They’ve also dealt with yellow card suspensions to Keinan, Lasso, and Ledesma. Most recently against Ottawa, Mike Lahoud stepped in as the holding midfielder for the injured Richie Ryan, and was one of the best players on the field. Few USL teams can compete with FCC in terms of the strength of the 18 they can put out each week.

Hydra Attack

The team boasts 9 different goalscorers and 8 different players with assists. Early in the season, a “score from anywhere” offense was the hallmark of the Orange & Blue’s strategy. As the season has progressed, however, there’s been a shift to the goals being more concentrated with the attacking players: Ledesma, König, Welshman, and Albadawi.

Questions for the Next 17

A lot can change after the next 17 games, and FC Cincinnati will have to continue to absorb every team’s best shot if they want to stay on top of the heap. That quest starts this Saturday, July 7th, against Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium. The answers to the following questions will go a long way toward determining FCC’s end of season success.

Can they improve their home record?

Only dropping 1 of 9 games on the road is pretty insane. Results away from Nippert in the second half  will likely drop off, at least a little. However, home form has been average up until now (4-2-2), so there’s a good chance if they can pick things up at Nippert, any second half dip in road results can be offset at home. They need to take better advantage of a Nippert Stadium that should be packed for the rest of the season.

Will MLS expansion become a distraction?

A lot of news will hit the press between now and October about next season and the team’s rise to Major League Soccer. There’s also a lot to be done by the coaching staff behind the scenes to get ready. Although technical director Luke Sassano will do a lot of the heavy lifting, Alan Koch will certainly need to be involved in the decision making. Could the attention required and distractions to the players negatively affect results? The team did a good job of managing the MLS circus during the first half of the season. That will have to continue.

Can the defense keep things cleaner?

FC Cincinnati’s offense is really ticking, and they currently lead USL in goals scored with 35. However, over a third of the teams in the USL have conceded fewer goals than FCC. The Orange & Blue have conceded 21 goals, or 1.2 goals per game. Compare that to the second place Pittsburgh Riverhounds, at 0.47 goals per game; or Nashville SC at 0.67 goals per game. Those teams can’t compete with FCC’s offense, but the defense will need to be stingier to capture a top seed in the playoffs. There’s reason to be optimistic though. They’ve kept clean sheets in 3 of their last 5 games.

Can Ledesma stay this hot?

Emmanuel Ledesma has been on fire. While there’s no signs of him slowing down, increased production by others in the second half might be required to maintain the top spot. Nazmi Albadawi looks primed to fill the role. The Raleigh, NC native is picking up steam and has 6 goals in his last 8 league outings.

Can FCC peak at the right time?

USL, like MLS, is obviously a playoff league. They could get the answer right to all of the questions above, and if they aren’t in peak form at playoff time, the hard work can go out the window in one game. That’s the nature for American sports. Doing everything possible to stay healthy and be at peak form for the playoffs is critical.

Midfielder Mike Lahoud said the following about the team’s performance in the first half of the season.

“We’re content with the body of work, but we’re not satisfied. We haven’t won anything yet. This is the halfway point, and you get zero trophies for being in first place halfway. We’re moving toward something tangible, and from here on out, it’s a downhill slalom.”

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for the second half of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.

FC Cincinnati 4 – 2 Atlanta United 2: Deeper Cuts

Detailed stats and deeper analysis of FC Cincinnati’s 4-2 victory over Atlanta United 2 on Saturday May 5th.

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Image: JES Photography

FC Cincinnati was on target at Nippert Stadium and thrilled over 22 thousand supporters with four goals and a victory against Atlanta United 2 on Saturday. The win capped-off a tremendous week on the field for Alan Koch’s men, who collected maximum points and launched themselves to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

FCC accumulated three wins, including two road-wins, ten goals, and nine points in just eight days. That’s arguably the best week in FC Cincinnati’s short history as a franchise, depending on how you measure success. As an added benefit, Louisville City FC dropped their first match of the season, which allowed the Orange & Blue to leapfrog them and go into first place in the Eastern Conference. This marks the first time in FC Cincinnati’s history that they have claimed first place in the Eastern Conference.

The league table trend for FC Cincinnati below shows the last 20 game days via Fussball Datenbank. Note that this graph and its rankings treat the USL as if it had a single league table.Screenshot 2018-05-06 12.06.28

Depth on Display

Alan Koch leveraged his depth this week and it paid big dividends. He featured 18 different FCC players over the last three league matches. However, the Saturday matches (Ottawa and Atlanta) featured almost the same eleven starters lined up in a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. The one difference between those matches is that Jimmy McLaughlin started as the CAM against Atlanta United 2 in place of the injured Nazmi Albadawi. The big rotation, of course, came on Wednesday and included six changed starters. It also included a tactical shift to a less aggressive 4-2-3-1 formation.

FC Cincinnati now has five wins out of eight matches all-time on weekends following a mid-week game. They flexed their muscles in the depth department this week, and the coaching staff will likely use the strategies employed as a recipe for success for the rest of the season. The matches come thick and fast starting in mid-May as the US Open Cup enters the equation.

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McLaughlin was the most efficient passer for FCC against Atlanta, with an 89% passing accuracy, including an 87% passing accuracy in the opponent’s half.

Offensive Efficiency

FCC got results in the first few matches of this season on the back of a solid defense and an in-form Evan Newton. The offense struggled to find fluency at that early stage. The results featured low shots totals, low shooting accuracy, and a conversion rate near the bottom of the league.

Times have changed. The offense is clicking, the goals are coming, and Saturday’s win was built on the back of clinical finishing. The Orange & Blue didn’t produce their highest goal total of the season by peppering the Atlanta goal with a large number of shots. Atlanta actually had 1 more shot on the night than FC Cincinnati did. They produced the victory by capitalizing on the opportunities they were presented.

Emmanuel Ledesma had five shots, two were on target, and he scored two goals. Manu also had the assist for the first goal to round out a man-of-the-match worthy performance. Danni König had four shots, three on target and scored one goal. Kenney Walker couldn’t continue his scoring streak, but Corben Bone picked up where he left off and now has three goals in the past three matches. Corben Bone’s goal on Saturday came from his only shot of the evening.

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FC Cincinnati’s shots and goals vs Atlanta, via Opta on the USL site.

The graphic above demonstrates FCC’s offensive efficiency. They produced 13 shots on Saturday, six were on target (46% shooting accuracy) and 4 were goals (44% conversion rate*). Compare this to a 25% shooting accuracy and 8% conversion rate over FCC’s first four matches of the season. After producing only 3 goals in their first four matches, FC Cincinnati is now tied for the most goals in the USL with 15. Additionally, they now boast a conversion rate of 19% which is tied for second-best in the league.

*This definition of conversion rate excludes blocked shots for consistency with USL site.

Much Ado about Guido

There was a lot of pre-match angst about the return of referee Guido Gonzales Jr. to Nippert for this match. He was much maligned after his role in a loss that FC Cincinnati suffered at the hands of the Rochester Rhinos last season. It was a quiet night for Guido on Saturday and everyone was thankful. The match ran smoothly, despite a few heated moments between the players, and only three cards were issued. You have to give credit where it’s due, and this one went well for refereeing crew.

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Take Advantage of the Rest

A much quieter week is approaching for the Orange & Blue and they will need the rest. Their next match is on the road on Saturday, May 12th against the Charlotte Independence. That will be the first of another three matches in eight days. Alan Koch’s side then returns to US Open Cup action the following week. They have a match at Gettler on 5/16 followed by a league encounter with North Carolina FC on 5/19. The schedule is about to heat up and it looks like Alan Koch’s side is finding form at the right time.

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

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Indy Eleven 2 – 3 FC Cincinnati: Bonus Track

The Orange & Blue Press Bonus Track segment is a shortened version of our Deeper Cuts series. This edition takes a look at how new starters Paddy Barrett and Mike Lahoud fared against Indy on Wednesday.

The Bonus Track segment is an abridged version of Orange & Blue Press’ Deeper Cuts series. It takes one component of a recent match and breaks it down in more detail.

Both Michael Lahoud and Paddy Barrett received their first starts of the 2018 season and played the full 90 minutes in a 3-2 win over Indy Eleven. Let’s take a deeper look at how they fared on the field during Wednesday’s victory.

Michael Lahoud

FC Cincinnati’s #13 produced 46 passes at an 87% passing accuracy, including a 78% passing accuracy in the opponent’s half. Lahoud added a calm and efficient influence on FC Cincinnati’s attempts to control possession on Wednesday. He took up a defensive midfield position next to Kenney Walker but played slightly closer to the back line, allowing Walker to get forward periodically when FCC had the ball. He also intercepted the ball and started the break to assist on Corben Bone’s game-winning goal.

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Lahoud’s first-half distribution, when he was most influential from a passing perspective.

Paddy Barrett

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Paddy Barrett won 7 of 10 duels in his center back role next to Forrest Lasso. Additionally, he put in 4 tackles and made 7 clearances. The Waterford, Ireland native handled the ball well throughout the match. In his 45 passes (most of any defender and only one less than Lahoud), he had an 80% pass accuracy. That accuracy was the second highest of any starting defender for either team (Blake Smith was higher at 91.4%). Barrett conceded just one foul during the match, but that was the fateful and dubious penalty kick that Indy was awarded in the first half.

Beyond statistics, both Lahoud and Barrett replaced key players that have been critical to FCC’s success this season. FC Cincinnati was able to give a much-needed rest Richie Ryan and Dekel Keinan as a result. Prior to Wednesday, those two had started and played every minute of FC Cincinnati’s season. Now, the only player that has played every minute of FCC’s 2018 campaign is Forrest Lasso – 7 matches, 7 starts, 630 minutes played.

Alan Koch’s side did not miss a beat with the rotation. They exceeded expectations and earned another road victory, their fourth of the season. If the Orange & Blue can continue to use their depth this effectively, they will find themselves in a lofty position in the standings after a 34 game USL season. It’s also worth a tip of the cap to the contributions of Jimmy McLaughlin, Daniel Haber, Emery Welshman, and Matt Bahner who all started the match after being out of the eleven against Ottawa Fury FC.

FC Cincinnati’s head coach had the following to say about the rotation after the match.

“Tonight it was necessary for us to rotate (players). We’ve got a long, long season and we’ve got so many games in a short amount of time. But we also want to reward players and give them opportunities. If I go and look the players in the eye and say I have confidence in them, I better give them opportunities … The guys tonight that haven’t played that much so far this season or made their debuts tonight, all embraced those opportunities.”

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of Saturday’s first-ever match against Atlanta United 2.