FC Cincinnati 1 – 2 Sacramento Republic FC: A Disappointing Finish to the Preseason

In a preseason match between MLS hopefuls, FC Cincinnati loses 2-1 to Sacramento Republic FC at Nippert Stadium.

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Graphic: Connor Paquette

At the end of the preseason schedule last year, FC Cincinnati made their first trip to the West Coast and scratched out a last-second 2-2 draw against Sacramento Republic FC. With both teams waiting for MLS to make an expansion call, FC Cincinnati played the role of the hosts to close out this year’s preseason.

Unfortunately for the Orange & Blue, they could not duplicate last year’s performance, falling 2-1 to the Republic at Nippert Stadium.

Sacramento had most of the offensive control early in the match, applying pressure in the FCC half for the majority of the first period. Evan Newton was challenged a few times by his former team and appeared to have left the net open in the 18th minute, only for Sacramento forward Cameron Iwasa to muff the shot.

While FCC was laboring to get their passes to connect, Sacramento took advantage of their possession. Midfielder Kevin Aléman got a shot on Newton in the box in the 33rd minute, only for the save to be deflected to Iwasa for an easy rebound to make the score 1-0.

After the goal, Cincinnati appeared to get their bearings, as runs by Corben Bone and Justin Hoyte applied more pressure to Sacramento’s defense. A late first-half header by Forrest Lasso was swung aside by Sacramento’s Josh Cohen with a fingertip save, keeping the score 1-0 at halftime.

The second half led to a bit more physical play from both teams, as FCC tried to pressure the midfield for possession, only for incidental contact with Sacramento to twice halt the momentum. FCC’s best chance, a Jimmy McLaughlin breakaway in the 68th minute, was snuffed out by a fine save by Cohen.

Sacramento increased the lead to 2-0 in the 72nd minute. Kenney Walker was unable to clear out a ball in the defensive half, and after a series of pinballing deflections, midfielder Villyan Bijev fired a shot from the left that snuck under Newton’s sprawling effort to save.

FCC finally made it a game in the 84th minute. A Daniel Haber corner kick sailed high to the left of the box, where Dekel Keinan looped a header past Cohen. Sacramento managed to salt much of the remaining time away, despite a chance by Ameobi to tie it up late, giving the Republic the 2-1 final score.

Key Events

33′ – SRFC GOAL – Cameron Iwasa (assisted by Kevin Aléman)
72′ – SRFC GOAL – Villyan Bijev (unassisted)
84′ – FCC GOAL – Dekel Keinan (assisted by Daniel Haber)

Yellow cards
20′ – Forrest Lasso (FCC)
25′ – Cole Seiler (SRFC)
61′ – Emmanuel Ledesma (FCC)

Match Notes

FC Cincinnati suffered its first loss of the seven-game preseason (4W-1L-2T), while Sacramento heads home with its second win in the preseason (2W-2L-1T). Newton gave up his first goals of the preseason, but FCC still managed to score a goal, giving the team at least one in all seven preseason games. Keinan is the only FC Cincinnati player to bag more than 1 goal. Keinan also sported the captain’s band for FCC.

Starting XI (4-2-3-1)
Newton (GK)
Hoyte – Keinan – Lasso – Smith (Bahner 77′)
Walker (Seymore 77′) – Ryan
Ledesma (Haber 73′) – Bone (Albadawi 77′) – McLaughlin
Ameobi

Of note, Lance Laing (bone bruise) and Danni Konig (back) were left off the starting roster due to injury concerns. Emery Welshman, Sem De Wit, Garrett Halfhill, Josu, and Mark Village were also left off the starting roster.

What’s Next?

The 2018 USL regular season starts next Saturday with what people should be dubbing the “Groundhog Day Derby”, as FC Cincinnati travels to South Carolina to face the Charleston Battery. Both of the past two seasons have started with one-goal losses at Charleston, but hopefully, FCC will have the luck of the Irish on their side this time for the St. Patrick’s Day tilt.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more images from Saturday’s match and more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.

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Who Should Be in FC Cincinnati’s Starting XI?

With just over a week before FC Cincinnati’s USL opener against Charleston, which eleven players do you have lining up in Orange & Blue?

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With only nine days until the season starts, the smoke is starting to clear after the off-season demolition job done to this FC Cincinnati squad. By the time the first whistle is blown at Nippert a month from now, the team will be almost unrecognizable to the average FCC fan. One can almost imagine the hours Coach Koch and company have spent going through scouting and sorting just to get the semblance of a Starting XI.

Personally, my own lineup has gone through multiple edits as well, but it’s probably the best time to unveil what I could design. Of course, this doesn’t come without warnings; I’m not, nor have I ever claimed to be, someone who can put together a Starting XI for a competitive squad, but I feel that anyone on this FCC team could start in Week 1 and produce numbers.

This is also not a claim that I think negatively about the people I’ve left off my squad—I think each player has something positive to bring to the team, and I hope they both enjoy their stay in the Queen City and bring a great vibe to it.

My predicted Starting XI vs. Charleston:
Newton (GK)
Bahner – Keinan – Lasso – Smith
Walker – Ryan
Ledesma – Albadawi – Laing
Welshman

Subs: Richey (GK), Hoyte, Barrett, McLaughlin, Haber, Bone, Ameobi

I still feel that four or five players on my 4-2-3-1 formation could be replaced if others perform well against Sacramento on Saturday. However, I do see some solid pairings over the past two games, especially in the backfield. Both Dekel Keinan and Forrest Lasso have demonstrated the ability to be vocal on the defensive end, as well as toughness and command at the offensive end, producing some solid goals on corner set-pieces. I can see Paddy Barrett giving Keinan some breaks, but Lasso should be the workhorse this season.

I went with Evan Newton in goal, even though I think Spencer Richey is a solid backup option. I’ve been open about my belief that we overplayed Hildebrandt in goal the past two years—it just didn’t seem that Harkes or Koch believed in giving the backups a few games. I’m hoping that we see a 65/35 distribution between Newton and Richey (with a game or two given to Mark Village) so that our keepers can remain fresh.

For the midfield, Kenney Walker and Richie Ryan appear to be establishing good work between them, and their experience makes them indispensable. I think Manu Ledesma and Nazmi Albadawi should be sensible starts in the midfield, even though the tweak in Nazmi’s back has me wondering if Corben Bone gets the nod. (Of course, I also thought that Aodhan Quinn would be the perfect piece with Walker and Bone last year, so take my midfielder suggestions with a grain of salt.)

The edges could see some variation, but right now I feel sold with Blake Smith and Lance Laing on the left. Smith showed some frustration in the first half against Nashville, but gradually developed flexible movement with Laing in the second half. If Smith blitzes up the side, Laing is capable enough to drop back, as well. On the other side, I think either Matt Bahner or Justin Hoyte would work well, but I’ll go with the Cincinnati native for Week 1. At the moment, this spot is a coin flip that could be determined by the game vs. Sacramento.

The forward position could end up being the most difficult to predict. It appeared that Laing and Emery Welshman clicked against Nashville, while Daniel Haber and Tomi Ameobi worked best together against NKU. I wouldn’t be surprised if those combinations became Koch’s preferred pairings. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you found all three forwards (Welshman, Ameobi, and Danni König) getting equal minutes and goal distribution by the end of the year. For the sake of this lineup, I went with maneuverability over muscle and put Welshman with Laing to begin.

Koch has put together a squad with individual experience, but also a little bit of a higher average age by the time the first game begins. The team’s average is higher than last year’s (27.3 vs. 26 in 2017), but the Starting XI I’ve concocted has an average age of 28.7. Koch will tell you that age means nothing in this league, but hopefully, the overall boost in talent will make this Starting XI flexible enough to give people plenty of rest and opponents plenty of nightmares.

Does your Starting XI look the same? Would you tinker with the lineup or seek additional pieces? Let us know, and stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press as we wrap up FC Cincinnati’s 2018  preseason slate.

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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

NKU Norse 0 – 3 FC Cincinnati: One Step Closer to Home

Taking another step closer to the regular season, FC Cincinnati defeats Northern Kentucky in a local preseason tilt.

NKU-FCC-Header2-20180227After three undefeated games on the road (2-0-1), FC Cincinnati was almost back home, as their most recent stop took them to a tangle at Northern Kentucky University on Tuesday night. While this was not officially a home game for FC Cincinnati, 1,497 fans from both sides crammed the stands to watch the Orange & Blue take down the Norse 3-0 with a well-balanced attack on a chilly February evening.

Enjoying their first game since a 2-1 away win against Indy Eleven, Alan Koch trotted out a starting eleven that may have been heavier on personnel that could make up the second team. New forward Tomi Ameobi got the start as the lone striker, and Spencer Richey got the nod in goal. Much like the Indy game, Koch had the starting squad play the first 60 minutes, while the second squad finished the final 30.

FCC possessed the ball for most of the game, developing the attack along the sides through Daniel Haber and Russell Cicerone. In the 11th minute, Haber cut along the goal line and looped a cross back to Ameobi, who sent a header past the NKU goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead. The midfielders did well to pressure the defense and force NKU to deflect shots out for corner kicks. Haber’s corner piece in the 34th minute settled easily for defender Dekel Keinan, who headed home his first goal for FCC to make it 2-0.

By halftime, FCC had plenty of chances that just weren’t going in. Nazmi Albadawi was stifled in the 36th minute from a sprawling save by the NKU keeper, while Garrett Halfhill was denied a goal right before halftime when a close-up screamer clanged off the top of the frame (and likely went in if VAR was in place).

The second half began with Danni König coming on for Ameobi, but after fifteen minutes, the entire team was subbed off for a new squad. With the fresher legs, FCC started to produce crisper passes and deep crosses, particularly from Lance Laing and Manu Ledesma, that were often denied by offside calls. FCC finally broke the second-half drought in the 72nd minute, as Forrest Lasso cleaned up a corner kick from Kenney Walker to bring the score to the final 3-0 count.

Key Events

12’ Goal – Tomi Ameobi, assisted by Daniel Haber (FCC)
35’ Goal – Dekel Keinan, assisted by Daniel Haber (FCC)
73’ Goal – Forrest Lasso, assisted by Kenney Walker (FCC)

Photos via JES Photography

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Match Notes

Just about the entire team took the field at some point in the game. Goalkeeper Mark Village was held out of the game, indicating that perhaps Spencer Richey and Evan Newton are the two names that could get the brunt of the work between the pipes. Defenseman (and birthday boy) Josu saw some playing time after sitting out the entire preseason to this point, the Spaniard finally back after recovering from off-season knee surgery. He played seven minutes after coming on for Laing near the end of the game.

This game was also somewhat of a reunion between Cicerone and NKU head coach Stu Riddle. Riddle was Cicerone’s head coach back when both were at the University of Buffalo from 2013 to 2016.

First 60 Minutes:
Ameobi (König – 45’)
Haber – Albadawi – Cicerone
Ryan – Halfhill
Smith – De Wit – Keinan – Bahner
Richey (GK)

Second 30 Minutes:
Welshman
McLaughlin – Bone – Ledesma
Walker – Seymore
Laing (Josu – 83’) – Lasso – Barrett – Hoyte
Newton (GK)

Next Up

FC Cincinnati finally…FINALLY…returns to the confines of the University of Cincinnati, but their next game will not yet be at Nippert Stadium. Instead, the Orange & Blue will play USL debutantes Nashville SC at Gettler Stadium on Saturday, March 3rd at 4PM. Tickets are still available for the tilt and can be purchased at the FC Cincinnati webpage.

Northern Kentucky will also get another game against a USL opponent on Saturday, as they will host defending USL champs Louisville City FC for a 1PM friendly. Just saying…

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

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FC Cincinnati 2 – UC 0: Three Takeaways

FC Cincinnati topped the University of Cincinnati Mens Soccer team on a chilly night at Gettler Stadium. Three takeaways sum up Saturday’s match.

UC-Mansaray

FC Cincinnati played the University of Cincinnati Mens Soccer Team on Saturday, defeating the Bearcats by a 2-0 scoreline. Djiby Fall put the Orange and Blue out front in the 29th minute with a close range strike on a set piece delivered by Aodhan Quinn. Andrew Wiedeman sealed the victory in the second half, tapping in a rebound following a Victor Mansaray strike. For play-by-play details of the match’s events, see the FC Cincinnati match recap.

Photos

Photos courtesy of JES Photography/Joe Schmuck

Three Takeaways

Change Up – Before Saturday, Alan Koch had set the team up a 4-1-4-1 formation in seven of the eight halves played by FC Cincinnati. Against UC, he shifted to a 4-2-3-1 look for the duration of the contest. The two formations are not dramatically different, but the changes underline the experimentation with both formation and personnel that is continuing throughout the preseason.

Good To See You – Saturday’s match saw some familiar faces and some unfamiliar faces on the field for FC Cincinnati. Two players started the match that many fans have been wanting to see more from. Daryl Fordyce started in a central attacking midfield role, and Kadeem Dacres started on the wing. The match also saw two players return from injury. Omar Cummings and Derek Luke both entered the match in the 77th minute and got their first taste of preseason action. There were also two unnamed trialists on display in Saturday’s match. Alan Koch is looking to add depth to FC Cincinnati’s back line, especially in the wake of Austin Berry’s arm injury.

Djiby is a True Poacher – Djiby was on the score sheet yet again on Saturday, netting his third goal in five preseason contests. These are matches where he’s not playing the entire game either. Bear in mind that Fall is also reportedly more behind on fitness than most of FC Cincinnati’s players. He very easily could have had more than one goal last night and has the look of a true poacher.

FC Cincinnati puts a cap on its preseason next Friday against the Xavier Mens Soccer team in Norwood. Their opening match of the USL season is on March 25th away to the Charleston Battery. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.