Audio: Rivalry Match with “Added Edge” on the Horizon

Alan Koch and Will Seymore share details of their preparations and mindset for FC Cincinnati’s rivalry match with Louisville City on Saturday.

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Will Seymore / Photo: JES Photography

Orange and Blue Press checked in with Alan Koch and Will Seymore at FC Cincinnati’s training session on Tuesday. It was their second of the week following a resolute 1-0 road victory against Indy Eleven last Saturday.

Alan Koch agreed with Louisville City’s head coach James O’Connor’s assessment of the Dirty River Derby as the best rivalry in the USL today.

“It has extra meaning for our fans. When it has extra meaning for them, it has extra meaning for us too, . . .The distance between the two cities and the history of sports between the two cities adds to it. The games that we’ve actually played against each other add to it. That adds a different element, but at the end of the day it’s just a three-point game.” 

Here more from coach Koch on his mindset going into Saturday’s rivalry match (0:19).

Will Seymore also gave us his thoughts heading into this weekend’s encounter with LCFC. This will be his first taste of the rivalry, and he’s looking forward to playing in front of a crowd that’s “next level, and the best in America.” Seymore is in the spotlight after playing a key role in FC Cincinnati’s recent win against Indy Eleven. He came in as an early substitute for the concussed Kenney Walker, who left the match following a violent challenge from Indy forward Jack McInerney.

Will had the following to say about what he knows of FC Cincinnati’s biggest rivalry match.

“I’ve heard stuff on Twitter from some of the fans. I’ve played in England a lot, so I know about rivalries and derbies. I understand their importance to the fans. It’s obviously going to have that added edge, but as a player as much as we want to beat a rival, we still have to get three points, . . .it doesn’t matter who it is.”

Hear more for Will on trying to stay grounded for the upcoming match (0:26).

In related news, Indy Eleven forward Jack McInerney received a retroactive one-game suspension for his dangerous tackle against Kenney Walker. Walker was back at a local hospital on Monday being evaluated for his concussion. He is listed as day-to-day but there’s a decent chance Will Seymore will be called upon once again to help anchor FC Cincinnati’s midfield against Louisville.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for a special edition of our “Match Program” preview, and more coverage of the build-up to Saturday’s Dirty River Derby.

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Indy Eleven 0 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Deeper Cuts

More insights on FC Cincinnati’s victory in Indy, including Newton’s 4th Law, the impact of FCC’s fullbacks, and another display of character.

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Photo Credit: JES Photography

Attention Cincinnati, this is no April Fool’s joke! FC Cincinnati has won back-to-back shutout road matches for the first time in their young history, and they’ve done it in style. In front of 1200+ jubilant traveling fans, the Orange & Blue earned the full three points in their 1-0 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. They also helped Indy Eleven set a new club record attendance of 17,535.

Although this match carried all the same ingredients and grit as the away win at Charleston, there is also a different feeling to the result and this team. Let’s roll the tape…

Evan Almighty

It’s only two games into the season and we might run out of superlatives to describe Evan Newton’s sensational play. He is truly inventing the 4th Law of Motion in front of our very eyes. Having labored through engineering school, I’ve never been so happy as I am now to witness a physics experiment and pen a lab report. Evan Newton’s 4th Law of Motion is simply defined as repelling a certain round object in the field of play from crossing the magic line.

Newton spread his six saves evenly across both halves of play, but it was his double save in the 40th minute that earned him his second Man of the Match (MOTM) honors. Guessing correctly on the penalty kick, he followed up the initial block with a sublime foot save to stop Ben Speas strike after the rebound.

Wall of Defense

Even with the exploits of our phenomenal keeper, this was the definition of a team win and it took a wall of defense to secure all three points. The back line of Hoyte, Keinan, Lasso, and Smith may feature as the defensive unit on the formation chart, but it takes all ten field players (and three substitutes) to earn a clean sheet. Legendary pigskin football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant famously said, “Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.” If this is true, FC Cincinnati may have found the winning formula.

After the Charleston victory, we took a peek at FCC’s center back pairing. Today, let’s highlight the outstanding performance of the fullbacks, Justin Hoyte and Blake Smith. In the first two charts below, we see the Indy Eleven’s heatmap and touchmap for the full contest. In particular, these show how the home team concentrated play and attacked along the narrow flanks.

All stats and graphic courtesy USL / Opta

In contrast, look at the defensive and pass distribution chart for Hoyte and Smith. It illustrates how they combated Indy’s penetrating surges and touches. Without these multi-disciplined players being in position, making timely stops, covering the weak side, and acting as an outlet from the back, the scoreline would certainly have been different in Indy.

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Distribution and defensive events from Hoyte and Smith

Another key to victory was FC Cincinnati’s defensive shape. They kept Indy Eleven’s shot selection, specifically in the second half, limited to outside the 18-yard box or attempts from wide angles. Except for Netwon’s tip over the crossbar in the closing minutes, Indy Eleven never really threatened to find the equalizer.

Character

Now let’s delve into what is different about this 2018 FCC team on the pitch from seasons past – character. Upon each signing in the offseason, we heard over-and-over again about the quality of character of the players Coach Koch was bringing into the side. The mental toughness and resolve this side has displayed over the first two matches, particularly in hostile away venues, is encouraging. Yes, they are paid to do a job, but in today’s professional sports it is refreshing to see a group of players proverbially leaving it all on the pitch.

There are many individual examples of this throughout the team, but Will Seymore is deserving of special mention. He stepped off the bench in the 17th minute to fill in for Kenney Walker. Indy Eleven’s Jack McInerney injured Walker with a harsh tackle in the first few minutes of action. On the road, FCC could have wilted, but Will stepped in and the team didn’t miss a beat.

As always, the players never miss a chance to applaud and engage with their passionate fans and that accessibility continues to endear this city to the club, and vice versa.

Coming out of the gates with two wins, two clean sheets, and all six points is the perfect way to start the season. With the inaugural “War for 74” in the rearview mirror, it’s now time for the Dirty River Derby against Louisville City. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for all of your upcoming FC Cincinnati coverage.

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Charleston Battery 0-1 FC Cincinnati: Deeper Cuts

FC Cincinnati’s bend-not-break defense, stellar goalkeeping, and substitute strategies against Charleston.

Photo credit: Ross Almers Photography

The monkey is finally off of FC Cincinnati’s back as the team started their 2018 campaign with a 1-0 away win over Charleston Battery, obtaining their first win over Charleston in six tries and their first points against the Battery on the road. The Orange & Blue broke through in the first half with a hard-fought Blake Smith goal, then heavily depended on the defense to make that lead last to the end. Here’s what stood out after the first big test of the season.

Bending Without Breaking

At the 35th-minute mark, both teams had taken five shots, with Cincinnati getting better looks at the goal than Charleston. Lance Laing and Emery Welshman had great shots on frame before Blake’s goal, and it took a sprawling save from Odisnel Cooper to deny a beautiful Manu Ledesma free kick outside the box.

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Shots after 35 minutes: FCC (left) vs. CHB (right). Source: USL

The next ten minutes became a sudden undoing, as Charleston completely reversed field, taking five of the next six shots. The second half didn’t reverse much of the momentum either, as Charleston possessed the ball for much of the second half and enjoyed a heavy advantage in shots over the full 90-plus minutes. Charleston’s 24 shots were the second most from a team this weekend (Red Bulls II fired 31 at Toronto FC II), and Cincinnati’s 9 shots were the fewest for a team that won.

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Shots after 90 minutes: FCC (left) vs. CHB (right). Source: USL

The good news is that the defensive line, a concern in the offseason, stepped up to the task. Forrest Lasso and Dekel Keinan snuffed out eight of those shots between them to at least lessen the blow, and the team managed to play clear-out ball for much of the game (33 clearances to Charleston’s 8). Smith’s goal also showed that scoring from the back line could be the key to an improved scoring team.

Newton’s Law

There is no doubt that Evan Newton was the man of the match, filling some enormous gloves in his first minutes as the FCC goalkeeper. While Cooper was challenged early on the Charleston side, the Battery could have won this game comfortably if Newton hadn’t made himself big in goal, making five saves for the clean sheet.

Two of Newton’s saves came as a result of the keeper filling out his form in two different situations. He blocked a low shot from forward Ian Svantesson in the 39th minute that he likely didn’t see from the screens in the box, forced to fill a hole that couldn’t be patched by all the defensemen in the box. Newton then stretched high to deny Svantesson a header in the 66th minute, absorbing a shot from the goalpost as a reward.

However, Newton’s sprawling save in the 40th minute on a shot by Kotaro Higashi might be Save of the Week stuff.

This is just the first game of the season, but it’s definitely a confidence-builder to see Newton displaying the ability that helped Sacramento upset Real Monarchs in the playoffs last season. Newton produced five saves or more three times last year, but did not win any of those games. The question will likely be if Koch opts to play the hot hand or if he gives Spencer Richey a start to see if he can play at the same level.

Subtle Substitutes

For the first thirty minutes, the offense couldn’t have gone better for Cincinnati, but once the Charleston midfield started to control the ball and connect passes, their use of two forwards started to push possession constantly in Cincinnati’s half. Svantesson got plenty more looks in front of goal than FCC’s lone striker, and that pressure forced Cincinnati to dump passes out and deflect shots for corner kicks (10 for Charleston to Cincinnati’s 3).

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Striker heat map comparison between FCC (left) and CHB (right). Source: USL

With the team looking tired, Koch made some interesting moves to change momentum just enough in the second half. Having left Tomi Ameobi off the roster for the first game, Koch replaced Welshman with Danni König, who hadn’t seen any legitimate preseason minutes since the February 27th match against NKU. Koch then opted to later use Will Seymore as a replacement for Corben Bone, while Nazmi Albadawi remained on the bench.

While König and Seymore didn’t produce goals during their minutes, they did halt Charleston’s momentum just enough to keep the score where it was. Seymore won some vital fouls late in the game to reverse the field and almost scored on a heading pass from König. Meanwhile, König managed to get into his defender’s head late in the game, drawing a red card on Quinton Griffith during a foul to deplete Charleston’s arsenal.

Those rolls of the dice worked for Koch this time around, but it also shows that the coach has some initial confidence in spreading the minutes around. Resting the likes of Ameobi and Albadawi in a game that meant a lot for a retooled FC Cincinnati felt like a risky calculation, but three points before an early bye week should give Koch some time to figure out what worked while scouting Indy for their March 31st game.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue press for coverage of FC Cincinnati as they prepare for their next match.