Ready to learn about FC Cincinnati? I caught up with Bryan Weigel, Content Director of Cincinnati Soccer Talk and host of the March to Matchday podcast. He fills us in on preseason to date and what to expect this season from Cincy.
For Club and Country: Even breaking down the roster before the season, it seems like I hardly know Cincinnati’s personnel at all with all these big signings in the past month or so. Who are some of the highlights, and how are they expected to contribute?
Cincinnati Soccer Talk: Coach Alan Koch targeted specific roles for players in 2018. He identified his back line leader, center back Dekel Keinan (Maccabi Haifa), his playmaker Nazmi Albadawi (NCFC), a midfield regista or “general” Richie Ryan (Miami FC) and a creative winger/second striker in Manu Ledesma (NY Cosmos). Add several other additions to a corps that features one of the USL’s best box-to-box midfielders in Kenney Walker and impact offensive players Jimmy McLaughlin and Corben Bone, this roster looks competitive.
FCC will look to Tomi Ameobi (FC Edmonton), Emery Welshman (RSL/Puerto Rico FC) or returnee Danni Kӧnig to lead the line, but the pressure on them shouldn’t be as high in 2018 due to the other options around them on the pitch.While the squad looks great, don’t expect USL squad to lay down. Ottawa, Charleston, Tampa and Indy all have had decent performances and FCC will really need to see how the defense holds up vs. potent squads.
FCAC: How has the preseason gone on the field so far? Up to expectations?
CCT: Going back to the end of the last question. With an ever improving USL, FCC will need a stout defense. Through the first four preseason exercises, the Orange & Blue have conceded twice. Once on a PK to Indy and once to the New England Revolution. While FC Cincinnati has been called the “paper preseason” champions, I still think the league will be a challenge. Koch hasn’t put too much stock in these matches so far, trying to check different pairings and gaining match fitness. Cincinnati looked good in their draw to the Revs (1-1) and in their win over NKU (3-0) on Tuesday. The first half vs. Tampa was a battle, but the second half group dominated (1-0) a strong Rowdies unit. In their match vs. Indy, FCC dominated possession, but was susceptible to the counter. They did win the match (2-1), but will look to lock down the midfield going forward.
FCAC: Cincinnati drew national attention with the US Open Cup run last year, but was good-not-great in USL. Is there a focus on improving for league play in comparison to a cup run this year? What are the expectations of success on that front?
CCT: That cup run was magical, but as you said league form was good, but far from desired. I think if you look back at 2017, our technical staff failed with adding quality players and players with character issues. Many had “hype” (Dacres, Quinn, Mansaray), but really didn’t display a long track record of quality. In 2018 Coach Koch has pursued in form players to bring into the club. Gone are the days of bringing in MLS-pedigrees. Koch has show a favor of bringing in proven lower division or foreign players that have been leaders/captains of their clubs im an effort to make a cohesive group that can win the league and compete in the cup. He actually traveled to meet with every player including internationals in an effort to size up their character. So far it looks to be paying dividends with a noticeably high morale and decent results.
FCAC: How do you expect Cincinnati to approach this friendly? Will they just get out for a nice Saturday evening jog, or are they going to use personnel and tactics to win (against a team that they’ll face three times this year – and hopefully develops into a rival)?
CCT: From what we are hearing it will be about one main group that will go about 70 minutes. This is all in an effort to gain fitness. I’d expect you to see several players who didn’t start on Tuesday night to get a good run with Koch setting up this group for a full 90’ vs. Sacramento next weekend. I don’t necessarily think it will be our starting XI, but I think it could absolutely be 7 or 8 starters. As for winning, I think that is always great for squad building but, playing matches like this are mean’t to bring some challenges. From all accounts, Nashville looks to be a top-half USL Eastern Conference foe, so this should give Koch a pretty good measuring stick for 2018. I think you could see our 4-2-3-1 as that has been the clubs preference, but I could also see FCC going rogue and potentially using this exercise to experiment with a 3-5-2. If either club approach this friendly as a rivalry match I will be disappointed. It should be about both groups experimenting vs. great competition. I think next Saturday vs. Sacramento will be more about a result than this weekend..
FCAC: Do you have a predicted starting lineup? Any other specific predictions for the game, including a final score?
CCT: If it was up to me, I would try and use a 3-5-2 vs. Nashville just to try something different. That was the preferred formation of the US Open Cup run and one that we haven’t seen this preseason. I’ll give you a hypothetical 3-5-2 and a potential starting XI for the first regular season match in Charleston:
I think you could see a variation between halves as well. The first think to remember is that this is a practice. Both clubs will probably work in different pairing and may withhold some tactical approaches.
I think this shakes out to be a 2-1 win for FC Cincinnati, but I’m not sure it really matters.
Many thanks to Bryan, and make sure you check out Cincinnati Soccer Talk to learn up on Cincy.