2016 marked a great inaugural season for FC Cincinnati, but now it is time to focus on the sophomore campaign for the Queen City’s pro team. On Monday November 14th, FC Cincinnati announced that 15 players would be returning to the club for the 2017 campaign. The on Thursday announced the return of Mitch Hildebrandt on a multi-year deal. However, there are still several key players not included on that list. These were due to several reasons including contract negotiations, free agency, retirement and more.
Cincinnati Soccer Talk wanted to compile a list of realistic targets that John Harkes and his staff could bring in for the 2017 season. We in no way have an insiders track into the mind of the front office, but we thought that this could be a fun exercise.
We plan to write several stories over the next couple weeks highlighting each position group. Today marks the Forward/Striker pool. With Sean “Ugo” Okoli not on the 2017 signee list, FC Cincinnati may need to find someone this off season to produce 10+ goals next year.
General Manager Jeff Berding commented on several programs including our podcast that FC Cincinnati will be aggressive in the off season and I couldn’t think of a more important spot that up top. The landscape of the league is ever-changing. With the inclusion of Tampa Bay and their talented roster led by Joe Cole, we will include a “hyped” player on our list that could bring as much cache as talent.
Please keep in mind that we are looking for someone who can lead the attacking line and not for depth. So without further adieu, here are our Big Board of Forwards:
Irvin Herrera – (Saint Louis FC)
The 25 year old scored 14 goals for Saint Louis FC in 2016. Herrera had transferred to Saint Louis FC in January of 2016, but is currently back with former club Santa Tecla to train during the off season. Herrera was quoted by Futbol CentroAmerica as saying “my future is still in the United States”, so I think a second spell in USL is highly possible. Appeared for El Salavador in 2018 WC qualifying in June of 2015 and has a total of 10 caps for his country.
Corey Hertzog (Pittsburgh Riverhounds)
Hertzog was one of the lone bright spots for Pittsburgh and enters the 2016-17 off season as a free agent. The 26 year old has spent time with Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Orlando City, along with MLS clubs Vancouver Whitecaps and the New York Red Bulls. The 2011 Generation Adidas signing scored 13 goals for the Riverhounds and could be a great addition to FC Cincinnati. He was on the 2016 USL Second Team.
Long Tan (Arizona United SC)
Tan is known for more than the best name in the league. The 28 year old has become an efficient scorer in the USL, notching 29 goals in 69 games for Arizona United. A veteran of MLS, the Chinese Super League and a two-time USL all pro, Tan could be an answer to replace Okoli, or provide a quality partner should the reigning USL MVP return. Plus, think of the chants and tifo’s for Tan.
Devon Sandoval (Real Salt Lake/Rayo OKC)
Time in Sandy has been difficult for Sandoval after recent player additions for RSL. There has been rumors that Sandoval was looking to get out of RSL, hence the move to Rayo OKC over Real Monarchs, the USL counterpart for Salt Lake. Standing at 6’1″, the 25 year old could use a career renaissance as the key target-man for FCC. The knock on Sandoval is his finishing, but that was also the case for Okoli. FCC would get a scrappy, hard-nosed forward that will chase down balls and fight for possession. To me, this would be my #1 target if I was in Berding’s chair.
Ben Speas (Minnesota United)
Several Columbus Crew SC fans may remember this name. Speas is only 5’8″, but can play up top in a 4-4-2 or on the wing in a 4-3-3. He is a versatile player who spent this past season in Minnesota hoping to catch on for their inaugural MLS season in 2017. I could have included him in the winger section of our big board as well, but think he could be a good option if Harkes decides to change his tactical line up in 2017. Also is know for his distribution and play making abilities.
Erik Hurtado (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Another player who can play up top or out on the wing. The 26 year old brings pace which FCC desperately need. He had a good 2014 season scoring 5 goals in 30 games, but found starting time hard to come by sitting easily 3rd or 4th in their depth chart. Vancouver is bringing up several new players from their VW2 team, so Hurtado could be looking for a new home. His 2016 was not a bad season, scoring 2 goals and started 12 games, but also suffered from service. Should be able to take advantage of USL defenders.
Matt Fondy (Carolina Railhawks)
I had to put Fondy on here for Loisburg Town SC fans. Fondy was transferred to Jacksonville before the 2016 season and was then sent to the Carolina Railhawks mid season. The 27 year old scored 7 goals in 28 games combined between Jacksonville & Carolina. It is unknown what his contract situation may be, but I have heard that Carolina may be wanting an upgrade up top this season. A Loistown effort to re sign him to replace Chandler Hoffman could also be a barrier to him ending up in Cincinnati.
Colin Bonner (FC Dallas/OKC Energy)
Bonner was loaned out to the OKC Energy from FC Dallas for the 2016 season. Bonner scored 4 goals over 17 matched for the Energy and also made 1 appearance for his parent club. The remarkable part about Bonner is his shear size. Standing at 6’4″, and weighing 215 pounds, I would love to see him as a target on several Tyler Polak crosses. He did pick up an injury in preseason with Dallas in 2016 so that put a damper on some of his early stats. Not sure if he will be let go by Dallas, but it could be appealing for FCC to acquire this 22 year and build around him.
Neco Brett (Portland Timbers/T2)
Another first year professional, Neco Brett played over 2,000 minutes for T2 this season while making 1 appearance for the parent club. While 7 goals wasn’t optimal for the youngster, there is still something to be said for that in your first pro season. At the age of 24, Brett may be looking to be “the guy” for a club and is a pacey forward that plays best behind a target man. He could be an option if FCC feel that Townsend or Cummings is the starter and want a speedy player off their shoulder.
Pedro Ribeiro (Orlando City)
I’ve been lucky to see Ribeiro play live as a pro and on the college level. His pace and creativity could be a positive for Cincinnati in maintaining possession or scoring when teams “park the bus”. The forward picked up an injury early in 2016 and was out for much of the season only making 2 appearances for OCB and 3 for the MLS club. At 6’4″ he can play as a target man and has the foot skills to play as a 10 if needed. Not sure what Jason Kreis has in mind for him, but he brings solid experience and could be a good replacement for Okoli. Made $61,000 in 2016 for Orlando, so I could see him as a financial option.
Tony Taylor (NYCFC)
Taylor came to MLS after several season playing in Cyprus and Portugal. The 27 year is most known as a secondary striker, but can play as a lone forward. After a disappoint year in 2015 hampered by injury, Taylor logged 14 games and 2 goals for NYCFC. The Sky Blue look to remake their roster this off season and Taylor could be cut loose since he makes over $90,000, which is an expensive backup in MLS. I would think that he would take a small pay cut to come to FC Cincinnati, and has enough talent to do damage in USL.
Depth Signing – Terence Carter (Univ. of Cincinnati/ Seacoast United- USL PDL)
We first heard of Carter when he appeared in the friendly against the Dayton Dynamo in late July. He spent 2016 in the PDL with Seacoast United appearing in 13 matches recording 3 goals. Prior to his time with Seacoast and trial with FCC, he played NCAA Division 1 soccer spending 2 years at Northeastern before transferring for his final 2 seasons at UC.
HYPED SIGNING: Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo)
Do you want to see FC Cincinnati turn some heads in the American soccer landscape? Will Bruin would send a massive shock-wave. He is on a $300,000 per year contract with the Houston Dynamo, but a 4 goal season where he was mostly a sub could hurt his value. Bruin has made 2 appearances for his country and has scored 50 goals over the past 6 seasons. Bruin also came out as very critical of Houston’s decision to not keep Interim manager Wade Barrett as manager so there could be a desire to get rid of him. Bruin also shares the same agency as several FC Cincinnati players including Sean Okoli, Andrew Wiedeman and Eric Stevenson among others. Even though he would cost a pretty penny to FC Cincinnati, Bruin would be a symbol that FCC is here for business.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK!
Leave your comments below on who you would like to see in the Orange & Blue next season!
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