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. To date, we compiled a list of realistic Forward, Winger, & Central Midfield targets that John Harkes and his staff could bring in for the 2017 season. In our fourth and final part of our series on potential additions, we wanted to explore the defender roles not including goalkeepers.
FC Cincinnati returns their four starting defenders from their 2016 season in left back Tyler Polak, central defenders Austin Berry & Harrison Delbridge and right back Pat McMahon. On this big board, we will look at adding a potential starting competitor at each role along with some quality utility or depth selections. The quality of play from Polak, Delbridge and Berry increased toward the end of the season with McMahon and Derek Luke trading off on the right side.
Several on this list are re-entry eligible players into MLS and if taken in this weeks draft, each player will be able to negotiate a new lower-pay contract. This could be in FC Cincinnati’s favor if the club offers them a higher paid contract.
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 than 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.
Big Board of Defenders
Tyler Turner – (Orlando City/OCB) – RB
Turner is a 20 year old left back who appeared in 27 matches for Orlando City B in the 2016 season. A 2-time MLS Chipotle Homegrown Team member, Turner seemed to be stuck behind Kevin Alston and Rafael Ramos while in Orlando. Turner was not selected in the MLS waiver draft and can now negotiate with any team. He is a quality MLS defender who can drive down the flanks with pace and score. The 2016 season saw him notch 4 goals and 1 assist. The biggest question mark for Turner is his culpability in conceding fouls. He had 28 fouls, 7 yellow cards and 2 red cards.
Boyd Okwuonu – (Real Salt Lake) – RB/LB
Okwuonu spent a large majority of 2016 with RSL’s USL affiliate, Real Monarchs. The 23 year old made 15 appearances and played 1299 minutes while scoring one goal. Okwuonu is known for being a threat moving up the right wing but also have above average defending skills. A former US Youth International, IMG Academy & FC Dallas youth product, the versatile fullback is stuck behind vet Tony Beltran in RSL. He is on a $86,000 salary, but that could drop after passing through the waiver draft. Would be a big name signing for FC Cincinnati.
Jordan McCrary – (New England Revolution) – RB/LB
2016 was a disappointing year for the 23 year old. The former U-18 US international was the 10th overall pick for the New England Revolution in 2016. McCrary made two appearances in the U.S. Open Cup and one appearance for the Rochester Rhinos on loan. Another player affected by depth, McCrary needs a place where he can get time. The former UNC Tar Heel can play on both sides of a defense, but must improve on his technical skills and speed of play. Revs head coach Jay Heaps praised McCrary earlier in the season, including remarking on his athleticism, but said he needs to work on the other facets of his game.
Eric Gehrig – (Chicago Fire) – RB/CB
This is a long shot signing for FC Cincinnati, but it could be a huge one. Even though he is on a $112,000 contract, Gehrig would bring a stable veteran presence to the back 4. He would most likely slot in on the right, but could play as a back up CB or a part in a 3-5-2. Gehrig has spent the past 6 seasons in MLS and may be looking for a new home as he could get passed over in the 2016 MLS Re-entry Draft. The soon to be 29 year old would have great experience and could help solidify the right side for FCC.
Sebastian Ibeagha – (Houston Dynamo/Rayo OKC) – CB
I might be a little biased with Ibeagha since I saw him play many times for Duke and when I was a supporter of the Carolina Dynamo. Ibeagha spent the 2016 season at Rayo OKC, but was recently waived by his parent club, the Houston Dynamo. Sebastian left Duke after three season for AC Horsens of the Danish Superleague. Ibeagha spent time at two other clubs abroad before returning to the Houston Dynamo. An athletic center back at 6’2″, can range forward and could push for a starting role if given the opportunity. He started in all 18 appearances for Rayo OKC scoring twice and winning over 86% of his tackles.
Chad Barson – (Columbus Crew SC) – CB/RB
Another versatile CB who has spent time out on the right for Crew SC. A shorter option (5’11”) for FC Cincinnati, Barson was stuck behind several players in Columbus. A bit player over his 4 seasons at Mapfre, Barson collected 33 starts over 50 appearances. Barson can also play out on the left and could be valuable for a USL team to have a player those could back up in all 3 roles. The former Homegrown could possibly like to stay in Ohio and a stop at FC Cincinnati could potentially put him back into the talk for an MLS spot. Has good passing skills for playing out of the back.
Damion Lowe – (Seattle Sounders/Minnesota United) – CB/RB
The former Sounders and Minnesota center back is known as one of the best aerial players in the CONCACAF region. Lowe was signed as a Generation Adidas player by the Seattle Sounders after loving his size and aerial ability. He spent the 2015 season at S2, but then impressed in 2016 at Minnesota leading to a call up to the Jamaican men’s national team. I would say that FC Cincinnati is more than capable in the air, but I would love this skill of the bench to either close out a game or score a winning goal.
Chris Korb – (D.C. United) – LB/RB
The Cleveland, Ohio native was released by DC United and is awaiting his fate after round 2 of the 2016 MLS Re-entry draft. A former Xavier and Akron standout, Korb started 96 matched over 5 seasons before tearing his ACL in August of 2015. Korb missed the entire 2016 season and could be looking at FCC’s treatment of Eric Stevenson as a possibility to get his career back on track. Korb has had success creating off the wings with 10 assists in his career. Similar to Gehrig, he will cost somewhere around $100,000 and that could be a deal breaker for someone who hasn’t stayed healthy for the past two seasons.
Chris Klute – (Portland Timbers/Minnesota United) – LB
The former MLS Defender of the Year (2013) seemed to have a high trajectory after two stellar seasons with the Colorado Rapis in 2013 & 2014 before a trade to the Columbus Crew. In Columbus, Klute found starting time shrink and his luster wear off after several suspect performances. Still a fast attacking option, Klute has struggled to find time in MLS and could look at FC Cincinnati as an attractive option. I am not a huge fan of his defensive ability, but the attacking quality in USL isn’t top-notch and I believe he could take advantage of defenders on some offensive overlaps on the left.
Will Packwood – (Unattached/Birmingham City) – CB
I can’t think of another player that could use a career renaissance more than Will Packwood. A native of Massachusetts, Packwood left America in 2007 and joined the academy of then Premier League side Birmingham City. After several years at Birmingham, Packwood broke into their first team in August of 2012, but was injured in a League Cup match in 2013, suffering a broken tibia and fibula. After rehabilitation and several loan spells, Packwood rejoined Birmingham City in January of 2014 for his return to the first team. Packwood continued to play well, earning the Football League Young Player of the Month in February of 2014. The center back was recognized by former USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann who called Packwood up for a March 5, 2014 friendly vs. Ukraine.
A change of management, additional loan spells and another injury led to Packwood being out of contract in the summer of 2015. He continued to make appearances for the USYNT in several matches building up to their 2016 Olympic qualifying campaign. Packwood however failed to sign a contract for MLS in the summer of 2015 after a trial at the New England Revolution. He has been unattached to a professional club since then and has been playing for a regional club in the Charlottesville, VA area. I’m not sure what his fitness is and how he has been playing in his year away from pro soccer. I have to think the 23 year old is a low-risk, high-reward signing. With 2 quality center backs on the squad, Packwood would not have the pressure to walk into the club right away to perform. Harkes could also tap into the US Soccer support system to help in the redevelopment of this former prodigy. Cincinnati could be just the place for Packwood.
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