As FC Cincinnati walked off the pitch on October 2nd after a heart-breaking defeat to the Charleston Battery in the USL Playoffs, the players, staff and fans began to think “what’s next?” The fans, abuzz with Major League Soccer (MLS) aspiration focused their attention toward the November 29th visit of MLS Commissioner Don Garber. The staff would begin to address the roster, while the remaining players set their sights on preseason in late January.
We wanted to know first hand what is going with some of our FC Cincinnati players as they look to the upcoming season. Like the NFL or MLB, some players go back to their hometowns, while others make Cincinnati their training ground in the off-season. We have seen the occasional tweet online of certain players at fitness camps or video of the FC Cincinnati tryout and several training locally. We caught up with Forward/Midfielder Antoine Hoppenot, who is one of several players staying in the Queen City for to train this offseason.
Q: How have you enjoyed Cincinnati and have you stayed in the area this offseason?
A: I’ve been in the area, but have been doing some traveling as well. Right now is a good opportunity to see some family and friends across the country and I even saw my brother in Australia who is playing there. It’s been a good offseason in terms of doing a little bit of everything. I’ve been back for about a month. I love Cincinnati, there is a lot to do, it’s a good place to keep training and get ready for the season.
Q: What is your comparison between your time in MLS at Philadelphia vs. the time spent with FC Cincinnati?
A: It’s pretty similar. The professional attitude that the organization has taken up has been really great, in terms of making sure that we as players are put into a position to succeed. The crowds have been similar in enthusiasm and numbers, the people of Cincinnati have taken such a liking to our team. It’s been incredible having these huge crowds to support us when we play.
Q: What does your offseason training program look like to keep you fit and in shape for 2017?
A: Our strength and condition coach gives all the players their own program so they can stay in shape. It began in early November and runs through to preseason. You can get back into it and it builds up to being in the shape that want you in for preseason, for how they want preseason to look like. It’s a way for the guys to not get too burnt out early and it helps build up for preseason.
Q: Have you been training with other players in Cincinnati?
A: That’s a great part about staying around is that there is always a bunch of guys around. Local guys like Kenney Walker and Austin Berry. You have other guys like Michael Millay and Luke Spencer who went to school here. Then you have other guys who have been in and out like Corben Bone who has been here a bit. There is also a guy named Greg Cochrane who plays for San Antonio who trains with us. We are able to set up these training sessions and if we get enough guys, we will play pick up. Sometimes members of the Xavier and UC teams come and play pick up so we can create a competitive environment to keep us going. It is always more fun to play games them to do drills.
Q: We see that you are playing for Cincinnati’s pro indoor team, the Cincinnati Swerve. Can you tell us how that came about?
A: That was all Luke Spencer. So me and Luke were really close during the season and once the season ended we talked about how we wanted to get ourselves ready for the next season and how we wanted to prepare. He said that he had played on an indoor team that was pretty competitive. He knew the coach and a lot of the players and that it would be a great opportunity to go get a run-in. It started as an opportunity for me to go kick the ball around a bit in the offseason. We really liked the coach and the players. It was a competitive environment in which it was more fun to play than to just work by yourself and do your own thing. It’s been a good way for me to stay in shape and get a lot of touches on the ball which will be instrumental in preparing for next season.
Q: How has it been adapting to indoor soccer from the traditional outdoor game?
A: That was a surprise. I have never played indoor before. So, you go out there and have these notions of how the game is supposed to be played and how you are supposed to move and how you connect with your teammates. Then you go to indoor and all that pretty much goes out the window. You kinda have to rearm yourself as a soccer player with you movement, when to keep the ball and when to release pressure. So it has been an interesting transition, but Craig the coach has done a great job coaching me to adapt my game to the indoor game.
Q: So you’ve never played indoor soccer before?
A: Well I played indoor as a kid, but never with the walls. It was always on a basketball court. More futsal than indoor.
Q: The Cincinnati Swerve play through March. Will you be able to stay with them through FC Cincinnati’s preseason?
A: I won’t be able to stay with them through their entire season because the #1 priority is FC Cincinnati. They are the ones that have my contract and this is a way to stay in shape and get my touch to keep getting better and help me out for the FC Cincinnati team.
Q: When does the team begin to report back for the preseason?
A: So preseason begins sometime in late January, but I’ve been here so I don’t have to deal with the move. I’ve been talking with most of the guys and a lot of them are coming back in mid-January around the 20th. Most guys will be back and ready for the preseason to start.
Q: What has been your favorite thing to do in Cincinnati and what is your favorite restaurant?
A: My favorite thing to do is to take my dog to the Otto Armleder dog park. I like hanging out with my dog and they have a huge dog park there. We go pretty much every single day. It is something I really like doing. My favorite restaurant…
Q: Have you had Skyline or Goetta yet?
A: No, I haven’t. But that is something I keep telling myself to do. I haven’t found the time to eat Skyline and have to take like four days off from soccer. I don’t think it is a professional soccer player type of food. E+O Kitchen is fantastic. The guys like to hype up a diner, but I like to go to Oak Tavern that’s right near me. I enjoy going and it’s a place to watch games. It’s more of a local type thing, it’s cool but not really healthy-type food. I don’t eat there a ton, but when I do, I really enjoy the greasy food when I give myself a cheat day.
Antoine is gearing up for the 2017 FC Cincinnati season, but you can see him and Cincinnati’s pro indoor team soon! The Swerve will return home for a January 21st contest vs. rival Cleveland Legacy. The Swerve won this past weekends Louisville Mockingbird Tournament with Antoine scoring 7 goals and contributing 5 assists. Luke Spencer chipped in with 5 goals and 6 assists.
The women’s club Cincinnati Sirens FC won their tournament after having to split their squad to form two different teams. Both squads met in the final.
Where can you watch Antoine Hoppenot, Luke Spencer and the Cincinnati Swerve?
6:30pm – Swerve Academy vs. Youngstown Nighthawks
8:00pm – Cincinnati Swerve vs. Cleveland Legacy
Tickets are available at the door
Youth (12 & under) – $4 per ticket
Adult – $6 per ticket