Where: Bradenton, FL – IMG Academy Stadium
When: Sunday – 3:30 p.m.
It’s been a little more than 4 months since our boys in Orange & Blue took the field competitively. Newly appointed manager Alan Koch and his squad will travel down to the IMG Academy to participate in their first of three preseason matches in Florida. Although, this is not a regular season game the anticipation of it has been growing like a balloon that is about to burst. Check out the 5 Things to Know going into the first preseason match of 2017 vs. Oklahoma City Energy FC.
5 Things to Know
2016 Recap – FC Cincinnati will face tough USL Western Conference side, Oklahoma City Energy FC in their first match at the IMG Academy. OKC finished in 7th place in a tight Western Conference at 10-13-7 (43 pts.) and advanced to the Western Conference semi-finals. FC Cincinnati came out of the gate strong in their inaugural season finishing in 3rd place in the USL Eastern Conference at 16-8-6 (56 pts.). As we all know by now, the curse of playoff teams in Cincinnati hit FCC in the first round, suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Charleston Battery.
New Faces – GM Jeff Berding stated he wanted to lead the USL in scoring in 2017. To do that, FC Cincinnati had to reload their roster to eclipse 62 goals for 2017 (NYRB2 scored 61 in 2016). We say reload because there is a good core from last year’s team returning. The departure of 2016 MVP & Golden Boot Winner Sean Okoli will be big, but we feel the Front Office has made enough moves to overcome the loss of the NYCFC man.
Their new acquisitions have been tactical and efficient. Each player brings their own unique set of characteristics to the 2017 squad. Forward Daryl Fordyce adds great experience and versatility, while former OKC Striker Andy Craven is a scrappy goal threat. The most recent addition, Djiby Fall, has a proven track record of scoring and youngster Victor Mansaray will bring size, strength and could fill several attacking positions.
Former Louisville City midfielders Kadeem Dacres and Aodhan Quinn are comfortable going forward and will add to the creativity of the squad. FC Montreal product Marco Dominguez will add size and defensive depth in the midfield, while Tryout signee Aaron Walker brings experience after time in the Icelandic 2nd Division. Cincinnati native Matt Bahner is a versatile defender that can slot in at all back line positions and will push for a starting spot. The diversity of youth, experience and team needs has been met, now we need to see how it plays out.
Formation and Cohesion – This is an area I think Alan Koch is going to play around with in the 2017 preseason. With the signing of Fall, I think the formation that appears to be most apparent at the moment is the 4-4-2. This formation will allow FCC to better utilize the width of fields (aka Nippert) and the newly acquired speed to force teams out of their shape, while helping create space for either of the forwards. An added benefit from our midfield is the fact that a number of them can transition into other roles, allowing Koch to modify formations on the fly.
I would not be surprised if the manager tries a 4-3-3 formation, a 4-2-3-1 or even an attempt a variation of the 3-5-2 considering the number of midfielders he has at his disposal. The formation will also be key to how well FCC links plays together. We should get to see more one-on-one skills allowing players to display their prowess both on and off the ball. It has only been a few weeks since the team has been together, but hopefully we can see the gelling process starting to evolve.
Service and Attacking – One weakness from last season was service into the box. I think this will be an area that Aodhan Quinn can contribute immediately. Hopefully, we can see some nice balls driven into the box and more opportunities to finish. Another question is who will be the one to finish those chances? Early on it looks to be Daryl Fordyce and Djiby Fall. I am not sure how much we will see Fall in this first match since he has only spent one week in training. With or without Fall, a number of players may get the opportunities this Sunday. Weideman, Craven, and Mansaray could all slide into that spot along with the crafty veteran Omar Cummings, if healthy.
What to Expect from the Energy – To their credit, OKC did not lose many matches last year, 7 in total. Their defense was ranked 4th in the Western Conference with only 30 goals allowed. The Energy’s weakness came on the offensive side of the ball ranking third worst in the West with 32 goals scored. Former Sporting KC keeper and current Energy coach, Jimmy Nielsen, has added several new faces to address that issue including 2016 USL 2nd Team winger/midfielder José Barril, formerly of the Harrisburg City Islanders. Forward Miguel González will his join brother Daniel on the 2017 squad. Miguel has a proven scoring track record in USL, tallying 17 goals in 52 matches for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. The Energy opened preseason last Saturday defeating John Brown University 3-1. Check out some highlights from their match.
After a tumultuous Friday evening, FC Cincinnati finally gets to just focus about the product on the field. It will be a welcome relief to see the squad put up a thrashing on an opponent. Yes, this game is a friendly, but it somehow feels just a little bit more than that.
The supporters groups will be taking up residence at their favorite away match viewing locations. See the list below for more information.
Die Innenstadt: Rhinehaus OTR – 19 E 12th St, Cincinnati 45202
The Pride: Madtree Brewing 2.0 – 3301 Madison Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45209
The Bailey Bastards: Bucketheads – 6507 Harrison Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45247
LIVESTREAM: The match will be broadcast LIVE on the IMG Academy’s TV site: live.imgacademytv.com. You can purchase a 24 hour pass for $5.99 or a monthly pass for $14.99. As a note of caution, we did experience some technical glitches with the stream so be patient with the stream. They do allow access of replays within 24 hours.
*Friday’s games were streamed FREE. Fee subject to change.
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@khoetker for @CincySoccerTalk