Over the offseason, General Manager Jeff Berding stated his target for the 2017 season was to score 62 goals. In order to do so, FC Cincinnati will have to replace 2016 USL Golden Boot winner Sean Okoli and his 16 goals as he departs to New York City FC of MLS. Even with his departure, the club brought in a high-quality group of players to replace his production and could be one of the toughest position battles in the squad for playing time. This group will stand to benefit from a strong midfield should provide this group with a lot of service. The question remains to be seen is if this group be able to finish their chances in order to finish at the top of the USL Eastern Conference in 2017.
Returning- Omar Cummings, Casey Townsend
Acquisitions- Djiby Fall, Daryl Fordyce, Victor Mansaray
Departures- Sean Okoli (New York City FC/ MLS), Luke Spencer (Louisville City FC/ USL)
1) Djiby Fall- was a signing that wasn’t on many people’s radar but brings international futbol experience in some of the highest leagues in Europe. He nets the top spot on our forward depth chart with his impressive performances at the IMG Academy. His 3 goals lead the club so far this preseason and he earned the spot up top in the starting XI vs Sacramento. What has surprised me thus far is his knack for getting to the ball. He looks comfortable with the ball at his feet or attaching himself to crosses in the box. At this point, his fitness seems to be the one concern. Coach Koch said he was behind the group at this point but if a 50% Djiby can dominate so far then I can’t wait to see him at 90% to 100% fitness.
2) Victor Mansaray- was a surprise move on loan from 2016 MLS Champion Seattle Sounders. Mansaray was signed as a Homegrown player in 2015 at age 17 and in 2016 was named the #1 Under 20 player in USL.
The big bodied target forward could see a lot of minutes as I view him more as forward 1B than a backup. We saw him start a pair of matches in Florida and showed he has the raw talent to be successful. Will he start up top alongside Djiby? We haven’t seen it yet so my answer is probably no, but the youngster will have to show the fight to usurp the experienced veteran.
A caveat to Mansaray could be his status in the U-20 USMNT player pool. He was not named to the 20 man squad for U-20 World Cup qualifying in February but the option of a call-up to the World Cup in late May is still a possibility since the U-20’s did qualify. The tournament runs from May 30- June 20 so we could see Mansaray miss time with the club if he is called into Tab Ramos pre-tournament camp. It will be interesting to see how Victor takes the recent snub and uses it as motivation to force his way into a spot on the World Cup roster.
3) Daryl Fordyce- from FC Edmonton was an early addition in the offseason. A native of Northern Ireland,
Fordyce was a proven commodity in the NASL. Over the last 4 years, Fordyce scored 32 times in over 100 appearances. Reports are Edmonton tried to re-sign Fordyce, their all-time leading scorer, and were sad to lose him. His coach was quoted “I’m very disappointed, personally and professionally, It’s a shame the club has lost someone of the quality and character of Daryl.”
If this video is any indication of what he can do in front of goal then FCC might have themselves another All-USL performer. So far this preseason we’ve seen him in an advanced attacking midfield position and is more likely to see time providing support to Fall or Mansaray. From the limited time we’ve seen, the offense just looks to flow better when the Irishman is on the field.
4) Casey Townsend- returns after landing in Cincinnati shortly before the end of last season from Wilmington. The former 5th overall pick in the 2012 MLS Superdraft is still somewhat of an unknown after 3 appearances in the Orange & Blue. He does have the pedigree you would think could transition to success in USL. While not a tall striker at 5’11”, he has been known for having a knack for getting to the ball and finishing chances. At this time I do not see him as the lone forward up top but could see him late in the game come in up top for support. In Bradenton, we saw Townsend play on the wings. If he wants to earn valuable playing time on this squad he may have to be flexible and slide in for minutes.
TBD) Omar Cummings- The “Big Cat” is listed as TBD because we need to see how he’ll bounce back from his late
season injury? We have not seen him so far this preseason and the reports that he is still in the recovery process does not bode well for the start of the season. In 2016, he missed most of the first half of the season but made a strong impression, once healthy, helping Okoli with much-needed support up top. Coach Koch would love to see him revert to his 2015 form where he netted 10 times for San Antonio in NASL.
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