Ten Things I Want to See for FC Cincinnati in 2018

2017 was an exciting year for FC Cincinnati supporters. The magic of a cup run, two great wins over Louisville City, MLS Expansion and other moments all helped grow our club. While 2017 was a good year by most measurements, there is plenty to improve upon. Check out ten things I would like to see in 2018 as well as some thoughts from our readers.

Major League Soccer Expansion Announcement
We all have been scouring social media, message boards, and various news outlets trying to decipher any news on an expansion announcement from Major League Soccer (MLS). While MLS is not the end-all-be-all for FC Cincinnati, it will have a big impact in determining the future for the club. I truly believe MLS in Cincinnati will be a success for the league and really hope to hear news awarding a franchise to the Queen City for 2019. While there is still a chance another city may get the invitation, I am led to believe that the word will drop within the next 10 days.

FC Cincinnati with Major League Soccer’s permission will work towards a West End stadium site
Don’t confuse this with me believing Oakley won’t work. On the contrary. I think it would be a decent site with plenty of potential. I just firmly believe that the West End community would be a hit for FC Cincinnati. A site next to the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood would be connected to many bars, restaurants, and residents all of which could walk to matches. While there are many variables to this situation, I hope the league will allow FCC to play in Nippert for one or two seasons so that the club can make a 30,000 seat West End stadium a reality.

Spencer Richey to make us forget club legend, Mitch Hildebrandt
Many people never “want to be the guy after the guy“. Incoming keeper Spencer Richey could find himself in a position to replace the first “club legend” Mitch Hildebrandt this season. Richey has plenty of talent and brings a better resume to the position than when Hildebrandt was originally brought in. Hopefully, the defense will allow the youngster time to settle into the role, but I really think Richey has all the tools to become one of the best keepers in the league.
Supporter Thought:

Technical Staff apparatus to begin to take shape
This is already beginning to solidify with Goalkeeper Coach Jack Stern and Strength Coach Austin Berry being named in 2017. I would like to see additional talent recruitment staff added to help Alan Koch build a future MLS squad. While President/GM Jeff Berding has largely let his Head Coach assemble his squads, it may be time to hire/promote a Technical Director or additional personnel to supplement Coach Koch’s network. So far Koch has put together what looks to be a great USL squad, I’m sure more personnel could help the club in a transition to MLS.

One “big splash” player signing
Several USL clubs such as Tampa Bay (Cole & Schafer) and Phoenix (Drogba) have added high profile international players to their roster. Even though these players are higher in age than most, they have still made an impact on the field. With the prospect of an MLS invitation looming, I could easily see Koch bringing in some high profile names to the club. If MLS announce FCC as a franchise that would begin play in 2019, I would almost think it is a certainty. As for who FCC could pursue, that is anyone’s guess. I’d really like to see a central attacking midfielder or someone who can clog the midfield and provide some defensive cover to the back four. While not necessary, I’d preferably like to see an American, but let’s face it, go for quality. Let’s keep making news in the US soccer community with a shock signing for 2018.

Progress on an Academy
Coach Alan Koch was brought in to lay the foundation for an FC Cincinnati academy in 2017. Circumstances have changed and now it is time to really see some progress. I’d like to hear plans for the academy sometime in 2018 with the expectation of beginning play at the lower age levels (U-12 through U-14) in 2019/20. It may take 10 or more years to really generate quality players through that academy, but every day we don’t have one, we fall behind larger clubs like Atlanta and New York.

Identify Training Site
Let’s hear where we will build the Academy and Senior Team Training Site. Batavia and Hamilton, OH have been mentioned as possible locations, but we have learned that neither of those two locations has been chosen. Is there a site in Hamilton County available? Perhaps Mason, OH or in Northern Kentucky? One would hope that the club would locate this facility in Hamilton County if the local government is directing funds to the stadium. We hope to hear more over the next couple months.

Build the foundation of a future rivalry with Nashville
While we all want to #KeepHellReal and love the passion of the Dirty River Derby, it may be time to also build a connection with expansion side Nashville SC. The Music City based club received an MLS expansion franchise in late December and could join the top division with Cincinnati in either 2019 or 2020. The drive is reasonable (4+ hours) and both fan bases have received their fair share of abuse from other clubs supporters. This fresh derby could help both clubs form new passions with one another and could be equal to a Reds-Cardinals, UC-Louisville or Bengals-Steelers rivalry of the future.
Supporter Thought:

Set the playing standard of the USL
In 2015 it was the defense and organization of Rochester, 2016 was the talent and offense of NYRB2, 2017 was the complete matches put in by Louisville. It’s time for FC Cincinnati to set the standard of play in 2018. Regardless of the formation, Coach Koch has brought in what seems like a high-character group of players who have excelled at some stage in their career. This group needs to come in on day one and impose their will on the league. Perhaps they won’t play “beautifully” or score the most goals in 2018, but this squad must still show that they are the cream of the crop. It starts with mentality and playing for your teammates. Every player signing has seemed to experience adversity in their career and it’s time for the Orange & Blue to prove they are the best squad on the pitch.
Supporter Thought:

Sign a remaining “original” player to an MLS contract
This last point is totally dependant on point one. We must sign an original FCC player to an MLS deal. Only Kenney Walker, Corben Bone, and Jimmy McLaughlin remain from the inaugural squad, but I could see Okoli, Hildebrandt or perhaps Delbridge come back for the first squad. Logically, I believe it will most likely be Walker or McLaughlin. Jimmy will turn 25 in 2018 and has many years left in his career while Walker just turned 29 and would be 30 for a 2019 season. Both of these players have spent time on an MLS roster and know what it takes to succeed at that level. I really hope that one of this group can join the club in a potential rise to MLS.

@bryanweigel for @CincySoccerTalk

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