FC Cincinnati travels to Indiana on Thursday to face new-to-USL club Indy Eleven. Check out our 5 Things to Know of 2018 in the lead-up to FC Cincinnati’s third season in the USL.
Where: Westfield, In. – Grand Park
When: Thursday, February 22nd at 1:30 p.m. EST
2017 Form: FC Cincinnati (USL) – 6th Place (12W-10L-10D, 46 pts.), Indy Eleven (NASL) – 6th Place (7W-13L-12D, 33 pts.)
5 Things to Know
Midfield coming into focus: FC Cincinnati announced the signing of two-time North American Soccer League Best XI Richie Ryan on Monday, and Ryan was immediately spotted during workouts the same day. Tyler Gibson’s injury left the midfield situation a little murky, but adding Ryan to the mix clears things up a bit.
When Ryan hits the pitch for the first time in Orange and Blue against Indy Eleven, expect coach Alan Koch to use him in a defensive manner, where he can utilize his passing skills. The two other midfielders emerging from the pack are likely Nazmi Albadawi and Kenney Walker. Expect Albadawi to be more offensive-minded, perhaps in the 10 position, and watch for Walker to be more of a box-to-box player.
Deep bench: With just two preseason matches thus far, Koch might still be experimenting a bit with chemistry, partnerships, and positions. In the last friendly against Tampa Bay, Corben Bone started in the 10 role, with Albadawi and Walker playing deeper. If there’s a good problem for a club to have, it’s depth, and FCC’s roster is certainly deep, especially in the midfield. With so many weapons at his disposal on the bench, Koch might find himself wishing the USL would go back to allowing five substitutes per match.
Who’s No. 1?: One key intriguing preseason storyline continues to be who will emerge as FCC’s starting goalkeeper. Evan Newton and Spencer Richey saw substantial minutes during the friendlies in Florida, and each made a strong case for himself. And don’t discount Mark Village just yet. Though he didn’t see the pitch against Tampa Bay and might not ultimately win the job, he’ll push the other two to improve. Whoever is named the club’s primary shot-stopper, there will be a more-than-capable backup if there’s a performance lapse.
On the mend: FCC’s scheduled match last week at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., against the Chicago Fire reserves was canceled. While it would have given Koch an opportunity to further mix and match players, the cancellation allowed a few players with knocks to rest. Emery Welshman and Josu didn’t dress for the second friendly at IMG against Tampa Bay, but both resumed workouts earlier this week. Jimmy McLaughlin did return to action against the Rowdies, coming on as a sub late in the second half.
Remember this opponent, part two: FCC knocked the NPSL version of Indy Eleven out of the U.S. Open Cup in 2016, but the two sides and their supporters will soon know each other much more intimately. This is Indy Eleven’s inaugural season in the USL after four in the NASL. This friendly will be the first of four matches against Indy in 2018.
FCC’s second match of the regular season will be in Indianapolis on March 31, and the club goes back again on May 2. Indy comes to Nippert Stadium for FCC’s home finale on Sept. 29. Indy’s USL admission gives FCC supporters another close rival. Nippert and Slugger Field in Louisville are only 102 miles apart, while the trip to Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Ind., site of Thursday’s friendly, isn’t much farther at 127 miles.
Indy followed FCC’s offseason blueprint, adding players from the NASL and filling international spots with marquee names. Defender and NASL Best XI honoree Reiner Ferreira signed from the Soccer Bowl champion San Francisco Deltas. Defender Ayoze Garcia Perez and Ukranian forward Eugene Starikov joined from the runner-up New York Cosmos. Defender Carlyle Mitchell has made 35 appearances for the Trinidad & Tobago National Team and spent time with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Nathan Lewis was a midfield starter for the Trinidad & Tobago side that helped eliminate the U.S. Men’s National Team from the World Cup last October. And just this week, Indy added forward Soony Saad from Major League Soccer side Sporting Kansas City and Jack McInerney, an MLS veteran who most recently played for the LA Galaxy and has had several call-ups to the USMNT.
STREAM: THIS MATCH WILL NOT BE STREAMED. We will have coverage on site and will LIVE TWEET to the best of our ability. Also look out for recap & video content Thursday evening.
Stay tuned to our Twitter handle – @CincySoccerTalk, for updated information.
@rspeirce for @CincySoccerTalk