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Dynamic Duo: FC Cincinnati’s hopes in hands of Noonan and Albright

Pat Noonan is a first-time head coach. Chris Albright is a first-time general manager. For FC Cincinnati, they represent hope.

CINCINNATI – Pat Noonan is a first-time head coach. Chris Albright is a first-time general manager. For FC Cincinnati, they represent hope.

Noonan and Albright were shining stars at Philadelphia Union, contributors to four playoff appearances and a Supporter’s Shield. While they lack experience in their current roles, they know what it takes to win in Major League Soccer.

And now they’re here, in Orange and Blue. Maybe, just maybe, FC Cincinnati got it right this time.

During a press conference on Tuesday in TQL Stadium to announce Noonan as the club’s new head coach, the two men sat side by side, looking both confident and stylish.

Bright and still relatively young, both men insist that the ownership has given them the resources to address the team’s needs long-term.

Now it’s up to the dynamic duo to reconstruct FC Cincinnati’s roster around some talented pieces that already exist, and show progress on the pitch.

“Chris and I are aligned on many fronts, including how we see the game, how we view team culture, and what we believe it takes to win in this league,” Noonan said.

Aligned is the key word here. There hasn’t been much of that the past three years within this organization.

Albright said that’s about to change.

“The ability to be collaborative, and talk through players and formations and style, all of that,” he said. “We have a past working relationship. That’s added value.”

Also added value is the vast MLS experience that both Noonan and Albright bring to the table. It was at the top of the list of criteria for both the GM and managerial search, and a departure from past approaches which led the club down the European path.

“When you don’t know the league and the challenges that you face as far as the roster construction, as far as the travel, the conditions you face in certain markets; altitude, heat, humidity. That can be tough to navigate,” Noonan said. “I’ve been a part of that for I think 18 years, as a player and a coach. The experiences along the way are valuable.”

What Noonan refused to discuss on Tuesday was the past. FC Cincinnati’s past. Three straight last-place finishes. Miserably failed coaching and GM hires. Controversy, failed promises.

“The past is the past. It has no bearing on our plans for the future,” he said.

As bad as FC Cincinnati has been the past three seasons, you get the feeling that a lot of eyes have been focused on their situation.

People around the league have been asking themselves, how could a club with such vast financial resources and state-of-the-art facilities be so bad?

There’s a reason a pair of coveted, bright, young talents like Albright and Noonan ended up working for what has been the worst team in the league.

Because they believe they can fix them.

“Chris has been working for months now to quickly identify the priorities to turn this thing around, and I’m confident my presence in the building will help with that process,” said Noonan. “While there’s certainly work to be done, I’m confident about the pieces we have in place.”

That work already is well underway.

Albright said that in the 48 hours leading up to the official announcement of Noonan’s hiring, discussions were had about construction of the roster, possible incomings and outgoings, and playing style.

It was notable that neither club president Jeff Berding or team CEO Carl Lindner III took questions during Tuesday’s news conference. Berding gave a brief statement and offered his approval for Noonan’s hiring, by saying, “I’m pleased and excited about the outcome of the search.”

Aside from that, it was the Noonan and Albright show. It’s their team now.

Noonan, 41, is the sixth head coach in FC Cincinnati’s MLS History and the seventh all-time. He has signed a multiyear deal with the club.

He has been an assistant coach at the Philadelphia Union for the past four seasons. Before joining the staff in Philadelphia, Noonan served as an assistant coach with Bruce Arena and the U.S. men’s national team from 2017 until 2018. After his retirement as a player in 2013, Noonan joined LA Galaxy’s coaching staff.

Perhaps his greatest challenge awaits.

“Be patient. It’s not always fun to hear that,” Noonan said. “But we’re going to work hard to get the product on the field right.”

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