With US soccer becoming a growing fixture in the nations sports calendar it is imperative that clubs build purpose-built facilities rather than using multi-purpose facilities which allows them to start from scratch with the latest trappings of training facilities which actually gives them an edge over the stagnating facilities built years ago by lots of other established clubs!
A Positive Pre-Season
FC Cincinnati’s first ever Pre-Season as a Major League Soccer side was what I would consider a success.
Pre-Season consisted of eight fixtures against some of Southern and Northern Americas biggest sides. Starting the fixtures of with a match against former Liga Postobon winners, Junior FC, we managed to salvage a 1-1 draw. Junior took the lead early through Columbian international Teófilo Gutiérrez. In a game we dominated, holding Junior to a single shot on target, we eventually equalised in the 71st minute. David Cooper our second overall in the Superdraft opened his account for the team with a classy finish from the edge of the area.
Next up was 2015 Copa Total Sudamericana, the second biggest club competition in South America, winners Independiente Santa Fe. We dominated from the word go. Having adapted our tactic off the back of game one, left winger Emmanuel Ledesma opened the scoring on the 33rd minute. A player I highlighted early on this season as a potential key player, Ledesma doubled his account just before the halftime whistle sounded. Clint Pollard, our right back drafted third in the second round, saw his cross rebound off Santa Fe defender Juan Roa, to extend our lead to three, putting the game out of reach. Santa Fe midfielder Brayan Perea managed to get a consolation for the away side but that was all the South American side could manage.
Delighted with our previous performance, we welcomed Canadian side Forge FC to the Nippert Stadium. Overall number one pick in the 2019 Superdraft, Brian Black, received his first start as a Cincinnati player and almost instantly repaid the faith. Grabbing the opening goal on the 8th minute, Black put away his chance with ease. Undrafted talent Dylon Powley grabbed a surprising equalizer on the 35th minute for the away side, however, the result was put to bed when Uruguay legend, Diego Forlán cooly slotted home a penalty. Diego joined the club back in September and has already demonstrated amazing leadership skills as he has taken young Brian Black under his tutorship.
After a good beginning to the Pre-Season at home, we made our way to Jamaica in the Caribbean. We began our tour in the capital city, Kingston, a city which has a population of just over 666,000, against second tier side Boy’s Town. In yet another game that we dominated, with 57% of possession and a total of 21 shots, we won the game 3-0. Rasmus Schüller, one of our expansion draft picks, opened the scoring in the 2nd minute. The Finnish international poached onto a rebound from the Boy’s Town goalkeeper to tap home to give us the early lead. David Cooper, who has been highly impressive since he became our second pick in the draft, grabbed a well deserved second in the 71st minute. The 22 year old right winger added his second goal of the Pre-Season and is making his case to become a starter in the side. Our final goal of the game came through 30 year old, twice capped American international, Eric Alexander. A victorious start to our tour was exactly what we were aiming for and I couldn't of been happier to get under way with a 3-0 win.
Our second match on tour came against top division side, Arnett Gardens, a side who won the Red Stripe Premier Division, Jamaicas top tier, as recently as 2017. The game was one we saw as a challenge and a challenge that we were relishing. A Leonardo Bertone freekick gave us the lead two minutes after half time before a penalty on the 83rd minute from Nigerian, Fanendo Adi sealed our win. A second win on tour was once again pleasing and we could certainly see the progress being made.
The final match on our tour of Jamaica came against another top division side in the form of Waterhouse. We kept the side from managing a single shot on target throughout the match and with an Emmanuel Ledesma strike gave us the victory. Ledesma has been phenomenal throughout Pre-Season scoring four goals in total and earning himself two player of the match awards.
After a successful tour, we made our way back home to face Texas side Nashville SC. Despite another dominant performance, we couldn’t take our chances with the biggest chance being missed from the penalty spot by Ledesma.
After a disappointing result, we got back to winning ways in a behind closed door match, winning against our Academy side. Goals from Emmanuel Ledesma, Rasmus Schüller, Jimmy Medranda and a Victor Ulloa penalty gifted us a 4-0 victory. The result was nice but not important, it was a final tune up to end of a very impressive Pre-Season.
Our transfer dealings consisted of two free transfers joining us in the form of right back Jonothan Spector and legendary striker Diego Forlán. The remaining deals were made through the Expansion Draft in which we selected Jimmy Medranda, Matt Turner, Danny Wilson, Rasmus Schüller and Julian Gressel to bolster the squad. These players are all going to play a role in the first team this year with the likes of Danny Wilson, Rasmus Schüller, Jimmy Medranda and Julian Gressel, all a part of the preferred eleven (at the moment). Whilst Matt Turner and our two free transfers, Jonathan Spector and Diego Forlán playing from the bench.
Then in the 2019 Superdraft we selected Brian Black, David Cooper, Josh Kim, Kevin Burpo, Gary Poole, Clint Pollard, René Pierre and Rory Lewis. With a total of 15 players joining the squad we are confident we have added a good amount of quality and potential with the right mix of youth and experience. The average age of the incomings totaled 25, something we will be aiming to lower in the future in order to further build a young side full of potential.
I’m excited. We have performed well in Pre-Season and the boys are looking ready to go. They seem to have a glow about them with a burning desire to go out on to the pitch and beat anyone that is put in front of them. Galaxy will be a tough side, but the two day break will surely have an effect on them which plays excellently into our high intensity press. It is going to be a hard season, we are expected to finish as lowly as bottom. Nobody is backing us for the Playoffs, but that's my aim. If we can clinch that final playoff spot I will be delighted. A mid-table finish is acceptable, but to be able to go to the playoffs this quickly would be incredible.
Scott: It's important we build on and give ourselves the best chances of success early on. The training center is stunning and it will definitely help with any future successes. The stadium that is being built will also be a big boost to us as we currently rent Nippert and are seeing 10% of potential income going to the University of Cincinnati.
Jack: As I said in my reply to Scott, I think it is essential we have our own facilities and they will prove very important to us for any future success. Hopefully the new training ground is one stride into the right direction.