While They Were Away
This week is hype. Home opener, against our rivals, having finally beat Charleston for the first time, and beating our new rivals in Indianapolis. If you’re not excited right now you might be dead.
But for the casual fan, you may be looking at the roster and wondering “who the hell are these guys?” And I don’t blame you. Not all of us could travel down to Florida for the preseason, or braved the weather at UC, and may not be as familiar with the team. And while it feels like everyone is new, two games in has given us a chance to get more familiarity with the roster, who is likely to start, and what to expect on Saturday. If you’ve been waiting until you had a chance to see the team live to start learning the guys, this is for you.
Goalkeeper - Evan Newton
Before the season started Newton and Spencer Richey, the other goalkeeper, were expected to split time. And in the preseason that’s exactly what they did. But after the first two games, it’s clear the former Sacramento Republic keeper Newton has a stranglehold on the starting spot. I don’t think there’s much controversy in the statement “We only won those first two games because of Newton”, he’s been excellent. Here’s a hot take, Newton has already proven to be a better all-around goalkeeper than Mitch. His command of the box, ability to stop long range shots, and kill crosses in the air are much needed improvements. He also stopped a penalty, so he’s got that down too. Now after all this, it’s possible Spencer Richey gets the start on Saturday, but I’d be shocked.
The Center Backs - Forrest Lasso and Dekel Keinan
These two have been great so far. Lasso was an MLS target this off season who moved from the aforementioned Charleston Battery. And Dekel Keinan moves to FC Cincinnati after a long career in Israel, captaining Maccabi Haifa and playing in the European Champions League. These two have kept clean sheets so far, but the stats suggest teams are able to get more “expected goals” than FCC is able to produce. One name that has yet to be called is Irishman Paddy Barrett.
The Outside Backs - Justin Hoyte and Blake Smith
Justin Hoyte was in the squad last year and has been his typical solid self this year on the right side. Blake Smith came to FCC from Miami FC and went under the radar when he was signed. With Josu working his way back from injury and Lance Laing showing no signs of moving back from the midfield means Smith has won the starting job for now. He's been a consistent performer so far, but don't be surprised to have Josu make his debut this weekend on the left.
Defensive Midfield - Kenney Walker, Richie Ryan, and Will Seymore
So far in 2018 this has been the Walker and Ryan show. Walker had been is typical Kenney Walker self, shutting down attacks and distributing the ball to the wings. Richie Ryan came in as a late yet highly coveted signing that has brought a lot of poise on the ball. He is a calm and cool ballplayer that has been fine if unremarkable through two games. NASL die-hards are convinced he's an MLS calibre talent, so look for more from him as this team gels. And if you missed the even-a-foul-in-the-NFL "tackle" on Kenney Walker last week, Will Seymore came in for Walker and was more than serviceable. A defensive midfield of Seymore and Ryan seems likely for the match against loisville.
Central Midfield - Corbin Bone
Look, it was really tempting to write an entire post ripping Bone for his performance as a creative midfielder, but the fact is we're 2-0 and whatever he's doing is obviously not stopping the team from winning. Bone, who spent most of the last two years with FCC playing as a defensive midfielder, has been starting over the biggest signing of the offseason in Nazmi Albadawi. Bone does not shoot, does not play the incisive pass, doesn't intercept the ball, won't take anyone on in the dribble, and won't win a 1-on-1 for a loose ball. But he does lay the ball off for the wingers to latch onto and take up field. FCC apparently outbid MLS teams for his talents, and has yet to see the field this year. We know Koch likes to hold ayers back to play at home, and Naz has been nursing an injury coming out of the preseason, so Saturday could be the perfect time to unleash the not-so-secret weapon.
The Wingers - Lance Laing and Emanuel Ledesma
Laing and Manu have been the highlights of this team outside of Newton. Laing is as confident as a player can be on the ball, often looking like an MLS veteran forced to play against a JV high school team. He can shoot from distance, put in a mean cross, and is a general terror for defenses to handle. A fantastic signing from North Carolina FC. On the right side is the former New York Cosmo Ledesma. Last week at Indy Manu proved his value by placing an inch perfect pass to the head of Welshman for the lone goal that game. Manu's free kicks have been incredible and it's only a matter of time before they begin to find the back of the net. His placement of the ball is unmatched in USL.
The Forward - Emery Welshman
There's not too much to write about Welshman. He's been serviceable in the first two games, scoring against Indy. Anyone upset with the workrate from Okoli and Djiby will not have those complaints with Welshman. This is a position where a shakeup would not be so dramatic with Ameobi, Konig, or Cicerone being viable options. This is where I'll throw a mention out for Daniel Haber. He's been pure energy when he comes onto the field, tons of fun to watch run himself ragged. If you liked Jimmy McLughlin, you'll love Haber.
As for a general style, look for FCC to continue playing in a 4-2-3-1 with two defensive midfielders, two wingers, a central attacking midfielder, and a lone strikers. So far the defense tends to back off of attackers, maybe a bit too often, but is patient, waiting for the perfact opprotunity to put in a tackle. The wings is where FCC focuses the attack, with the central players being used to play give-and-go's to send them down the field. And then it's up to the wingers to put the ball into dangerous positions and create goal scoring opportunities. This game against louisville will be the toughest test yet for Koch's tactics, and will be exciting to see how it matches up against louisiville's head coach, and annoying good, James O'Connor.