Courtesy: FC Cincinnati
2016 USL Preview: FC Cincinnati
Release: 03/10/2016
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Thursday, March 10, 2016

For an expansion side, FC Cincinnati was quick out of the gate in forming the pieces that will make up the club heading into the 2016 USL season. Led by National Soccer Hall of Famer and Head Coach John Harkes, FC Cincinnati looks to make an immediate impact on the pitch and in the community, and it appears that they are well on their way in both regards. In terms of North American football familiarity, Cincy fans will be treated to a host of recognizable names that have tasted the professional level in the USL or Major League Soccer. Now Harkes’ task is seeing if that translates to a cohesive group and a strong run in Eastern Conference play.

Head Coach: John Harkes
Stadium: Nippert Stadium
2015 results: (2016 expansion club)
2015 postseason: 2016 expansion club)

Goalkeeper: Cincinnati’s goalkeeping group includes a range of experience at John Harkes’ disposal. Mitch Hildebrandt, formerly of the PDL’s Michigan Bucks, has spent the past several seasons with Minnesota United FC and figures to be the No. 1 frontrunner. The 22-year-old Dallas Jaye is the youngest of the bunch having recently played for PDL side FC Tucson. Dan Williams is a former Cincinnati Saints goalkeeper.

Defense: The back line looks mighty strong for a new USL team. Former Rochester Rhinos defender Pat McMahon, who ranked second on the club in minutes last season, enjoyed a run to a championship crown as an integral piece of Rochester’s rock-solid back line. Harrison Delbridge made 18 starts with the Portland Timbers 2 last year and previously won the USL Championship with Sacramento Republic FC in 2014. New to the USL, but with loads of high-level experience, is Cincinnati native Austin Berry, the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year with the Chicago Fire. It might be early to label anything the cornerstone of this new franchise, but Cincinnati’s back line has the credentials.

Midfield: Cincinnati has a pretty good balance of USL experience and young talent in the midfield. Former LA Galaxy midfielder Kenney Walker was loaned to Los Dos in 2014 and 2015 and was on board during the 2015 postseason en route to a runner-up finish in the league. Jimmy McLaughlin spent four years with the Philadelphia Union and regularly appeared for the Harrisburg City Islanders during that stretch. The roster also features a former Wilmington Hammerheads FC trio – Corben Bone, Paul Nicholson and Ross Tomaselli.

Forward: Former Jamaican international and longtime MLS veteran Omar Cummings, who played collegiately at Cincinnati, returns to the area to bring vast experience to the club and this front line. Alongside him are the likes of former Philadelphia Union – and longtime Harrisburg City Islanders loanee – Antoine Hoppenot, and former Seattle Sounders FC and New England Revolution striker Sean Okoli.

Strengths: The mix of championship experience and MLS ties within the defense is quite impressive, especially for an expansion club. The recent efforts of Pat McMahon with the 2015 USL Championship Rochester Rhinos, Harrison Delbridge’s valuable rookie season with the 2014 USL title-winning Sacramento Republic FC and former MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry make this an imposing defensive corps.

Weaknesses: A bevvy of midfield pieces are in place, and if there is an area that is crucial in Cincinnati finding its identity, this group has to mesh quickly. How they will adapt is an unknown heading in, though preseason has been a positive indicator. One trio to keep an eye on could be the response from the former Wilmington Hammerheads FC players who are looking to rebound from a last-place showing in 2015. Will a player such as Corben Bone find the consistency and rise up to the potential that he showed out of Wake Forest? Certainly highlight-reel moments similar to his preseason long-distance volley against KR Reykjavik speak volumes.

Key number: 8 – FC Cincinnati scored eight goals – all in the second half – during its three preseason matches at the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic. Cincy rallied from two goals down to draw KR Rejkjavik 2-2, earned a dramatic 2-1 victory against New York City FC, then posted a 4-0 win against HB Koge.

Noteworthy matchups: Cincinnati and second-year side Louisville City FC have already coined a local rivalry with the River Cities Cup. The three-match, regular-season series begins when Cincinnati hosts Louisville on April 16 at Nippert Stadium.

Coach’s view: “With Jeff Berding, the family itself and the support group that’s here and the ownership – it’s very ambitious. We had a lot of the same types of plans and ideas that go about starting up a club, and it was very enticing to come here.” – John Harkes

Current roster (updated: March 10, 2016):
Goalkeepers: Mitch Hildebrandt, Dallas Jaye, Dan Williams
Defenders: Austin Berry, Harrison Delbridge, Evan Lee, Derek Luke, Pat McMahon, Tyler Polak
Midfielders: Corben Bone, Jamie Dell, Jimmy McLaughlin, Michael Millay, Omar Mohamed, Francisco Narbon, Paul Nicholson, Alvaro Anton Ripoll, Eric Stevenson, Ross Tomaselli, Kenney Walker
Forwards: Omar Cummings, Antoine Hoppenot, Sean Okoli, Luke Spencer, Andrew Wiedeman

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