Three Questions for FC Cincinnati’s 2017 Season

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CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 16: Fans of FC Cincinnati set off smoke bombs while cheering on their team during the match against Crystal Palace FC at Nippert Stadium on July 16, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Crystal Palace FC defeated FC Cincinnati 2-0. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
FC Cincinnati’s first offseason has been an eventful one to say the least. It featured a Don Garber visit, ten new signings, and the late-breaking exit of head coach John Harkes. There have been plenty of headlines over the past six months, but very few of those were about on-the-field action. That changes on March 25th when the USL season kicks off, and FC Cincinnati begins their quest to win the Eastern Conference and a USL Cup.

Three Questions for FC Cincinnati’s 2017 Season

Can FC Cincinnati reproduce last season’s success?

FC Cincinnati had a compelling 2016 season both on and off the field. On the field, they finished third overall in points, and produced the USL’s MVP and Golden Boot winner, Sean Okoli. Off the field, they surpassed expectations, hosted record-setting crowds, and put themselves in the thick of the MLS expansion race. FC Cincinnati’s off-the-field success will continue if season ticket sales are any indicator. The team has already sold over 11,000. With that many fans as a base, Nippert Stadium should be bustling for each home match this season.

On the field success is a little less certain. Head coach John Harkes was shown the door just before preseason, after a reported front office dispute. Alan Koch replaced him, and will take over a FC Cincinnati squad that was heavily fortified in the offseason. Koch, the former head coach of Vancouver Whitecaps 2, is well qualified for the job. He also has one of the most talented rosters in USL. However, there’s a lot of new players to integrate, and he has to manage the expectations of a rabid fan based that expects to win. That said, FC Cincinnati is still a favorite to finish near the top of the Eastern Conference.

Can FC Cincinnati score more goals?

Despite their success in the Eastern Conference last year, FC Cincinnati was not offensively prolific. They ended the season 10th out of 29 teams in goals scored. Their success in the league was based on team balance and a defense that conceded less than a goal per game on average.
FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding set an ambitious goal for FC Cincinnati’s second season. He challenged the team and the manager to score 62 total goals, one more than New York Red Bulls II scored last year when they finished top in points and won the USL Cup.
Berding supported his stated goal in the transfer market. FC Cincinnati brought in five new attacking players including Victor Mansaray and Djiby Fall. Mansaray is a promising U-20 U.S. International striker on loan from the Seattle Sounders. Djiby Fall is a veteran Senegalese foward who won two Golden Boots in Scandinavia. Scoring 62 goals might be dreaming, but FC Cincinnati shouldn’t be short on firepower in 2017.

Can FC Cincinnati peak in October?

Scoring goals, stockpiling points, and finishing at the top of the Eastern Conference would be great, but this is a playoff-based league. FC Cincinnati should have enough talent to easily earn a playoff spot. What’s important is that they secure a decent seed with a healthy roster and a team that’s in good late season form.

FC Cincinnati had most of that in place last year. One bad match can send you packing though. That’s playoff football. Goals and points over the course of the USL season are no guarantee of getting to a USL Cup final. You have to peak in October to take home USL’s grand prize.

Season Kickoff Against the Battery

FC Cincinnati kicks off their 2017 campaign on March 25th against the Charleston Battery. These same two teams played each other on week one last season. A stoppage time Romario Williams goal earned Charleston a 1-0 victory. This is a tasty week one matchup. The old guard USL outfit also upset FC Cincinnati in the first round of last year’s playoffs. All of FC Cincinnati’s games this season will be broadcast locally and on the USL Youtube channel.

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