FCC coach sets sights on big league

FC Cincinnati is nearing the final two months of regular season play in the United Soccer League (USL), and head coach Alan Koch has high hopes for his squad moving forward down the stretch.

Koch has lofty expectations chasing after not only one, but two championships this year and “wants to go as far as (FC Cincinnati) can in the U.S. Open Cup and the USL playoffs.”

FC Cincinnati is simultaneously competing in the U.S. Open Cup amidst the USL regular season, and the club has certainly made great strides to accomplishing both goals.

The team has already stunned the field by knocking off regional rival the Columbus Crew of the MLS 1-0 in a match decided on June 14 in the U.S. Cup. This was after the team had already notched a victory in a close contest against the MLS’s Chicago Fire, advancing on PKs.

Koch and his team then secured a spot in the semifinal by defeating Miami FC of the North American Soccer League (NASL) one-nil. FC Cincinnati will be put to the test once again when it squares off against another formidable opponent, the MLS’s New York Red Bulls, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.

The highly anticipated matchup is slated for August 15 with an 8 p.m. kickoff time. The club has recently announced that this game will feature a sellout crowd, with more than 16,000 tickets be- ing sold on just the first day of availability.

In USL league play, FC Cincinnati currently sits in playoff position, being situated sixth in a tight contest for the Eastern Conference.

“All games are equally important, but the derbies (rivalry games) are a bit extra special,” Koch told the Newswire.

Despite being in sixth place of the Eastern Conference standings, FC Cincinnati is still very much in prime position for contention in the playoffs. Each game is worth three points, and the top eight teams in the conference qualify for the playoffs. To paint a better picture, the club is just a few games back from the conference leader, the Charlotte Independence.

What are the keys to FC Cincinnati’s success? For Koch, there really is no special formula. In fact, his strategy remains fairly straightforward, hard-nosed and focused on the task ahead.

“Squeezing everything you can out of every player and being better prepared for a match than your opposition” are ultimately the two strategies that have translated to success, Koch said.

Koch doesn’t depend heavily on one particular player or another. Instead, he utilizes the entire team as a whole to come away with victories.

“I don’t rely on only a few players. We have a good squad, and different players fulfill different roles,” he said.
One player, however, who has performed exceptionally well this season is forward Djiby Fall, who so far has produced 11 goals, making him one of the conference’s leading scorers.

FC Cincinnati is locked in on this season, but that’s not to say it is looking to the future with blinders. FC Cincinnati has its mind set on something much larger, magnanimous even, a potential spot to being absorbed by the United States’ premier soccer league, the MLS. The league has announced that it is preparing to expand the league and so is looking to add two more teams that will be admitted into the league to begin play in 2020.

The one outlying impediment for FC Cincinnati seems to be the stadium in which the
team plays its home games. One stipulation that the MLS has issued out to squads vying for MLS approval is that it wants expansion teams to have soccer-specific stadiums. Currently, FC Cincinnati plays its home games at Nippert Stadium, otherwise known as the football stadium for the University of Cincinnati.

The team has already made preparations to submit their final proposal to the MLS having two, possibly even three new stadium locations. The first two are in the city itself, with locations in mind for potential sites in the West End and Over-the-Rhine.

The more likely scenario is the proposed location across the river in Newport, Ky., with a stadium budgeted at a $200 million value. Nonetheless, the club has awed fans and league officials alike, so success both on and off the pitch could be within reach.

While Koch is determined to lead his team to success on the field this season, he also has aspirations for his team to eventually one day be a part of the MLS.

“I just recently signed a contract extension and am committed to this club and the city,” Koch said. “We all are working hard every day to hopefully take this club into the MLS.”

For the time being, though, the club only has a few games left in the regular season to achieve a higher playoff position. Without a doubt, the best way for FC Cincinnati to prove to the MLS that it is worthy of the expansion slot quite literally comes down to one goal: to win.

By: Luke Feliciano ~Sports Editor~