TUCSON, Ariz. – Throughout Saturday morning’s intrasquad scrimmage, head coach Ron Jans stood alone on the far side of the field watching his team in its first game-like atmosphere. He offered vocal support to players, but spent more time analyzing and admiring.

When the match ended – and White beat Blue, 2-1 – Jans walked off the field, smiled and called the exercise “very useful.”

“It was the closure of the first week practicing every tactical way of playing, in possession and out of possession, that we practiced during the week,” Jans said. “It gives us a lot of information about the individuals. So very useful, very good week.”

That was the most important takeaway from FC Cincinnati’s first week of preseason training. The club arrived in Arizona on Sunday night without having kicked a ball yet as a group in 2020. When the first scrimmage ended Saturday afternoon, the tactical plans the club entered the week hoping to achieve were being implemented by the players.

The scrimmage was divided into four, 12-minute sessions. It was the first time they played 11-on-11, and the first time the coaching staff saw all the different tactical approaches introduced into game-like settings.

“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do because it will never be 100% perfect, but I think it’s good that we switched a lot so we get our own feeling for how it feels and how we can use it for the games during the season,” center back Tom Pettersson said.

During the scrimmage, defense dominated. That was to be expected, Jans said – especially after the club spent the week focusing on pressing and defending the three blocks.

“The first week, we (didn’t) do a lot of finishing and shooting, so now there will be more of that,” Jans said.

If this past week was the introduction phase, Saturday offered examples of how the ideas can be implemented and expanded. The following days and weeks should see refinement and more tactics built upon the foundation week.

By next Wednesday’s first preseason match – against 2019 USL Championship regular-season title holder Phoenix Rising FC at Kino Sports Complex – expect the same defensive dominance with newly-added attacking options.

Other thoughts from Week One…

  • The first week focused on players playing in different combinations. There isn’t a depth chart yet, so every player has an opportunity to express themselves, Jans said. This has been noticeable everywhere, but especially with the backline. Each center back has played with every other one, while the fullbacks have rotated, too.
  • The club’s SuperDraft picks were implemented into the sessions. Rey Ortiz showed bursts of quality down the wing, while Joris Ahlinvi played centrally as a forward.
  • Yuya Kubo has transitioned well into the team and is showing why he’s so dynamic. While he played on the left wing in the scrimmage, he spent time as a center-attacking midfielder during drills throughout the week.
  • Jans noted that the team was pretty healthy after the first week of preseason, which he was pleased to see. Kekuta Manneh arrived into preseason still continuing rehab work on his right shoulder, for which he underwent surgery before the end of the 2019 season. At this point in preseason, he’s participated in a limited, non-contact role and has continued fitness work off to the side with the sports performance staff later in sessions.