Though it seems like it started not long ago, tomorrow's seventh and final preseason fixture against USL Western Conference giants Sacramento Republic FC will bring to a close seven weeks of preseason preparations for the USL regular season that kicks off next weekend.
But while the match might mark the end of preseason, it's a match worth catching -- and for several reasons:
- The first FC Cincinnati match at Nippert Stadium in 2018.
- The Orange & Blue will be donning their brand new diamond hooped home kits for very first time.
- A post-match kickaround on the pitch and extended autograph session with the entire 2018 squad.
- Tickets are just $10 for general admission seats spanning all of the West lower bowl and the Bailey, or you can grab $20 general admission tickets for the West Pavilion Club Level -- a section already sold out for the entirety of the 2018 USL regular season! You can get your tickets here.
- Any proceeds from the match will also go directly to the FC Cincinnati Community Fund, which helps to serve youth soccer initiatives, futsal courts and more in Greater Cincinnati!
Oh, and with our streak of matches without a match stream continuing with Saturday's final preseason match against Republic FC, the only way to see the Orange & Blue is to turn up and support from in the Nippert Stadium stands.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Saturday's match will be our second ever meeting with Sacramento. The last time we tangled also happened to be a preseason match 370 days ago when we traveled to California's capital for a 2-2 draw at Papa Murphy's Park. Only one of the match's four goalscorers -- Sac Town's Wilson Kneeshaw -- returns for the fixture, so it's likely we'll see some new main characters write the script this weekend.
The Orange & Blue will enter Saturday's action be looking to keep their preseason undefeated streak alive after extending it to six matches with Wednesday evening's 1-0 win over the University of Cincinnati. That win pulls them to 4-2-0 this spring, with 10 goals scored for and just four against. And while it's important to keep in mind that even perfect preseasons aren't a guarantee of success in the regular season, the momentum that kind of preseason can provide is nothing to scoff at either.
As for the visitors from California, their preseason has been a little bit rockier.
After dismissing manager Paul Buckle just before preseason began, new coach Simon Elliot has been tasked with remaking a Sacramento side that had a subpar 2017. The Repbulic finished 8th in the USL Western Conference last year with a record of 13-7-12.
Just four matches into their preseason, Sacramento might still be finding their feet after an offseason of change. They've won just once -- against NPSL side Sacramento Gold in their first match of the preseason at the beginning of February. Since they've dropped two matches to MLS competition -- a 1-3 result to back-to-back MLS Cup finalists Seattle Sounders and a 0-1 loss to MLS debutants Los Angeles Football Club. Their last match out saw them play their only USL opponents so far, with a 1-1 draw away to new USL outfit Fresno FC.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Saturday's match against Sacramento Republic, while still just a preparatory preseason match, will likely be one that the coaching staff will treat very much like a regular season fixture.
While we've seen Coach Alan Koch and his staff roll out split squads in all six of our previous tests this Spring -- increasing from 45/45 splits in Florida, to 60/30 in Kentucky and Indiana, and then 70/20 in each of the last two matches at Gettler Stadium -- it wouldn't be surprising to see at least some of players going the full 90 this weekend.
There's also the possibility that the squad he selects tomorrow could be the team lining up in the first XI next weekend when the regular season begins. Whether or not comes to fruition remains to be seen, but the coaching staff will undoubtedly be looking to answer a few questions before the season commences.
Up first: who gets the nod up front as the club's #9? With last year's leading scorer departed, the battle for the starting spot at the top of Alan Koch's squad has been a tussle between two newly-arrived players in Emery Welshman and Tomi Ameobi, and last year's mid-season arrival Danni König. Of the three, Welshman has seen the most minutes this spring and he and Ameobi have found the back of the net in preseason.
The other big question to be answered is who gets the start in goal for FCC? Each of Spencer Richey and Evan Newton -- the latter of whom spent the last few years with tomorrow's visitors -- have come up with big saves and strong performances in the preseason fixtures to date.
On Sacramento's side of things, watch for newly returned star Cameron Iwasa to be influential up front for the Republic. They'll also be looking for more former MLS veteran Adam Moffat, who missed much of 2017 with a groin injury. He'll face competition, however, with new Costa Rican arrival Keven Alemán impressing at times this Spring. And finally, watch for their #1 Josh Cohen to make things difficult for the Orange & Blue in front of goal