FC Cincinnati finished out its first ever preseason tournament on yet another high note Saturday night.
Thanks to a second half brace from Andrew Wiedeman and one goal each from Jimmy McLaughlin and Jamie Dell, FC Cincinnati cruised to a 4-0 victory over Danish Side HB Køge in the final game of the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic in Bradenton, Florida. The win not only helped FCC to maintain their undefeated record during the tournament, but also ultimately helped them to lift its championship trophy.
It might just be preseason, but it’s safe to say bringing home silverware in their first ever set of games against professional competition is a good thing.
The opening half of play was one of few chances in either direction. That could in part be explained by further experimentation within the team as Coach Harkes looks to feel out his squad. The starting eleven that lined up against Køge featured four changes from Wednesday’s game against New York City FC. And Harkes also had the team line up in yet another formation — this time a 4-4-1.
“We were trying to find a balance. Admittedly, we were pretty banged up from the first couple of games,” coach Harkes explained via phone today. “But we also wanted to get some guys some more minutes, and try some guys in some new positions and shapes.”
However, just as was the case in the team’s previous two matches at IMG, excitement was in store in the second half.
Luckily, FC Cincinnati didn’t keep their fans waiting until the later stages of the match this time around. In the 58th minute, Køge goalkeeper Frederick Hansen was double penalized with both a sending off and a penalty. He was adjudged to have been the last man back when bringing down Sean Okoli as he streaked into the Danes’ box. Andrew Wiedeman stepped up to take the ensuing penalty, and the replacement goalkeeper was unable to stop his cooly slotted effort.
With a man advantage thanks to the red card, it was just a short seven minutes later when Cincinnati doubled its lead. Midfielder Paul Nicholson’s ball in from the flank was flicked on by Wiedeman, and a wide open McLaughlin finished it off on the back side. Nicholson was again involved in the 77th minute when his ball through released Wiedeman to double his tally and make it 3-0 to FCC.
Substitute Jamie Dell added an fourth in the 90th minute off a fine cross from Luke Spencer — the third goal he was involved with on the week.
With the win, that moved FC Cincinnati to 7 points — and they would need all three of those points to hold on to the trophy. New York City FC dispatching of KR Reykjavic 2-1 in the second match on Saturday meant that, had Cincinnati drew instead of won, the title would have left Florida in sky blue hands instead of blue and orange ones.
Lifting the Suncoast Pro Classic trophy did have one other benefit for FC Cincinnati. As winners, the club picked up the $10,000 grand prize, delivered in the form of giant check handed to the coaching staff upon completion of the match.
But the twelve days spent at IMG was obviously about far more than just prize money.
“IMG offered us a fantastic environment for training: the resources, the weather, the grass surfaces — they were all excellent for us. And what we wanted, from the first game to the third, was to see a lot of progress. I think we saw that,” Harkes said. “We saw different adversity and a lot of different styles, and that told us a lot about our team.”
And title aside, that’s exactly what every coach wants to get out of his preseason.
The next time FC Cincinnati returns to preseason action will be Saturday, March 12th, against the NASL’s Indy Eleven. The time and location of that friendly are yet to be determined. The boys will finally play a match in Cincinnati on March 18th, as they head to the Xavier Soccer Complex to face the Xavier Mens Soccer Team in a 7pm friendly.