Out to make the most of their time in Florida, FC Cincinnati makes a quick return to the pitch on Saturday for the club's second preseason match of the year and second in their last five days in Bradenton. And while the opponents on Tuesday were new, this weekend's match sees the Orange & Blue face familiar foes in USL rivals Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Kicking off at 3:30pm at IMG Academy's soccer stadium, supporters who didn't make the trip down to watch in-person will be delighted to hear that -- after Tuesday's game went without coverage -- there will be a stream of the action to watch Koch's team for the first time in 2018.
Though we have faced the Rowdies already in both league play and in the U.S. Open Cup, this is the first time we'll play them when the result doesn't matter. That's a good thing for two reasons.
First, the team is absolutely still in the let's-see-where-we-are stage of the season. Despite getting everyone 45 minutes of non-simulated game action in Tuesday's 1-1 preseason-opening draw with MLS' New England Revolution, Coach Alan Koch has a better idea of what he's working with this season. But he's still trying to figure out how to get the best out of them.
Secondly, our opponents have had the upper hand in most of our previous meetings to this point. In three matches, we've managed just a draw and two losses. So getting an early look at the Rowdies before the season starts in a situation where the pressure to win isn't as intense, is definitely of benefit.
Just as we saw against the Revolution, everyone should expect to see Koch again fielding split teams each half. Further experimentation -- like how Garrett Halfhill was deployed as a holding midfielder instead of in his normal centerback role -- is also entirely possible. And again, don't read too much into who starts either half.
As for the Rowdies, they're just over a week into their preseason training camp -- compared to nearly three weeks for FCC. And Saturday's friendly is technically their first preseason match of the year.
Per their match preview, it appears fourth-year head coach Stuart Campbell is taking a similar approach to the match as ourselves and will deploy separate 45-minute split squad sides.
That said, even a Rowdies' side with 50% of it's best players is still pretty formidable. Star returners like Joe Cole and Marcel Schäfer highlight the players we'll likely see in spurts this weekend, but the club will also be giving new guys like former Rochester Rhino Jochen Graf and three trialists their first runouts too.