Since the postseason loss last October, every FC Cincinnati action focused on building toward the future. Tuesday, that future became the present.
FCC had its first day practicing as a Major League Soccer club, where returning players met new faces and the six rookies were unveiled. While the first training session offers little more than players learning names and getting comfortable playing together, the day serves as a foundation of what is built moving forward.
At 9:30 a.m., players and the coaching staff met for their first daily meeting. At 10:30 a.m., they started their first 90-minute practice. The old United Soccer League balls were replaced by MLS ones. The speed of play increased, too.
As of Tuesday, these new aspects are the norm.
A 2 p.m. tour of the club’s new Mercy Health Training Center included the first glimpses of both the team’s temporary and future home. Players sat in their new locker room, saw their practice fields and became acclimated to their future home.
“It feels great,” Fanendo Adi said. “You can see the joy on the faces of the players, especially mine, of course. It’s amazing. We’re happy to be back. Today is the first day, so everyone is excited to get to know their new mates and get to know the coach’s idea of getting into preseason.”
Head Coach Alan Koch offered similar sentiments.
“I’m happy,” he said. “There were no surprises, which is always a positive thing. From a medical perspective, obviously to get through the first day is very, very important. From a playing level, there were no surprises and that was a positive. There was nobody who wasn’t at the level we expected them to be at.”
Tuesday was the first of four-consecutive practices in “The Bubble” at the University of Cincinnati’s Sheakley Athletics Center. On Saturday, the club travels to Bradenton, Fla. for practices in sunshine and three friendly matches with other MLS clubs.
To Koch, this is all part of the “Orientation Phase.”
“It’s just integrating the players into the club, getting to know everybody’s names, making sure everybody feels comfortable, then taking care of [the players’] welfare during the course of these few days,” Koch said of the Orientation Phase. “Down in Florida, we’ll really start to open up. We’ll have access to two full grass fields and we’ll use them. We’ll do a lot of unit work, start to implement tactics at that time and build through those three games.”
As practices and meetings carry throughout the week and moving forward, players should look more comfortable with each other on and off the ball. But if Tuesday set the tone, it was a high-energy, enthusiastic start to FC Cincinnati’s time as an MLS club.
“I’m excited to be back in MLS, have new teammates and see guys that are going to work towards a six-week time for the first game,” Adi said. “It’s just exciting to be back in MLS and I’m ready to be back with this group of players.”