BRADENTON, Fla. — FC Cincinnati flew to Florida with a new team that had only played four practices together previously. Head Coach Alan Koch spoke literally when he said players still needed to learn each other’s names.
So, when the final whistle chirped Thursday night in the club’s 1-1 draw with D.C. United, the result — and FCC’s performance — highlighted how far the team has come, from learning names, to working on a tactical identity and then implementing it.
The draw wasn’t perfect. The opening 20 minutes forced goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń to produce stunning save after save, including one-on-one moments with D.C. attackers. Eventually, D.C. United scored in the 21st minute via Luciano Acosta.
For the duration of the first half, Cincinnati looked second-best in the midfield and found itself backpedaling more than moving forward. Koch said if that was an MLS regular-season match, FCC could’ve trailed 3-0 by halftime.
It wasn’t, though. Instead, it was a matchup between last season’s fourth-best team in the MLS Eastern Conference against an expansion side that hasn’t played its fourth preseason game yet.
But in the second half, FC Cincinnati dominated. Despite the equalizer arriving late in the 81st minute via Nazmi Albadawi, the club created attacking chance after chance and outplayed a United side packed with talent, including Wayne Rooney.
“The group that played in the second half played fantastically,” Koch said. “They imposed themselves on D.C. and controlled the game and I was very, very happy for the group. They scored and got ourselves back into the game.”
And that’s the significant takeaway from Thursday night and this preseason trip to IMG Academy. With limited time, FC Cincinnati pieced together initial looks of success.
Going unbeaten in preseason won’t lead to anything beyond self-pride and confidence, but it shows realistic growth for a team that’s had limited opportunities to prove itself against its new league and opponents. With three goals in three games — all in the second half to earn either a win or tie — the Orange and Blue proved they belong. Only allowing two goals reiterates that.
“I think we still have a lot of work to do in terms of how we play,” Koch said. “We’re pretty much where we thought we’d be at this stage. We’ve still got four games to go from a preparation perspective. To expect to be at a good place after three games with a new group, I think we’d be expecting the stars.”
Following the result, FC Cincinnati still has another day of training in Florida before flying home on Saturday morning. Next Tuesday marks a friendly against former USL foe Indy Eleven. Two days later, the club begins another three-game trip when it travels to Charleston, S.C.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. What’s not in abundance, however, is time. FC Cincinnati’s inaugural MLS regular-season match is three weeks from Saturday. If Cincinnati plays that match like it played in the second half against D.C., in a game that carries true value, then maybe expecting the stars isn’t as much of a far-off fantasy as initially mentioned.