WESTFIELD, Ind. — Tommy McCabe said the last time he played a full “meaningful game” was Dec. 1 — his last game at Notre Dame. He did again Tuesday.
McCabe played the full match in FC Cincinnati’s 3-2 loss to the Indy Eleven and produced a performance Head Coach Alan Koch called one of his team’s best in the friendly.
“Tommy was one of the bright spots, to be honest,” Koch said. “He’s not a natural wing back, he’s not a natural center back. Part of preseason is asking some of your younger players to play out of position, but also to see how they embrace those opportunities. Yeah, he was fantastic.”
When Cincinnati selected McCabe with the 29th pick in the MLS SuperDraft, it drafted a deep-lying center midfield who links the backline to the midfield. In post-draft videos, he mentioned his goal was to make everyone look better around him. Koch said the midfielder plays an overlooked role, but an invaluable one.
That changed against Indy when McCabe started at right wing back. Often, he linked with attacking players entering the final third — normally uncharted territory. In the 31st minute, he switched to center back and played in the middle of back three.
“That’s a new challenge to me,” McCabe said of his positioning in the friendly. “I haven’t played right back and then have not played center back, especially in a back three, so that was new challenge. I just tried to do my best and communicate with the guys and keep it simple and let the guys farther up the field create chances and me prevent chances as much as I can.”
Koch said plan was always to move McCabe into the back three during the team’s fourth preseason match. In the first three matches in Florida, Justin Hoyte played as a center back, but Koch wanted Hoyte to return to his traditional right back “so he could get up and down from a fitness perspective.” That meant swapping roles with McCabe.
He was one of three FC Cincinnati players to feature the full match Tuesday, including Forrest Lasso and Blake Smith. The scrimmage was the first time anyone played a 90-minute match for the Orange and Blue during preseason.
“He probably made a couple mistakes and he’s probably the first guy to attest to it,” Koch said of the rookie. “But I was very, very impressed with his versatility and how he went out and embraced that opportunity.”