By now, FC Cincinnati traveling to Charleston, S.C. every year is the norm. In the past three years, every FCC regular season started at MUSC Health Stadium against the Charleston Battery. The Orange and Blue are back in 2019, only this time it’s as an MLS club in a preseason tournament.
Starting Saturday, Cincinnati will play in the 15th Carolina Challenge Cup against the Battery, Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew SC. The four teams are in a round-robin tournament that will see matches Feb. 16, 20, and 23.
For FCC, the tournament is the final opportunity to play outside opposition before the MLS regular season begins on March 2 in Seattle. At practice Friday, Head Coach Alan Koch said getting players match fit and playing well is the priority. Winning a trophy, if that happens, comes second.
“Anytime you’re playing for a trophy, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to win a trophy,” Koch said. “But that’s not the sole objective of these games. If we can go out and play well and earn points and win the trophy, then that’s going to be great.”
Cincinnati’s first match — and the first time the club is live-streamed this season — is against the club the Orange and Blue know best: Charleston.
The two clubs played each other the last three years in the USL. Before 2018, FCC had never beaten the Battery. In 2016, Cincinnati’s postseason ended in extra-time at Nippert Stadium against Charleston. Simply put, three years was enough time for the clubs to develop a history with one another. FCC leaving the USL and transitioning to MLS might give the home side a little bit more to play for, Koch said.
“We were a USL team and a USL team like will come into a game like this with a chip on their shoulder and should want to show what they can do,” Koch added. “But Charleston Battery have shown over the years in this tournament they can contend at the highest level with every single MLS team in this tournament.”
What to expect
Koch said the approach to each game is different. For Saturday, the club will play one group of players for extended minutes before substituting in a new group. On Wednesday against Chicago, those groups will swap roles.
“We’ve got three games and by the time we get to the last one, that’s our final exercise before the season starts,” Koch said. “We want to be pushing players towards 90 minutes.”
- Both teams played together in the USL Eastern Conference from 2016-2018. Cincinnati won both 2018 meetings after going winless against Charleston in 2016 and 2017.
- FC Cincinnati center back Forrest Lasso played three seasons in Charleston before switching clubs.