Academy: Weekend exhibition games on tap

Thursday night marks the two-week mark since the first FC Cincinnati Academy practice, and growth is already tangible.

That two weeks has been spent doing everything from learning each other’s names to developing a playing philosophy. Now, the FCC Academy teams will play their first exhibition matches this weekend in Nashville. Larry Sunderland, the club’s director of player development, said it’s a big opportunity for the new Under-15 and Under-17 teams.

“It’s an important trip for us,” Sunderland said. “It’s really our first outing together. It’s our first time stepping on the field as a group together, getting on the bus together and really representing FCC outside the Mercy Health Training Center. For a lot of reasons – even beyond soccer – it’s a really important weekend.”

The first time the Academy teams made a public appearance was when they were introduced at the FC Cincinnati match on Aug. 3 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Nippert Stadium. Then, the two teams and the technical staff were presented at halftime during a presentation and sat together during the match in the northeast corner of the stadium.

It’s worth highlighting how far the teams have come since.

At the time, players were getting to know each other and bond with future teammates – similar to when FC Cincinnati had name-learning exercises during the preseason at IMG Academy in January.

“We’re starting to see camaraderie between the group,” Sunderland said. “It’s not just amongst the players, which is normal, but also amongst the coaching staff, as well. We’re all becoming more familiar with each other. Those relationships are really important for us to build.”

Both Academy teams will play in Nashville against Tennessee SC this weekend. The matches are exhibitions, but they’re a test run to see what comes next ahead of the first season.

Sunderland said the energy at training is good and that hopefully translates onto the field. The teams will play in a possession-based style, similar to what FCC General Manager Gerard Nijkamp and Head Coach Ron Jans have implemented with the first team.

“For us, ahead of this first trip, we know there will be a lot of nerves and excitement,” Sunderland said. “What we’d like to get out of this, and what we’d like to get out of this first season, is to set a foundation for our style of play.

“On Friday and Sunday, we’d like to settle the game down and play and be comfortable on the ball. It’s really a starting point for us entering the season,” he added.