Takeaways from final Arizona preseason friendly

TUCSON, Ariz. – Fatai Alashe’s game-winning goal wasn’t a thumping finish that put an exclamation point on this trip, but it was enough to give FC Cincinnati a win and momentum as the team concluded almost three weeks in Tucson and return home on Thursday.

Here are takeaways from the 1-0 win against El Paso Locomotive FC at the Kino Sports Complex and an overall review of FCC’s time in the Sonoran Desert.

Wednesday was another deserved win

While Alashe’s goal came in the 81st minute, the Orange and Blue had dominated the entire match. El Paso hardly crossed the midfield line the first 45 minutes, but Cincinnati didn’t capitalize on its chances against the USL Championship side. 

“We created so many chances,” head coach Ron Jans said after the game. “I wrote them all down. I think we had 300% chances and maybe eight or nine opportunities to score a goal. And when you don’t score, you do something wrong.”

At this point of the preseason, finishing has become the one thing FCC needs the most work on. But with four preseason matches awaiting the team in Bradenton – and a DP striker and another winger waiting to join the team – there’s time for the team’s front line to gel and become arguably the club’s strongest position group.

There’s been respectable improvement and growth this trip

FC Cincinnati arrived in Arizona awaiting a first 2020 practice and a first preseason for Jans and his coaching staff. From the opening training session, there was a focus on the team’s shape, playing style and identity that improved every week. 

The 3-0 win against Phoenix Rising FC last week produced Cincinnati’s best offensive output, while the club looked more and more comfortable in and out of possession each match.

While last Saturday’s 4-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City was revealing, it wasn’t capitulating. Instead, it showed the team needs to keep growing – which it has and will continue to achieve.

The players’ upbeat atmosphere is contagious

Almost three weeks is a long time to be away, especially for a team whose players reported to Cincinnati two days before flying to Tucson.

But if one thing stood out during this trip, it was the atmosphere. Throughout the business trip, players were upbeat and excited to practice and play. At team dinners, laughter – and Tom Pettersson’s silky voice – filled the air. 

Preseason trips are more about team bonding than wins and losses, and in this case, strong relationships are beginning to form. Expect those to carry deep into the regular season.

If the Arizona preseason leg was about getting to know one another, the Florida one will focus on Jans getting to know his 2020 starting XI.

Against El Paso, the starting group played 62 minutes before being replaced. As competition grows, minutes will get harder to come by. It’ll be interesting to see how a more competitive atmosphere shapes the next two weeks in Florida. 

But first, it’s time for the players and staff to go home and rest.

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