Stam, players ready for next phase of play

On Sunday morning, the Orange and Blue resumed practice at Mercy Health Training Center for the first time in six weeks after participating in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.

Whereas previous practice focused on team building and improving chemistry with a new coaching staff, the focus now shifts to FC Cincinnati’s 2020 home opener next Friday at Nippert Stadium.

“(We’re) now starting again, so everybody’s looking fresh so that’s a good thing,” head coach Jaap Stam said Sunday. “They need to get back into it and get a good feeling with the ball.”

FCC host D.C. United on Aug. 21 – five months after the teams were scheduled to meet in Cincinnati’s previously-scheduled home opener on March 14. MLS suspended the regular season two days prior due to the global pandemic.

The upcoming match will be the first of three home games for the team in a 12-day span.

“It’s definitely good to get back going,” Joseph-Claude Gyau said. “It’s going to be a lot of work. We’re going to be playing every three or four days, so we’ve got to figure out the best ways to recover between matches.

“We’re going to need every single player, obviously, because that’s just the first six matches.”

When FCC were participating in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Stam routinely considered the competition a “preseason” for the players and coaching staff to form relationships that will deliver long-term success. On Sunday, he referred to that time as a “training camp.”

While the group stage matches counted toward the regular season, the in-market matches should resemble a typical season. Teams will train in their home facilities and play other sides from their conference. Four days after FCC play D.C. United, they face Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field before another #HellisReal Derby on Aug. 29.

“It’s going to be intense,” Tom Pettersson said. “It’s a lot of games, but we just have to be careful. When we don’t play games, we just have to rest and take care of our bodies. It’s just the normal things when you see the schedule. It’s the same for all of the teams and it’s fun to play games as well.”