FC Cincinnati, a USL expansion side set to begin play in 2016, held open tryouts on Saturday on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. Aspiring locals were joined by players from around the world (including England, France, Senegal, Mexico, and Honduras) to showcase their talents and compete for a contract with a professional soccer team. FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding was excited to see players in the club’s crest for the first time.
Although the FC Cincinnati technical staff had scouted some players and highly encouraged them to attend, the tryouts were open to anyone that was willing to pay a registration fee and wanted to test his mettle. The response was so overwhelming that the club had to cap registration at 145 participants.
John Harkes, Head Coach for FC Cincinnati, hesitated to give hard and fast numbers, but he indicated that the club will carry approximately 24 players on its roster. Three to four of those spots are expected to be occupied by participants from the open tryouts. The remainder of the roster will be filled by known commodities that do not require the additional look offered by Saturday’s activities.
The day of tryouts was broken into four sessions. All of the registered players participated in the three morning sessions conducted inside the inflatable bubble on a practice field outside Nippert Stadium. Harkes and his staff selected the best of the group for an 11v11 scrimmage in the afternoon at Gettler Stadium.
Several of the players that advanced to the final session of the tryout have ties to the Cincinnati area. Twin brothers, Matt and Will Walker had stellar college careers at Xavier University. Will garnered a truckload of accolades during his senior year with the Musketeers, including All-BIG East First Team. Matt was signed to a homegrown contract by Columbus Crew SC in 2014 and spent much that season on loan to Dayton Dutch Lions FC of the USL.
Oriol Cortes, who tallied 4 goals and 2 assists in 13 appearances for the USL PDL’s Cincinnati Dutch Lions in 2015, was also among the elite group of players remaining on the pitch at the end of the afternoon session.
Harkes was asked to specifically comment on the quality demonstrated by the local trialists, but the coach preferred to make general observations. Overall, he seemed pleased with what he saw throughout the day.
Harkes’ positive summation was justified, based on observations of the final session, which was open to the public. While the odd mistake was committed, a high quality of play was generally demonstrated by the players, who had to persevere through inclement conditions. It was certainly the most talented group of individuals that StP has ever seen at an open tryout for a USL team.
Decisions regarding which of the players made the cut will be made in the coming days. The coaching staff will review video and compare notes before contracts are offered. The most deserving will join the team when it begins preseason training in January or February.
Also Seen and Heard
- Deals for a handful of players, domestic and international, have already been negotiated. The club is waiting for final approval from the league and FIFA before making official announcements, which are expected soon after the Thanksgiving holiday.
- So far, FC Cincinnati staffers estimate that 4,000 season tickets have been sold for the 2016 season.
- At the initial press conference to introduce FC Cincinnati to the public, Berding was adamant that the club would not affiliate with an MLS team. FCC, however, has apparently not ruled out the possibility of affiliation. When directly asked about Columbus Crew SC as a potential partner, both Harkes and Berding were eager to quickly change the topic of conversation.
- FCC appears willing to make the most of the ownership group’s deep pockets. Berding estimated that the club’s payroll will be among the top three in USL in 2016.
Full Video of Q&A with Harkes and Berding