On Friday, the USL released the schedule for the 2018 season.
FC Cincinnati’s upcoming season will be different than past seasons due to new clubs formed or transferring divisions, from the NASL to the USL. This season focuses on matches within each conference. FC Cincinnati does not play any teams from the Western Conference this year.
This season brings new challenges for FC Cincinnati with the inclusion of new clubs to the USL Eastern Conference. Indy Eleven joins the USL for the 2018 season after a stint playing in the NASL. Atlanta United FC 2 is another new edition from Atlanta’s USL expansion side.
North Carolina FC is another club that left the NASL to join the USL Eastern Conference for the 2018 season. Nashville SC joined the USL ranks this year. Nashville SC was originally formed in 2016, and this year will be their inaugural season.
New Year, Same Old Rivalries
The 2018 USL Eastern Conference schedule brings back old rivalries.
FC Cincinnati’s first home game of the season is against local rival Louisville City FC. The Dirty River Derby is how the FC Cincinnati fanbase refers to these matches. This game is anticipated to be an intense rematch between clubs.
Louisville City FC had an entire row of FCC fans removed in 2017 from Slugger Stadium. The club stated that these fans were removed for throwing streamers out onto the pitch during the game. The fans were not informed of this rule prior to the game.
In May, FC Cincinnati will travel to North Carolina to play against the Charlotte Independence. This rivalry is referred to as the battle for the Queen City Cup. Last year, FC Cincinnati bested Charlotte in two out of three games and brought home the Queen City Cup in September.
FC Cincinnati fans were also looking forward to a rematch with the Rochester Rhinos. During their last matchup in the 2017 season, there was speculation regarding the appearance of bias on behalf of the referee.
This resulted in an unprecedented six yellow cards and two red cards being issued against FC Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati fans were hoping for a 2018 rematch. In November of 2017, the Rochester Rhinos announced that they would not be returning for the 2018 season. The club will be on a year-long hiatus for 2018 due to lack of funding.
New Year, New Challenges
As FC Cincinnati starts to prepare for the new season, they are also preparing for the new challenges ahead. Preseason proves crucial for the club. A few clubs that FC Cincinnati is playing this season are clubs they have not played before. Preseason also helps to ensure that the returning members and new additions to the roster are cohesive on the pitch.
In a statement released by FC Cincinnati days ago, Coach Alan Koch commented on the importance of preseason training and his hopes for the 2018 season.
“We have an important preseason ahead of us and know the importance of every training session…ensuring that we instill the right mentality and a system of play within our squad,” said Koch. “We will be trying a lot of different things in preseason in terms of how we play and player combinations during this time…”
FC Cincinnati promoted Alan Koch to head coach of the team in February of 2017, shortly before the season started. This is the first season where he has been able to help build and shape the roster from the ground up. FC Cincinnati fans are eager to see what the new roster can do on the pitch.