Saturday, FCC take on the New England Revolution at TQL Stadium at 3pm. This will be the club's second home game of the season. Their first was an exciting match against Inter Miami that ended in a loss. While FCC looks for their first home win at their amazing new stadium, they face a tough task this weekend. New England is the top team in the East with 14 points and coming in off back to back wins against Columbus SC and the New York Red Bulls.
FC Cincinnati are fresh off of a hard fought win themselves, having secured a comeback win against CF Montreal.
The club will have more fans in their corner as well. Saturday's match will have 11 thousand fans as opposed to the 6 thousand in the opener. Still a far cry from the 26 thousand fan capacity of TQL stadium, but expect the March to be even bigger and the stadium to be much louder.
FC Cincinnati's manager Jaap Stam spoke with media at TQL Stadium Thursday. His first time meeting with media in person since his hiring. Stam spoke about the club's confidence level after a hard fought win and how his tactical changes may shape the club moving forward.
On How this week of training has gone.
"It's going well, after the result we had vs Montreal, of course you can see that lifts the spirits, but it's not a guarantee for the next game. Every game we need to work hard. Every training season we need to put our shift in, in what we're trying to do eventually to be consistent in getting results as well. But it helps, the players are confident, you can see that in the training sessions. So hopefully we can have a good weekend again this weekend."
On the challenges New England brings to the match.
"We've got our ideas on what we're going to do against them, but they've got a good team. Also a team that has been working together for a longer period. There's maybe one or two new players within their roster, but they're a good side with a lot of pace, a certain physique, quality of play as well in the midfield and experience. That's what we've seen, and we need to deal with that. We play at home, so we also want to show ourselves to the fans again, and we're looking forward to doing that."
On how New England compares to FCC's past opponents and if they will be the best team they've played against so far.
"We need to be able to make it difficult for the opposition to play against us."
"I don't know if they're the best team. I think up till now we've been facing several very good teams. If you look at Nashville doing very well last season, playing will players that played together all through last season with no changes. New York FC, no changes. Same for Orlando, no changes, good team, good quality. Then of course Montreal, several changes, new coach, but still a very good team. This team, New England, they're doing very well. They've got ability, players that have been used to playing together as well and that's what we need to deal with. If you look at these teams that we've been facing and where we are, we still need to take a couple of steps, because there's new players and players in different positions as well. Sometimes we play in different systems as well. That's what I like, we need to be able to do that as well to make it difficult for the opposition to play against us."
On if the club's long break after this game changes the approach to this match.
"No, the approach is still that same. The only thing is, if you have a long break after the match, you want to go into that break with a good result. That make's the feeling a lot better, and makes it a lot nicer to work in that period after that particular game. But the approach is not going to be different, we still look at the opposition, we still work on tactics for ourselves but also towards the opposition. Looking at the opposition and what they're trying to do and what we need to do. Giving the players a certain feeling and hopefully they're going to be comfortable going into this game to perform. Because we still need to work on a lot of things, because of the changes that have been made, we still need to work a lot on the system and getting partnerships on the pitch so things become even easier in the long term."
On what has changed on the offensive side that has allowed the team to score two goals in each of the last two games
"No, nothing has changed. If you look at all the games that we've been playing, against Nashville, New York, and Orlando as well, every game that we've been playing we've been creating opportunities. So we could have scored more. The only thing is, yeah that sometimes help if you can score one it gives a little more confidence to the players as well and makes it easier to score the next one as well. The thing is, and that's what I'm always very happy about and what I stand for as a coach as well, it's going to be a problem if you don't create opportunities at all. Then you need to make changes or then you need to think differently. We still create opportunities and we get in front of goal. The first home game versus Miami, (Alvaro) Barreal and (Allan) Cruz are in front of goal 1 v 1, if you score these opportunities then it's a totally different game. It changes everything, also the feeling of the players. That's a very important thing and a very positive thing for ourselves as well to do. We always are working on these things, creating opportunities and scoring in training sessions. And at the end of the day, or course it's up to the player to make the right decision in the game."
On the status of Calvin Harris after playing just the first half in Miami and not making the trip to Florida for the Montreal match.
"He's a great guy to work with, he's got very good attributes."
"With Calvin, as you know he came from the draft, and that's not the reason we didn't take him, but I'm saying this because he's a young guy. He came from college, came into the team, and he's been doing very well for us. He still is doing very well, making progress. You can also see at times that it's a different way to play when you play in the college games and when you play in MLS. There's certain things that he needs to improve, and certain things that he's already doing quite well, but he still needs to learn. He still needs to make these steps to be consistent in what he's trying to do. Then there's also the issue with a certain depth within your roster, you need to make choices going into the game, but also as coaches you know how you want to go into that game and the personnel that you maybe need and the personnel you might change. That's how you make the choices for your roster."
"But for Calvin, everything is fine. He's a great guy to work with, he's got very good attributes, and eventually during the season you're going to see that even more. So no worries for him. It's also a learning curve eh? From a player that's not being used at times and then maybe being in the roster. It's all in the process."
On if he was aware that he was named Manager of the Week by MLS.
"Well, a couple of days after the game they told me. Yeah. I don't really worry about that, because it's about the team being consistent in what we can do. They mentioned it, and it's there and Ok you can say "That's Nice" but's a team effort. It's not only me, it's about the other coaches as well working out with the team. Myself leading that group, but it's important how the players are playing and what they're doing. If you don't have players that are performing, you don't get manager of the week."
"So, it's not something that I look for to be honest. The team performance is important, so we get the players to a certain level to do what we want to do in that particular game."
On how he views Joe Gyau's performance at Right Back, a new position for him.
"I think Joe is doing well as a right back. He's got the physique, he's got the pace, the quality on the ball. But what you need to learn from being a Winger, going into a more defensive position is your positioning on the pitch at times. That's what we're working on with him."
"If you look at modern football today, you see a lot of Wingers that have been brought into defensive positions because they've got these attributes to go forward in the attack. To be that extra attacker going forward, and that's what we're looking for from Joe as well. Joe is learning, he's very eager to learn. Every week, we sit down and talk about what he's doing. Sometimes he's doing very good things, other times he's taken a position where you're thinking "Ok, maybe a couple yards to the left or to the right." All these small details, you need to learn from experience. But I'm quite happy in what he's bringing."
On if the team is more comfortable playing at their new stadium and in front of more fans.
"Yeah, the first game is always very exciting and it's also strange. It's a different feeling playing in front of your fans again. Now the second game it's a little bit different of course because we are more used to it. You know how everything's going to go at the stadium, how the fans are, what they're trying to do. Bringing a great atmosphere, with more fans it's going to be even more exciting, and the players are very eager to do well for them as well. So they're looking very much forward to the game to show their ability and hopefully have a good result as well."
Last week, Stam decided to implement the 3-5-2 formation. The result was a win against Montreal. Stam was asked if fans should expect more formation changes in the future.
"The result always makes it a little different to look at the system" he said with a chuckle. "We've done it last season, several times. We started with that as well. It is a very interesting system to play, because you can defend in a certain way and if you go forward attacking and you're comfortable, then it's even more attacking then a 4-3-3. Because your Wingbacks go up and you've got two Strikers up. So you have four, and then your midfielders are joining in as well so you can have five or six players in front of goal."
"With the 4-3-3 it's a different system. You can still do it, but then you've got 1 v 1 at the back and now (with the 3-5-3) you've got three. It's about playing solid, that's what we're look for as well. We're looking for what's best for our team at the moment. How do they feel most comfortable, and also to look at the opposition and what they're trying to do. Also, how can we make it easier for us and also more dangerous going forward."
And finally as a follow up question, Coach Stam was asked about playing Caleb Stanko as the third Center back in that system and if he provides the ability to switch back to the 4-3-3 without making a sub.
This observation by Laurel Pfauler (with the Queen City Press) made Stam smile. "You've seen that very well. We do everything for a reason, and it's like you're saying. He (Stanko) has been used to playing that system in Germany. In the three at the back. He can also play at midfield as you know. So if you need to change anything, then you can do that. At the back, he also gives a certain ability that we're looking for."
On how he felt about the system and position shift for him and how he feels he performed in the win against Montreal.
"I'll talk about the team first because that's more important. I think the team did really well. I think playing with three at the back gave us a better opportunity to keep the ball and to shift their forward to where they were uncomfortable or where they were too lazy to get across. It's tiring to be in that heat, so that was a great choice."
"And for my performance, yeah I think I did well. I was really motivated of course. I've been wanting to get in. It's been a while since I started, and I'm super thrilled to have played."
On if he feels that the club with continue to use the 3-5-2 after having success with it against Montreal.
"Um, I don't know if it's my place to speak because the coaches know more than me, so they're gonna make calls. But I personally think that this fits our player profile better. Our outside backs are able to go forward more in this system. We have super fast outside backs with Mata (Matarrita) and Joe (Gyau) who can get up and down really well, and I really like that it also gives up more security at the back. So yeah, of course, I played so I want it to stay that way, but even if I was playing Center midfielder I think this system fits us better in my opinion."
"It doesn't mean we can't player different systems, but it seems like going back to last season, that's where we had success when we played five at the back. We played in Orlando with five at the back at "MLS is Back" and we did very well."
Caleb played Center Back when he played in Germany, but not for FC Cincinnati since he's been here. He was asked about how he adapted to the position change.
"I feel like playing with three at the back, it's like I'm a Center Midfielder that's dropping wide."
"It's really easy to get back into the swing of things at a different position. It's also different when you have five at the back versus when you have just four, because you have a different style of play.
"I feel like playing with three at the back, it's like I'm a Center Midfielder that's dropping wide. That's how I kind of approach it. Of course, you have different rolls when it comes to defending. As a Center Mid, I want to step out and pressure and playing with three at the back you have to be careful of that, but building up with the ball it felt like I was just a Center Mid that was dropping wide. So it was easy for me to get back into the flow of things."
After two games of struggling to score, FC Cincy has scored two goals in each of their last two matches. Caleb was asked if he's seen a different approach to attacking or if things are just finally coming together.
"Um, yeah. Going back to those games where we didn't play very well, we weren't able to keep the ball. So when we finally did win it, we just gave it right back to them and that didn't give us any rhythm. Where as against Montreal, we were able to hold onto it, catch our breath and wait for the right pass going forward. So we were able to give that pass because we weren't tired because we were able to hold onto it. Then our forwards had the strength and the power to create something."
"Sometimes our forwards were up there and when the opportunity to get a shot off wasn't there, we brought it back around and circulated the ball again and that created another opportunity on the other side. So because we were able to hold onto the ball, that created opportunities for us going forward but also opportunities for us to catch our breath and that helped us out in the end."
On what his assessment is of the New England Revolution, who are the top team in the East at the moment.
"I think they're a really strong team. I think it's going to be very difficult, but we have home field advantage. We're coming home after a win. We're feeling good and we're going to give it everything we got against them. We're going to make it really difficult for them."
During his interview on Thursday, Manager Jaap Stam demonstrated detailed knowledge about Stanko and his playing time in Germany. Caleb was asked what that means for a manager and if the team has a good relationship with him.
"I mean, it shows that he cares about his players, and it shows that he knows where they've played before, and what kind of style they've been in. I didn't know he said that, that's awesome. I appreciate that. But yeah, the coach... he knows his players, he cares about his players and he's going to use players where they may have played in the past that others may not even know. Guys may think of me as just a No. 6, but they don't know that I actually played Center Back in the Bundesliga in Germany. The coach does, and that's great."
Finally, Caleb spoke about the team's excitement level playing in their new stadium again and this time in front of more of more fans.
"The fans helped so much."
"We're all really excited to play at home. I feel like against Miami, the fans helped so much. Now that there are even more, this is going to be huge for us. It's really going to help out."
By: Rob Burkhardt