John Harkes Looking Forward

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(Editorial) – Former France international striker and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry once said, “sometimes in football you have to score goals.” -[Clock End]. FC Cincinnati head coach and National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee John Harkes clearly agrees. The upstart USL club, who is currently siting 3rd in USL’s Eastern Conference, has gone to the transfer market to secure more offensive firepower.

John Harkes Looking Forward

This Thursday, September 8th, FC Cincinnati announced the signing of striker Casey Townsend from Wilmington Hammerheads FCTownsend comes with MLS credentials, having been the fifth overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. The Traverse City, Michigan native made 29 appearances for Chivas USA and DC United before heading to the lower levels of U.S. soccer, plying his trade with 4 different clubs in the USL and NASL. In an interesting twist of fate, FC Cincinnati will face the Wilmington Hammerheads this Sunday in North Carolina. As part of the transfer agreement, Townsend will not be permitted to play in the game.

It may come as a surprise to those who have followed this USL season that FC Cincinnati needs attacking reinforcements. Sean Okoli is the 2nd leading goalscorer in the league with 14 goals this season, and is still in the hunt for the USL’s Golden Boot. Further, the Ohio club is 7th of 29 teams in goals scored. They also rank 3rd in the Eastern Conference in shots on target. So why the need for more offense?

One explanation originates from the August 24th knee injury sustained by veteran striker Omar Cummings. The former Jamaican international and MLS standout has been a pivotal component of Harkes‘ offense this season, featuring on the right side of an attacking front three. He has contributed goals and was the team’s assist leader (tied) when the injury occurred. The club won’t put a timeline on his return, but it seems unlikely he will suit up for the Orange and Blue again this season.

A second explanation for this transfer business is a recent dip in offensive productivity, which started before the Cummings loss. Over a four game stretch in the month of August, the team averaged a paltry 2.75 shots on target per game, less than half of their average over the course of the season. They lost two games and drew two more over that four game stretch. They also lost pace with Eastern Conference leaders New York Red Bulls II and Louisville City FC as a result.

The final explanation for this dip into the market can be found in the footballing philosophy of Harkes himself and the club he is managing. From the day the club was formed he and General Manager Jeff Berding have put an emphasis on selling FC Cincinnati as a club that plays an attractive attacking brand of soccer. Prior to the season’s start, Jeff Berding commented in an interview “we want a brand that is very exciting, very energetic, … and gives ourselves lots of opportunities on the attack. We’re not just looking to be fortified at the back, being hopeful we can win a game 1-0. We’re introducing professional soccer at the highest level. We’re looking to create fans.” – [Cincinnati Soccer Talk]

FC Cincinnati is looking forward to the playoffs, and they secured their bid to the postseason two weeks ago. Time will tell how the first year club will fare, but Harkes and the front office are making proactive moves to ensure they have goals in their game and lock up a seed with home field advantage benefits.
Photo Credit: Orange and Blue Press.