On the verge of historic start, Alan Koch urges Cincinnati to stay focused

MILFORD, Ohio – Let’s hop in the time machine for a moment and look at recent expansion clubs through their first five games. 

New York City FC and Orlando City SC started their inaugural seasons 1-2-2. Minnesota United kicked off their 2017 campaign 1-3-1, and even mighty Atlanta United started at a relatively modest 2-1-2.

Someone forgot to tell FC Cincinnati to stumble out of the gate. With a win at home on Saturday against the Philadelphia Union (7:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info), FCC have a chance to start their inaugural campaign at 3-1-1, in what would be an expansion club’s best start through five matches in MLS history.

But don’t bring that little note up to head coach Alan Koch. When asked about the record, Koch wryly responded, “What do you think my answer will be?”

Kidding aside, Koch added: “We go one game at a time. We went to New Englandand won, it was brilliant. But we focus on one thing at a time; records and things like that don’t mean anything. Right now, we’re focused on getting ourselves ready for Philly. We’ll embrace the game, embrace the location, and try to do everything we can to fight to get three points for our club and our city.”

Midfielder Victor Ulloa echoed his boss. Under Koch, the team has worked hard to instill a mindset that takes the season day-by-day.

“We’ve had a spectacular start, but we know we can get better at certain things,” Ulloa explained. “As a team we try to work on it every day, and once we get to the weekends, we try to do to the best of our ability what the coaching staff wants. Thankfully, we’ve gotten good results after that first defeat, and as a group, I think we’re growing every day.”

Not even the most diehard Cincinnati supporter saw a start like this coming, especially considering the team’s daunting early schedule.

Ulloa thinks it has something to do with the makeup of the roster, noting, “I think bringing in a brand-new group of guys, especially guys that had a lot to prove of themselves, is a smart choice by all the coaching staff and all people involved.”

From a tactical standpoint, Ulloa thinks FCC are finding their footing in build-up play after a shaky start. After letting in four goals in the season opener at Seattle, Cincy have since only allowed one goal in their last three games, including a shutout in the last two.

“We’ve focused on our defensive shape, and now that we feel more comfortable, we’re thinking about offense and creating more chances,” noted the FC Dallas Homegrown. “We want to keep that going.”

It’s a long season, and no one is ready to anoint FCC as the Las Vegas Golden Knights of MLS just yet. History is littered with teams that started hot, but fizzled in the dog days of summer. However, as Koch noted, in a league with such parity, every result should be cherished.

“The coaches and I spoke earlier about which games might be easier on the schedule, and we realized, there’s no easy games in this league,” Koch explained. “Every single team is quality, every single team is well-prepared, so we have to embrace those challenges every game.”