Koch: FC Cincinnati "need to continue to grow" amid rugged early schedule

SEATTLE – FC Cincinnati’s inaugural MLS match against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Saturday got off to a dream start, then quickly became a reality check.

The visitors kicked off their MLS existence in grand fashion when midfielder Leonardo Bertone shocked the home crowd by lashing home a highlight-reel golazo in just the 13th minute, giving FCC hope that an upset could be in the cards.

 But things unraveled after that as the Sounders then struck for four unanswered goals, paced by a brace from winger Jordan Morris. In the end, FCC ended up on the short end of a 4-1 scoreline.

“I think the game was as difficult as we knew it would be,” coach Alan Koch told reporters after the game. “I don’t think Seattle was higher or lower than any level that we thought they’d be at. We thought they’d be at a high level and they were at a very high level. We knew it would be a tough place to come play and it was a tough place to come play.”

Despite the lopsided score, Koch said he saw reasons for optimism in the performance for a team that is still finding its footing at the MLS level, but admitted that the series of defensive lapses that led to Seattle’s goals can’t happen if Cincy are to hang with the league’s top dogs.

“I think at times we gave the ball away way too easily and that’s what allowed Seattle to punish us a few times,” Koch said. “The positives are when we’re calm and composed and when we take care of the ball we look like a very good team. We obviously have to stretch those moments and make them longer, but if you make mistakes and give the ball away to a team as quality as Seattle, they’re going to hit you.”

For FCC, the difficulty of their early-season schedule means that ironing out Saturday’s woes on the training ground is now paramount. FCC face another road trip to take on defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United on Sunday (5 pm ET | ESPN), and also have to play heavyweights Sporting Kansas City, LAFC, the New York Red Bulls and the Portland Timbers all before May 1.

“There was definitely growth tonight and we’re going to need that growth because next week is going to be even more difficult,” Koch said. “The schedule that we’ve been presented with is very difficult, so nobody should be surprised by how tonight went. There were good moments and there were tough moments. Now we need to continue to grow in those good moments and try to minimize the tough moments.

“It’s not going to be easy, because going to Atlanta is probably even more difficult than what we faced tonight.”