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FC Cincinnati looks to keep the momentum as they hit the road

Posted: 7:47 PM, Aug 21, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-21 23:47:22Z

CINCINNATI -- FC Cincinnati has grown comfortable at home this summer, but coach Alan Koch isn't concerned about falling out of rhythm on the road.

Coming off a seven-game home stand across all competition and after playing 10 of their last 12 matches at home, the United Soccer League Eastern Conference leaders will play away from Nippert Stadium for the first time since July 7 when they travel to face Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday.

Cincinnati (15-3-6) opened the season mainly playing on the road during their 5-1-2 start, which included a 4-2 win against Atlanta before the club dropped their second loss, and they were 4-0-1 on the road in that stretch.

Koch hopes to draw from those experiences as his team finishes the season with seven of its last 10 games away from home.

"We enjoyed playing on the road to start the season," he said. "That's why we had the success we had. We've played well at home, but I think we're all excited to go on the road as well."

After Atlanta, FCC heads straight to Tampa Bay. The team will fly out of Atlanta on Thursday morning and train in Tampa that afternoon and Friday before a match against the Rowdies on Saturday.

FCC will be looking to build on a 13-game unbeaten streak in USL play, while going 9-0-4, including a 7-0-2 mark at home.

"We're obviously doing very well right now in terms of results, looking to kind of keep that momentum going this week," defender Blake Smith said. "Atlanta's going to have a good squad, some younger guys that are on the cusp of getting MLS minutes and might not get them this week, so we might see a tough side, definitely in Atlanta. Every game we approach the same way, so it's just another match for us. First game on the road [in] a while, it's going to be a good test, so we're looking forward to it."

This will be the first road trip for FCC since adding three new players a little more than three weeks ago. Fanendo Adi, a former Portland Timbers forward, and Fatai Alashe, a former midfielder for the San Jose Earthquakes, made their club debuts at home over the past three games, but defender Pa Konate, on loan from Serie A's S.P.A.L., will be looking to get his first appearance.

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Koch said the experience of traveling together will be good for everyone.

"It was fun playing at home, it was fun having our fans behind us," Koch said. "I know we'll have fans down there obviously supporting us in Atlanta, which is awesome, but it's nice to go on the road with the team. It brings a group together.

"I think with a couple of changes we've made in the last week, it's going to be good to have everybody there and go fight for each other on the road, because it's not easy being on the road. You deal with far different variables in terms of not sleeping in your own beds, having different meals, playing in different stadiums -- this is our first time as a club playing in this stadium, so it'll be a new environment -- but these are the challenges we like to embrace."

Going on the road used to be more worrisome. FCC was just 4-8-4 in away matches last year during a 12-10-10 campaign, which means just 16 of their 46 points came on the road.

FCC is 6-1-3 on the road this season and could tie the club's 2016 record for away wins in a season with a victory this week.

"The most important thing is going out and having the strength and desire to go out and get results no matter how you play and where you play," Koch said. "We've done that so far this season. We did it at the start, it wasn't easy, and we don't expect it to be easy."

Cincinnati will be without MVP frontrunner Emmanuel Ledesma on Wednesday against 13th-place Atlanta, after he picked up his eighth caution of the season Saturday and is serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.

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However, it could be a good time for a break as FCC would have been rotating players anyway to account for three games in eight days, and fortunately it's a deep squad.

"Obviously, we are in a great position," center back Dekel Keinan said. "We have a great squad and [the] guys proved it in the last few weeks. For me, at the moment, it doesn't matter which 11 is going to start the game. We are a very strong, very solid team. We have to make sure we aren't giving away [points] and keep winning."

FCC could clinch a playoff spot on the road this week, as the earliest that is possible is Saturday depending on results around the league.

Cincinnati is a combined 12 points away from clinching a playoff spot, a point total that comes from FCC's points gained combined with seventh-place Ottawa Fury FC's points lost.

The earliest a home playoff game could be clinched is Sept. 1 at home against Pittsburg. FCC is a combined 19 points away from clinching a home playoff match, based on the club's points gained combined with Indy Eleven's points lost.

"It's too early to think about those things," Koch said. "We just have to go out and take care of business, take what we've done during this (home stretch) and keep building on it. We're playing well, but we've still got a long way to go."