CINCINNATI — Teammates and coaches describe FC Cincinnati midfielder Corben Bone as “a great guy” who is easy to get along with, likes to have fun and is “a bit of a jokester.”
But it’s also not uncommon to find him off on his own, secluded in a local coffee shop, reading or jotting down thoughts.
Bone calls that his therapy.
That intellectual side likely has played a factor in why he has been such a key cog in FC Cincinnati’s midfield — another emerging leader on a first-year club that sits in third in the United Soccer League Eastern Conference table heading into Saturday night’s game against Toronto FC at Nippert Stadium.
“He has the speed, technique and footwork to break out of pressure, and he’s a smart player,” FCC head coach John Harkes said. “His ability to create and connect with the group is excellent. He’s witty and intelligent and hard-working, and he’s maturing and taking control in the midfield and showing he can be more of a leader.”
Like many other players on the team, Bone has found a “fresh start” in Cincinnati after a five-year career in Major League Soccer fizzled.
He was taken in the first round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire and played just 18 matches in four seasons before moving on to the Philadelphia Union in December 2013 as an MLS Re-Entry Draft pick.
Bone appeared just twice before he was sent on loan to the USL’s Wilmington Hammerheads FC in August 2014, where he stayed permanently – playing 20 matches last year – until signing with FC Cincinnati this past offseason.
The 27-year-old from Plano, Texas, had already established a relationship with FCC assistant Ryan Martin, who was on staff at Wake Forest when Bone finished his three-year college career there as ACC Offensive Player of the Year in 2009. The two kept in touch and both decided Harkes’ desired style of play would be a good fit for Bone.
“Eventually I came to the conclusion that this would be a good opportunity for me to come here and play for a team that wanted to play similar to teams I've been successful on in the past,” said Bone, who has three assists while starting all 12 USL games for FCC. “The decision came down to I really wanted to get back to playing and being on the field regularly for a successful team that plays good soccer, and it was all kind of easy from there.”
Harkes indeed has pushed the attack-style possession game the veteran midfielder was seeking, and it has worked for FCC, especially throughout its current eight-game unbeaten streak.
Bone fits right into what the team is trying to do.
“I love playing with Corben,” said fellow midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin, who played with Bone in Philadelphia as well. “He's a special player. He finds really good pockets of space, and he's super dangerous on the ball and he's a player who makes everyone on the field a better player.”
Interests Outside of Soccer
Bone said he is glad to be in the position he’s in with FCC, which turned out to be even better than expected. He isn’t sure what he would be doing now if he hadn’t taken the path to a pro soccer career, though.
Sports have always been a big part of his life — thanks to parents, who also were athletes — so he probably would have wound up in a sports-related field regardless, possibly combining it with the communication degree he was pursuing at Wake Forest.
However, Bone also said he has other interests that might have steered him in different directions. He has always been fascinated by the ocean, so maybe marine biology would have been his fate.
“I'm intrigued by a lot of other things, and I love learning, so I’d like to think there are a lot of things I could have done,” he said.
But, soccer actually led him into his hobby of reading and writing, and he would like to think he still would have found that passion regardless of his professional choices.
Bone just recently got into blogging and other types of public writing, which he enjoys in his free time. He has his own personal website where he posts his writing, as well as photos, and he has also begun a “Corben’s Corner” blog on FCCincinnati.com, which was inspired by sites like the Players’ Tribune, where athletes write articles to give others a unique perspective into their experiences.
“When I left college and became a professional soccer player, a lot of free time comes with that, and one of the hobbies I took on was reading,” Bone said. “Once I started getting into reading, I feel like writing kind of follows suit, and you get into writing and jotting things down and you like certain writing styles. I started jotting things down.
“It's a fun hobby, and now, it's kind of what I want to get into after soccer – maybe some kind of journalism or any kind of writing, really.”
His writing takes on many forms right now, some of it is stream of consciousness and some of it is poetry, but he’s always had a creative, deep-thinking side to him.
That is evident in his 15 carefully thought-out tattoos that are mostly hidden under his uniform shirt. Each one, on the under part of his forearm, biceps, torso, chest or back, is text with a significant meaning to him – a quote, line from a book or poem or the title of a song in some cases. One says “hope,” and another is his jersey No. 19 in Roman numeral form.
“Some are reminders,” he said. “They are all things I've come across. I like art and that kind of stuff, so I like the creativity in the artists I've met.”
Bone got his first tattoo in Chicago in 2011 and ended up with four more in a two-month span. The first one, which says, "Can I live,” in handmade script text on his right biceps, is based on one of his favorite Jay-Z songs with that as the title. His second one, “Free of fear,” is the counterpart to that on his other arm.
“Growing up, Jay-Z was my favorite, and I loved the song and the message behind it, meaning like, 'Don't ever worry what other people are thinking about you or what they are saying about you or what they think you should be doing. Live the life you think you deserve or want and be positive and things will fall into place,’” Bone said.
“The second part of that, ‘Free of fear,’ is kind of being fearful of that and maybe falling short because you were too scared to take a risk.”
Who: Toronto FC II at FC Cincinnati
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, June 18
Where: Nippert Stadium
Tickets: Visit FC Cincinnati's website.