New striker Danni Konig hopes to make best of fresh start with FC Cincinnati
Two goals versus Bethlehem a good start
Laurel Pfahler | WCPO Contributor
7:00 AM, May 26, 2017
CINCINNATI -- Danni Konig’s first season playing soccer in the United States was like a dream.
The Danish forward, now two games into a stint with FC Cincinnati, scored 21 goals to lead Oklahoma City Energy FC to the United Soccer League Western Conference finals in 2015 and finished one tally short of the league’s Golden Boot award.
His second season in Oklahoma was one he would rather forget, but now he’s trying to make the most of another new opportunity.
FC Cincinnati gave Konig another fresh start by picking him up in a trade that sent Andy Craven to the Energy on May 10, and the 30-year-old Konig already is taking advantage. He scored two goals to power FCC to a 2-1 win over Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday, and Konig -- as much as the second-year club -- is hoping it’s a sign he is returning to his 2015 form.
Konig is set to make his third start in as many games as FCC hosts Toronto FC II at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“I got a new opportunity here, new surroundings, everything,” Konig said after practice Tuesday. “That changes the mentality for a player like me. I got a fresh start and I've gotten off to a good start, so hopefully I can continue to build on those two goals.”
Konig scored just five goals with four assists over 32 games with Oklahoma City in 2016 and had yet to score a goal after four appearances with two starts through the first six games of the season with the Energy.
Despite his lack of production the last year, FCC coach Alan Koch was confident Konig could fill the void left by Djiby Fall’s six-game suspension and help boost the club's scoring.
“I saw him play for the last two years as a direct competitor,” said Koch, who served as Vancouver Whitecaps 2 coach in 2015-2016 in the USL Western Conference, where Konig scored two goals against his club in five meetings. “I saw the work rate that he puts in and the intelligence in his movement and also his clinical ability to score. The first year he destroyed the entire USL, and the second year I think a lot of people figured him out but I think also the team he played for adjusted the way they played and that didn't allow him to be as successful as he was his first year."
The 6-foot-2 striker fills the centerpiece role of FCC’s attack out of the 4-3-3 formation, a spot where the club was sorely lacking through the start of Fall’s suspension, which has two league games remaining.
Konig had no shots in his debut with FCC in a 2-0 loss to Orlando City on May 13 but was brilliant in Saturday’s win over Bethlehem. He earned USL Team of the Week honors for his two goals, and he almost had a third one but his first header to cross the goal line was waived off because of a foul.
“I've only been here two weeks now, so I still have a lot of guys to get to know better and get to know the style better, but it's always nice to show the fans and the team they can count on me,” Konig said. “I'm happy about the game and the guys did a great job setting me up for those goals, so it's a team thing and it was an amazing performance.”
Konig said last year was tough on him mentally, and he just never could get back to where he was in 2015. The opportunity to join FCC was a welcome one.
"As a striker, it’s important to get the confidence," he said. "I didn't get the confidence rolling on from the last year and when you come into a slump, you start doubting yourself, but that's life. It's turning around now. Those two goals gave me a big confidence boost, and I'll keep that confidence with me for a long time.”
Confidence came quickly in his first season after leaving his native Denmark.
Konig said he was ready for something new then, too. After scoring 45 goals in 106 appearances with Bronshoj BK to begin his senior career in 2005-09, he produced just six goals in 50 games between 2011 and 2014.
He scored two goals in his second game with OKC Energy, a 2-1 win over Colorado Springs on April 4, 2015.
“You have to adapt, but it was pretty fast for me,” Konig said. “I came in my first season and started scoring a lot of goals, so sometimes it's easier than others but I adapted very quick.
“This is way more athletic over here. In Denmark, it was more tactical and a little more technical. Here it's a lot more athleticism and a lot of countering back and forth. It's a different style, but I like it very much.”
That transition was eased by a friendly face in Oklahoma City, as Sebastian Dalgaard came over from Denmark at the same time he did.
Although Konig said “everyone is welcoming” with FCC, this is the first club he has come to where he didn’t know a single person. Starting alongside the same 10 guys two weeks in a row helped for his second game, and now, he’s even more comfortable after showing what he can do.
Konig had two days of training with FCC before he started his first game.
“It takes time but when you come in and score two big goals and your team wins 2-1, things get accelerated quickly,” Koch said. “You can already tell now in the last few days he's fully integrated with the boys, whereas before, coming into a new group it's always tough because you've got to prove yourself.”
FCC’s style of play doesn’t compare much to the way OKC Energy played in 2015, but in Cincinnati, Konig is surrounded by similar attacking-style players as that group he was with to start out.
Koch believes FCC’s evolving supporting cast will make it tough for opponents to game-plan for Konig, and it will only get more difficult with Fall due back for league play June 10 against Charlotte. Fall and Konig -- two similarly built players -- could make for an interesting combination in the lineup.
Regardless of the talent around Konig, Koch is impressed with how quickly he has adapted after a rollercoaster few years -- going from league MVP finalist to role player to a whole new club midseason.
“The psyche is a big part of this business,” Koch said. “You have to feel good, you have to feel confident. I think he literally felt he was having to work extra hard and started to put a little extra pressure on him last year. Here we bring him in and we give him a platform where we know he's going to be successful, and I think he knows that too.”