FC Cincinnati Head Coach: Next Season Is 'Only Going to Get More Difficult'

Pat Noonan acknowledges that FC Cincinnati might be the victim of its own success.

click to enlarge FC Cincinnati head coach speaks to reporters in 2022. - Photo: FC Cincinnati media assets
Photo: FC Cincinnati media assets
FC Cincinnati head coach speaks to reporters in 2022.

FC Cincinnati hit a ton of highs during the 2022 season: Its first-ever postseason berth. A postseason win against a higher seed. A club record for consecutive scoring games. A stadium named as "best in the world."

But that just means the bar is set even higher for 2023.

During a recent media briefing, FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan noted the team's huge improvement over previous seasons.

"I think, looking back at the season as a whole, you could take a lot of positives from the year that we had. I think the most important aspect of it was the fact that this group was competing in the playoffs this year," Noonan said. "I was really pleased that this group got to experience some playoff soccer and win on the road and see what that looks like and then go and really push Philly in a very difficult atmosphere for the conference semifinals. "I think that's important that we got to this point, and to be able to take those experiences and hopefully start 2023 strong is a good thing."

But with that success comes even higher expectations from fans, players, coaches and staff.

"What I've also said is now we're not surprising anybody in 2023. It's only going to get more difficult, which is a good thing," Noonan said. "I've been around this league long enough to know that year in and year out is very difficult to maintain success. It's only going to get more difficult. 2022 was about culture, identity, ways to progress the team to be competitive, and we got there. Now we need to improve on that and have some specific things that we're going to target from the very beginning."
Noonan acknowledges that FC Cincinnati might be the victim of its own success, as other teams may try to poach players or coaches.

"Anytime you have success – individually or collectively – people take notice of that and you become a wanted commodity. And, so, I think it's great that our players are being recognized from their performances this year, and from that, opportunities will arise. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there," Noonan said. "But we are preparing for certain conversations in terms of potential player movement and what's the plan if players have bigger and better opportunities. Same as the staff. But those are good things when you have potential player movement because of the performances on the field. And the same with the coaching staff.

"I think we're prepared for some more than others. There's always surprises in terms of opportunities that come about or reasons why players or staff members move on. But if that's the case, it's because they're doing a good job," Noonan continued. "And we have no interest, and I have no interest, in losing any member of our staff this year; they know I don't want them going anywhere. But they also know that if something presents itself that I'll be the first to advocate for them having an opportunity to do something bigger and better."

Noonan already is considering what the 2023 season looks like and what the team will work on during the off-season.

"I still think defensively, [if] you look at the goals that we conceded this year, we need to be better defensively, in terms of not conceding as many goals," Noonan said. "I think that's still an area that, despite seeing progress and improvements with as the year finished out, we can be better there. So, we'll look at some ways in which we can improve that."
He's also thinking about how to elevate the attacking game.

"I think, certainly, on the attacking side, the goal production was there but it was also – we were relying on the same players for a long stretch. So, how do we find more balance in that and be able to produce the same types of numbers of goals, but being able to do that with more players contributing?" he suggested.

Cincinnati went 12-9 with 13 draws in the regular season, clinching its spot in the playoffs with a win over D.C. United during the final regular-season game Oct. 9. The Orange and Blue followed that up with an MLS Cup playoff victory against the New York Red Bulls. The season came to a close on Oct. 20 with a playoff loss to Eastern Conference top seed Philadelphia Union.

FC Cincy's 12 regular-season wins were much better than the six or fewer wins the team had earned during each of the previous three seasons since 2019. The 2022 season also marked the first time Cincinnati did not finish in last place in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta and forward Brandon Vazquez both were selected for the MLS All-Star Game earlier this year. Brenner scored three goals in three separate games, the most of anyone in the league during the 2022 regular season. He also was one of three finalists for MLS Young Player of the Year.

In an Oct. 23 letter to fans, FC Cincinnati controlling owner and co-CEO Carl H. Lindner III noted the club's historic achievements and improved output in 2022 over previous years, adding that fan support had been at the heart of it.

"You, our incredible supporters, have been the foundation upon which all of this was built," Lindner wrote. "You have endured a few difficult years, and we are proud to have finally delivered exciting soccer and winning results during a successful MLS season. Your loyalty is greatly appreciated."

FC Cincinnati's 2023 season schedule has not yet been announced, but season tickets already are on sale.

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