The second leg of Palace’s pre-season tour will see them travel from Philadelphia to Cincinnati to play the USL side. Ahead of the game in Ohio we fill you in on everything you need to know about our second opponents.
FC Cincinnati are less than a year old having been announced in August 2015 and are currently in their first season playing in the United Soccer League – the third tier of American soccer behind MLS and the NASL.
The club played their first ever game in February, coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with KR Reykjavik. They then beat MLS conference-toppers New York City FC and Danish side HB Koge – who Scott Dann has spent time on loan at – to win the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic pre-season tournament in Florida.
Cincinnati play at Nippert Stadium which is home to the University of Cincinnati’s Bearcats American Football side. It was originally built in 1915 and currently has a capacity of over 40,000. In May Cincinnati broke the USL attendance record when 23,375 saw them play the Pittsburgh Riverhounds – a far cry from the league’s average of 3,369.
American soccer legend John Harkes was announced as the team’s first ever head coach on the same day the club was officially founded. He will be well-known to English fans of a certain age as he was the first American to play in the Premier League whilst he was at Sheffield Wednesday in the early 1990s. He also played for Derby County, West Ham United and Nottingham Forest and won 90 caps for his country.
5. LAST SEASON
Ahead of their inaugural season, Harkes was handed the task of assembling a squad from scratch. In December the first 11 players were announced, spearheaded by Austin Berry – a Cincinnati native who was named MLS Rookie of the Year in 2012. During the next three months Harkes expanded his squad to 25 players.
6. THIS SEASON
Cincinnati currently sit third in the 14-team USL after 17 matches, with the top eight qualifying for the end of season play-offs. They are five points behind leaders Louisville City but have a game in hand, but exited the US Open Cup at the third round stage after being defeated by the Tampa Ray Rowdies.
7. CURRENT CROP
Berry was the side’s marquee signing having previously played for Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union but was sent on loan to South Korea last season. Englishman Paul Nicholson has spent his whole career Stateside after earning a scholarship, and Dallas Jaye (Guam) and Francisco Narbón (Panama) are current internationals.
8. FAMOUS FACES
While he may not be a household name in England, striker Omar Cummings is a former Jamaica international who won 35 caps for his country, scoring seven times, and had a trial with Aston Villa in 2010 but work permit issued scuppered the move.
9. PALACE LINKS
Harkes played alongside Mark Bright in the 1993 FA and League Cup finals for Sheffield Wednesday but they lost to Arsenal on both occasions. Berry and Antoine Hoppernott both played against Palace for Philadelphia back in 2014, while Cummings played international football alongside Adrian Mariappa.
10. FUN FACT
A number of soccer teams have played in the city before. Cincinnati Comets played in the American Soccer League between 1972 and 1975 and the Cincinnati Kids, partially owned by baseball legend Pete Rose, lasted just two years in the Major Indoor Soccer League. There have also been the Cheetahs, Silverbacks, Riverhawks, Excite, Kings, 1790 Cincinnati Express, Saints and the Dutch Lions.