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Sports

FC Cincinnati 'coming together' as season kicks off Saturday

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
Players trained at TQL Stadium ahead of Saturday's season opener against Austin FC.

FC Cincinnati's season starts Saturday in Austin as the team sets to improve from its last place finish in Major League Soccer in 2021.

During last season, FC Cincinnati made crucial changes to team staff including firing both former general manager Gerald Nijkamp and head coach Jaap Stam just months apart. Last October, former Philadelphia Union technical director Chris Albright was hired as the new GM, and Union assistant coach Pat Noonan was named head coach. Jeff Berding is no longer the team's president after being promoted to co-CEO alongside controlling owner Carl Lindner III.

For the past three seasons, FC Cincinnati has finished at the bottom of Major League Soccer, winning back-to-back Independent Supporters Council Wooden Spoons. Noonan says the team is taking good steps in preparation for the upcoming season, but the team still has a long way to go.

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
Prior to being hired as head coach by FC Cincinnati, Noonan was an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Union from 2018 to 2021. As an assistant coach, Noonan won a Supporters Shield with the Philadelphia Union in 2020 and an MLS Cup with the LA Galaxy in 2014. He won an additional two MLS Cups during his playing career.

"I like the mentality of this group, I like the way they're coming together in different ways on and off the field to show that they want to look after each other," Noonan said. "They want to get better on the field and their relationships off the field, and that's important in the team dynamic. I'm pleased with those areas and how we've progressed."

Right back Alvas Powell is returning to the club following a stint with the Philadelphia Union last season under both Albright and Noonan. Powell played with FC Cincinnati during their inaugural MLS season in 2019. Compared to his first season with the club, Powell says there's a different feeling on the pitch with the new coach in place.

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
Defender Alvas Powell signed a contract with FC Cincinnati through the 2022 season, with a club option for 2023. He played with the team during its inaugural MLS season in 2019.

"Everybody is happy," Powell said. "As you can see, the training is really hard. Every day it's a lot of work and Pat is a good guy on and off the field. He's passionate about winning."

On Saturday, FC Cincinnati will play Austin FC at Austin's Q2 Stadium at 6 p.m. You can watch the match on ESPN+. FC Cincinnati will play D.C. United in its home opener Mar. 5 at 6 p.m.