Images courtesy of New York Red Bulls II
FC Cincinnati was defeated 2-0 by the Eastern Conference’s first place NY Red Bulls II in Harrison, New Jersey on Sunday evening. Both of New York’s goals came from the penalty spot. The first penalty kick was awarded in the 14th minute and was accompanied by a red card dismissal for FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt. New York’s leading scorer Brandon Allen converted the penalty. The early red card reduced the Orange and Blue to 10 men and dramatically changed the complexion of the game.
Sean Okoli had a gilt-edged chance to equalize in the 63rd minute. In a rare FC Cincinnati attack that was started by Okoli’s own good hold-up play, Andrew Wiedeman delivered a delicious cross into the heart of the box from FC Cincinnati’s right. Okoli beat his marker and lunged to toe poke the ball home but could not connect.
New York’s Derrick Etienne Jr. added an insurance goal from the penalty spot in the 91st minute after FC Cincinnati had battled valiantly for 77 minutes to keep the match at 1-0.
Both goals were accompanied by controversial refereeing decisions. The penalty call leading to the first goal was reviewed by VAR (Video Assistant Referee), an experimental USL video replay system installed for New York Red Bulls II home games. The play leading to the foul had initially been called offside by the assistant referee before the foul and penalty were awarded. After VAR review, the referee overturned the offside call, awarded the penalty and issued a red card to Hildebrandt. When the penalty was called initially, no card was issued. The video seems to show forward Brandon Allen in a clear offside position when Tyler Adams shoots (see 8th minute).
The second penalty kick was awarded to New York based on a Sean Okoli slide tackle challenge in the box on Derrick Etienne Jr. Okoli appeared to get the ball first, despite Etienne’s dramatic fall and subsequent tumble. Astonishingly, VAR did not appear to be used to confirm the penalty decision and Etienne converted the penalty to ice the game.
Despite the result, FC Cincinnati stamped their ticket to the USL playoffs over the weekend. On Saturday, the two teams that could have potentially displaced the Orange and Blue for a playoff spot, Bethlehem and Wilmington, had negative results. These results mathematically confirmed that FCC would be part of the 8 teams that qualify for the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
Omar Cummings missed the match due to a knee injury sustained during last Wednesday’s match against the Rochester Rhinos. There is still no official prognosis on Cummings so stay tuned for information on the extent of his injury. Interestingly, center back Harrison Delbridge was omitted from the starting lineup for tonight’s contest. He did enter the match in the 54th as a substitute in place of Paul Nicholson. One assumes his absence was likely a combination of fatigue and minor injury and the coaching staff opted to rest him given the 3 match gauntlet FC Cincinnati is facing over an 8 day period.
Sean Okoli – FC Cincinnati’s target man battled hard as the lead forward all night. He did his best to hold up play and take pressure off the defense despite New York’s relentless attack after Hildebrandt was sent off.
Dallas Jaye – FC Cincinnati’s backup goalkeeper saw his first action of the season, entering the match after Hildebrandt’s dismissal. Although he couldn’t stop either penalty kick, he acquitted himself very well overall. He made two fine saves from close range in the first half to keep the game at 1-0 and give FCC a chance.
The stats from this match are more depressing than interesting from an FC Cincinnati perspective. The early red card allowed New York to dominate possession and offensive opportunities as expected. Despite being a man up, the Baby Bulls managed to commit twice as many fouls as FC Cincinnati, 16 to 8. New York substitute Noah Powder was also issued a straight red in stoppage time for a dangerous tackle on Corben Bone.
The loss drops FC Cincinnati from 3rd to 4th place in the Eastern Conference with 6 games remaining. The Richmond Kickers now occupy 3rd place on goal difference but have played one more match. There won’t be time for Harkes’ men to dwell on this result. They must now turn their attention to an away game against the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday, August 31st. That match is make-up tie for a game cancelled earlier in the season due to severe weather and poor field conditions.
Return to Orange and Blue Press for more analysis and color commentary on FC Cincinnati leading up to the Charlotte match.