FC Cincinnati packs their bags and heads back to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley on Saturday. There they will face Bethlehem Steel FC on the seventh match day of their young USL season. Those who can remember all the way back to April 9th know that the Orange and Blue lost to Steel FC by a score of 2-0 under unpleasant circumstances. Justin Hoyte got injured. Paul Nicholson saw red. Not much went right. They’ll be looking for revenge in two days time. They’ll also be looking to put the drama of Djiby Fall’s recent suspension in the rear view mirror.
Who Can Fill a Djiby-Sized Six Goal Hole?
Unless you’ve been living under a soccer rock in Cincinnati, you’ll know that the USL suspended striker Djiby Fall for six games plus an undisclosed fine for his red card against LCFC, and subsequent altercation with Niall McCabe.
He’ll miss upcoming matches against Bethlehem, Richmond, Orlando City B, Bethlehem (again!), Toronto FC II, and Rochester. It’s not immediately clear whether the suspension also includes FC Cincinnati’s US Open Cup match on May 17th.
FC Cincinnati spent plenty of time and money this offseason recruiting attacking talent and depth. They’ll have to put it to good use over the next six games in order to earn points against some beatable competition. Victor Mansaray is the heir apparent to Djiby at center forward, but there are plenty of other options as well. More than one striker may get a crack at trying to fill Djiby’s shoes. Our preseason article on depth at center forward provides statistical details on the forwards Alan Koch has at his disposal. Note: Reference is made to Casey Townsend in the article. Townsend is now on loan to the Charlotte Independence.
Q&A with Evan Villella
In preparation for this weekend’s match, Orange and Blue Press checked-in with Evan Villella to see what Steel FC has been up to over the past three weeks. Evan is the host of the Eastern Conference Confidential podcast, and the Bethlehem Steel staff writer for the Brotherly Game.
What has changed with Steel FC since these teams met 18 days ago?
“We’ve finally seen what forwards Chris Nanco (1 goal) and Santi Moar (1 goal, 1 assist) can do fully, which should be horrifying if you have a slow defense. Other than that midfielder James Chambers is back with the team as of yesterday. He’s been out of soccer for a bit so I wouldn’t expect a start, but he’s the locker room leader and his ability to pick a pass out is second to none. If he comes in during the second half, be careful!”
Steel FC has lost 3 of 4 and sits in last place in the East, do you get any indication that it’s affecting the morale of the team at this early stage?
“They’ve been pretty close games and the team is scoring, which is a big improvement. I think it’s bummed me out as a writer (I’m also a Union fan, oh my god help me I’m going to die) more than the team. It’s also a small sample size and I’m not at training every day so I’m not 100 percent sure.”
If Steel FC has a weakness that FC Cincinnati could expose, what would it be?
“Giliano Wijnaldum hasn’t lived up to billing so far this year. OCB put him on skates a few times and came out with two goals. Attack that side of the field (left) and you might be alright.”
Saturday’s match against Bethlehem Steel FC will be a character test of sorts for FC Cincinnati. They’re back on the road. They’re playing a team that toppled them just three weeks ago. They’re coming off a draining three game home stand that finished with an emotional derby draw. They’re playing without their front man and top scorer for the first time. How will the team respond?
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of match day seven in the Lehigh Valley.
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