FC Cincinnati defeated AFC Cleveland in extra time by a score of 1-0 in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Wednesday. Guess who scored? Djiby Fall provided the game-winner with a headed goal in the 117th minute to secure the victory. The match was watched by a healthy crowd for a Wednesday, made up of those that attended from 12,790 in paid ticket sales.
For play-by-play details of the match’s events, also check out the following article.
Ohio Derby – FC Cincinnati lined up against an Ohio rival in a competitive fixture for the first time in club history. Sure it wasn’t Columbus Crew SC, but the fact that the match was played against an in-state opponent gave it a little something extra for the fans. AFC Cleveland enhanced that with a brave defensive performance, bending but not breaking for so long, and nearly sending the contest to penalty kicks.
Rotation – Wednesday’s lineup featured no less than ten changes from the match last Saturday. Harrison Delbridge was the only starter in the Open Cup first eleven that started against OCB. It was an opportunity to see several players we haven’t seen enough of this year including Marco Dominguez, Derek Luke, Dallas Jaye, Pat McMahon, and Paul Nicholson. New amateur contract signee Garrett Halfhill also started the game at center back.
Heavily rotating the squad seemed like an absolute must in light of the opponent and FC Cincinnati’s recent struggles in the league. Having most of the first team rested and ready for Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday is surely important. That being said, Corben Bone and Jimmy McLaughlin entered the fray in the second half and played all the way through to the 120th minute. It’s also of course important to get the squad players a chance to start and perform.
Based on the rotation, one also has to be careful when comparing the performance yesterday to the team’s recent performance in the league. The cast of characters was almost completely different. These players also don’t get as much opportunity to play together as the first team. Should they still have had enough to get past a fourth division team more easily? Yes, but they got the job done even though it was painstaking and nail-biting as it approached penalty kicks.
AFC Cleveland’s Performance – One has to tip their cap to AFC Cleveland in my opinion. They worked hard and were well-organized. They took a few opportunities to come forward, especially in the beginning of the second half, and were very nearly rewarded for it. Ryan Ware’s shot off the crossbar could have decided this match. The 15 save performance of AFC Cleveland keeper Alex Ivanov played a big role in their resistance. He was clearly their man of the match.
Finishing – 44 total shots, 17 on goal (38%), 1 goal. Alex Ivanov certainly had a great game but the finishing obviously needs to be better. FC Cincinnati created enough shots and got enough of them on target. At times, it had a similar feel to the most recent match against Bethlehem Steel FC. A lot of possession and shots, but many of them did not not truly threaten goal.
Djiby’s Return – Djiby’s six game USL suspension did not carry over to the US Open Cup making him eligible to play in this contest. Although Djiby played well and looked threatening on several occasions, he was also well marked throughout the match. FC Cincinnati spent much of their attack serving in balls to Djiby from wide areas. Djiby was usually surrounded by one or more AFC Cleveland defenders, jumping with him, and making it difficult for him to get solid contact on headers. In the end, he was the difference maker for FC Cincinnati again. There are three more games to serve on Djiby’s suspension. Danni König, and the rest of the attackers, have to step up and fill the void.
“Any time I get the chance to play in front of our fans is great. It was nice to get back to the pitch. It was a good victory and I feel great.”
Advancement – What really matters from this match is that FC Cincinnati came out with a victory. Would it have been better for the fans and the team’s confidence if the Orange and Blue had thumped AFC Cleveland? Of course. Is it going to help quell doubts about the team’s recent league performance and our ability to score without Djiby. No. It is advancement nonetheless and sets up a winner-take-all rivalry match with Louisville City in two week’s time. UPDATE: If FC Cincinnati beats LCFC they will HOST Columbus Crew SC.