FC Cincinnati earned a vital 2-0 home victory against Saint Louis FC at Nippert Stadium on Saturday. The Orange and Blue started on the front foot, and took the lead in the seventh minute courtesy of an A. J. Cochran own goal. Andrew Wiedeman broke through Saint Louis’ defense, and had a one-on-one opportunity against the keeper. He put a shot past Saint Louis net-minder Adam Grinwis. The shot deflected off Cochran’s foot and into goal as the center back tried to recover. Substitute Danni König then doubled the tally for Alan Koch’s side in the 66th minute, slotting home a close-range effort assisted by Jimmy McLaughlin.
The victory was the most complete performance by FC Cincinnati this season. Their play was characterized by precise midfield passing and movement, threatening attacks from a dynamic front three, and a defense that snuffed-out Saint Louis FC’s attacks before they materialized.
Strong Lineup with a Formation Twist
FC Cincinnati sent out a first choice eleven for this match, despite speculation that some of the team’s best players might rest with an eye on the midweek US Open Cup match. Alan Koch tweaked the 3-5-2 formation the team has employed over the past three games, and transitioned to a 3-4-3. Rather than two pure strikers at the top of the formation, Andrew Wiedeman and Jimmy McLaughlin flanked Djiby Fall. FC Cincinnati’s attack looked as dynamic on Saturday as it has all season. The team came out flying, producing 9 shots in the first half, with 6 on target. Jimmy McLaughlin should have scored a second for FC Cincinnati in the 44th minute. His right-footed blast beat the keeper but clattered off the right post. Danni König came on for Djiby to seal the victory. His goal came just two minutes after he entered the match.
Kenney Walker Ran the Midfield
A lot of players produced great performances on Saturday, and are worthy of individual praise. Kenney Walker was exceptional though. He led the team in touches (90), passes (69 total at an 84% completion rate), duels won (10), tackles (8), and chances created (3, tied with McLaughlin). He is a complete player and the heartbeat of the team. A midfielder with an eye for a tackle doesn’t often make the highlight reel, but his contributions with and without the ball should not be underestimated.
Alan Koch said the following of Walker after the match.
“Kenney is one of those players, you notice him when he’s playing, but you notice it maybe more when he’s not playing. He’s a player that every single little individual detail that you ask him to do, he does it right. It says a lot about him as a professional, he’ll embrace whatever role you’ll give him. As a coach, I see every single day how good he is…it’s great to have him back fit, healthy, and sharp.”
Andrew Wiedeman and Jimmy McLaughlin also had standout performances. König iced the game. Nicholson continues to thrive in the back three, and Polak impressed again. In truth, the performance by the collective unit was impressive and it was great to see the team win and not rely so heavily on Djiby to do so.
Much Needed Home Three
FC Cincinnati’s league form has simply not been great this season. Coming into the match, they were in tenth place in the Eastern Conference. Further, they were in the bottom third of the conference in points-per-game average. They were coming off back-to-back home draws in the league, and had earned only four points away from home out of 18 possible. Anything other than a win in this match would have sent this team close to the cellar of the Eastern Conference. Although there’s over half of the season to play, a loss would have put in doubt the team’s ability to compete for a top four spot, which secures at least one home playoff game.
An emphatic win is just what the doctor ordered. This team has shown glimpses of improvement in recent games, and everything came together against Saint Louis FC Saturday. The win elevates FC Cincinnati to sixth place on twenty points after 15 matches played. This victory will hopefully act as a platform for the team to build on for the second half of the 2017 season.
Spotlight on Cincy
FC Cincinnati fans don’t need to be reminded about what’s in store for them this week, but I’ll do it anyway. The Chicago Fire, the second place team in MLS’ Eastern Conference, travels to Cincinnati for a US Open Cup round-of-16 clash at Nippert Stadium. The national spotlight will be on Cincinnati for one of the most important matches in this club’s short history. Kenney Walker said the following about Wednesday’s matchup.
“I’m just excited to play against that caliber of team. The atmosphere is going to be phenomenal, but you always want to match up with the best players you can. Every position will be tested. We had the opportunity against the Crew, and now we have another top MLS team at Nippert. It allows you to see how you match up with the guy standing across from you.”
Match Photos via Joe Schmuck
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