With the Queen City baking from the July heat, FC Cincinnati was tested by a spark plug Harrisburg team that had managed a solid run at home and had snuck into the playoff discussion. After two lengthy lightning delays that saw almost no rainfall, the boys in Orange and Blue sank the City Islanders with a 3-0 victory in front of 18,334 at Nippert Stadium.
While Harrisburg was coming into the game with the shorter week—having tied red-hot Charlotte 1-1 earlier in the week—the first 25 minutes were dictated by the away squad. The FCC defensive line was forced onto their heels with an early attempt in the 7th minute from a trailing John Grosh, only for Mitch Hildebrandt to smother it.
Lightning played a major part in this game, as both teams had to endure two lengthy breaks from threatening weather. After the first 67-minute break, FCC proved to be ready and refreshed. In the 32nd minute, Djiby pounced on a poor back-pass by the Harrisburg defense, switching feet on his defender and burying a left-footed shot for his 11th goal of the season.
In the second half, Cincinnati took advantage of Harrisburg’s offensive push to sneak behind the enemy lines again. After absorbing a midfield pass in the 70th minute, Djiby caught the D-line’s attention and fed a streaking Danni König, who fired a 5-hole under goalkeeper Brandon Miller’s legs for his 6th goal of the year.
After a second, shorter 35-minute lightning warning, FCC again capitalized from the break. In the 85th minute, Jimmy McLaughlin grabbed a feed from Kenney Walker to weave past his defender and peg his 2nd goal of the season, a right-footed strike past Miller, to completely shut the door on the City Islanders.
FC Cincinnati lifts their record to 8-6-6 and to 5th in the Eastern Conference table, while Harrisburg falls to 9th (6-5-9). After FCC welcomes Valencia CF, one of the cornerstones to the Spanish La Liga soccer league, to Nippert for a friendly on Monday, they will host the Rochester Rhinos for league play on Saturday.
Four Numbers That Mattered
102 minutes – The total amount of time taken up by the two lightning breaks. Normally, 90-degree temperatures with heat indexes in the triple digits would incur hydration breaks and pauses for cramping, but if anything, FC Cincinnati got progressively better from the weather delays. Two of the 3 FCC goals came within 5 minutes of the restarts, indicating that whatever took place in the locker rooms did its job for Alan Koch’s men. Could we have some of these breaks more often, Mother Nature?
+9 – While Harrisburg held a possession advantage (46/54), Cincinnati held the advantage in intercepted takeaways (18-9). Case in point—the heatmap below shows that Harrisburg preferred attacking on their right side, with forward Ropapa Mensah and midfielder Jake Bond controlling most of the possession.
However, compare that map with the map that displays interceptions. Whenever Mensah or Bond challenged the right, Cincinnati took possession back. Harrison Delbridge alone had 9 interceptions to reverse the flow of play.
While possession may be a key to winning, FCC has shown that the ability to disrupt possession is just as important.
30’ – The time for the final shot on target for Harrisburg. Afterwards, Cincinnati dominated the shots-on-target stat, hammering 8 at goalkeeper Brandon Miller over the final 60’ of the game and getting 3 by him. Overall, FCC led Harrisburg in shots 15-11, taking advantage of Harrisburg’s defense-heavy 4-1-4-1 formation.
+11 – The goal differential for FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium in 11 USL home games (6W-4D-1L). So far, the stout defensive line has only conceded 8 goals at home all year and has not allowed a goal in the past 4 games (including the US Open Cup win vs. Chicago). The offense has picked up lately, but 19 goals at home means that the team has only scored 7 goals on the road over 8 games. If FCC wishes to hold and prove home dominance in the postseason, they’re going to have to show they can also score more on the road.
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