It was only appropriate that FC Cincinnati’s magic in the 107th U.S. Open Cup continued with a win in the Magic City.
Three weeks after they were scheduled to tangle with Miami FC in the USOC quarterfinals, FC Cincinnati returned to Miami to resume their match, this time under rain-free conditions. The Cinderella run for FCC has yet to strike midnight, as the squad managed to tame another offensive juggernaut with stingy defense and a timely goal from Djiby for a 1-0 win.
With their numbers restored from rest and reinforcements, FCC started the first half with a starter-heavy starting XI—both Djiby and Danni König were set at the front of the familiar 3-5-2 formation with Sem de Wit and Kevin Schindler getting their first starts of the year. Miami FC countered with a solid front three of Enzo Rennella, Kwadwo Poku, and Stefano Pinho, a trio who had combined for seven of the 11 Miami FC goals in their Cup run.
The first 45’ was dominated by neither side—while Miami had the slight edge in possession and control, Cincinnati was getting more opportunities at the net. Double-coverage on Djiby often left König room to work, while the midfield was allowed some space to pressure the offensive third. Both teams seemed unable to take advantage of lapses in judgment, but in general the flow of the game was favoring FCC and their vocal traveling support.
The second half certainly indicated that coach Alessandro Nesta had made the right call to conserve energy in the first half. Miami came out with more pressure in their attack, forcing the FC Cincinnati defense to foul and concede corner kicks to keep the pace under control. A streaking Pinho in the 59th minute could have easily produced the first goal of the game, but Mitch Hildebrandt came off his line to smother the opportunity and keep his historic goalless run intact.
The lead finally went FCC’s way in the 68th minute. Justin Hoyte managed to isolate defender Hunter Freeman on the left side of the box, beating him with a right-footed dribble. Hoyte then skirted the back line with a left-footed cross that found Djiby at the near goalpost, who tapped the pass through goalkeeper Daniel Vega’s legs for the 1-0 advantage.
For the rest of the game, the Cincinnati defensive line withstood the remaining attacks by plugging passing lanes and clearing opportunities. Miami’s equalizer appeared to be in reach in the 89th when Poku danced and dribbled around defenders, only for his shot to glance off Hildebrandt’s leg and just miss Rennella’s forehead. The midfield managed to handle the ball for most of stoppage time, and the final whistle produced overjoyed chaos on the Cincinnati sideline and in bars all over Cincinnati.
The victory gives FC Cincinnati another wild matchup against an MLS side for the opportunity to possibly host the U.S. Open Cup final. A few days before their match with the New York Red Bulls’ “2” squad, our Boys in Orange & Blue will host their parent team on Tuesday, August 15th at Nippert Stadium. A win versus the Papa Bulls will produce the first non-MLS U.S. Open Cup finalist since Charleston Battery in 2008.
Four Numbers That Mattered
21 – The number of days since the date of the originally-scheduled match between FC Cincinnati and Miami FC. The extra three weeks of rest turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the spent FC Cincinnati side—Justin Hoyte, Austin Berry, and Harrison Delbridge were all left off the original lineup on July 12th, but all three were in the Starting XI when the actual game was played, and all three made a big difference. Mother Nature must be a Queen City fan!
4 – The number of goals Djiby has scored in this year’s U.S. Open Cup. While this number is a bit deceptive (as Cincinnati has scored only four goals in five games), the Senegalese striker has been opportunistic—Djiby is the first player in the Modern Era to score four game-winning goals in the same U.S. Open Cup tournament.
+5 – The advantage in interceptions held by FC Cincinnati (13) over Miami FC (8). While Miami enjoyed a 57/43 advantage in possession, FCC once again employed a sturdy 3-5-2 defensive pattern that allowed the backline of Berry, de Wit, and Delbridge to clog the middle and take away challenges. Pinho (4 goals) and Poku (2) had been part of a solid Miami offense that enjoyed a +22 goal differential over 16 games to start the NASL season, but were primarily neutralized until their chances late in the game.
469 – The number of consecutive shutout minutes Mitch Hildebrandt has gone in US Open Cup competitions. Starting from the 11th minute of the loss to Tampa Bay in 2016, Hildebrandt has not let in a single goal, leaving him 4 minutes shy of the modern-day record (Jon Conway had 473 consecutive minutes for San Jose in 2000 and 2001). In fact, string this with Dallas Jaye’s 120 minutes of clean-sheet play vs. AFC Cleveland, and FC Cincy hasn’t allowed a goal in 589 minutes of Open Cup play, also a Modern-Era record.
2008 – While a USL team has not made the USOC semifinals since 2011, a USL squad has not hosted a semifinal draw since 2008, back when Charleston hosted and beat the then-USL Seattle Sounders. If Cincinnati can defeat the Red Bulls, it will be the first time that an MLS squad lost to a non-MLS squad in the semifinals since the Rochester Raging Rhinos beat the Columbus Crew in 1999.
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s cup run and the 2017 season.