FC Cincinnati had the New York Red Bulls on the ropes in Tuesday’s US Open Cup Semifinal. They led the heavily-favored MLS side by two goals with only 15 minutes remaining in the match, but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.
Corben Bone opened the scoring for the Orange and Blue in the 31st minute against the run of play. Andrew Wiedeman delivered a measured cross from the left into New York’s box. The cross was chested into Bone’s path by Danni König, and the midfielder’s close-range first-time strike gave Red Bulls keeper Ryan Meara no chance to save. A sold out Nippert Stadium erupted after the opening goal.
FC Cincinnati doubled their lead after the break, despite continued attempts by the Red Bulls to equalize. Hometown hero Austin Berry powered home a towering header from a corner kick to give the Alan Koch’s side a convincing 2-0 lead in the 62nd minute.
The Red Bulls stormed back into the match though with late goals by substitute Gonzalo Verón and Bradley Wright-Phillips. That pair of goals was separated by less than three minutes in the 75th and 78th minutes, and New York pressed for a winner at the end of regulation.
Extra time was required to break the 2-2 stalemate, and New York rode their late game momentum to victory. Bradley Wright-Phillips delivered a second inch-perfect headed goal to give New York the lead. FC Cincinnati nearly responded immediately. Marco Dominguez’s close range shot at an empty New York goal was blocked off the line by the excellent Tyler Adams.
The Orange and Blue had given all they could and fatigue was a factor in extra time. Their valiant effort wasn’t quite enough to reach the final, and their cup run ended with a 3-2 extra time defeat.
What a Cup Run It Was
Far and away the highlight of the 2017 season so far, the US Open Cup has produced unforgettable moments for this club and the city of Cincinnati. No team can ever be happy about losing a two goal lead so late in the match, but its hard to be too upset after the number of astonishing cup performances this team has assembled.
Alan Koch had the following to say about the team and the tournament.
“Anytime you’re up 2-0 in a game and you don’t win, you’re going to be disappointed, but putting that aside, I have nothing but pride, in a group of players that put everything out there on the pitch tonight for our team, our club, and our city. (This cup run) has been truly magical.”
Scintillating New York Comeback
FC Cincinnati’s defense delivered another bend-but-don’t-break performance for 70+ minutes of this match. That allowed the Orange and Blue to build a lead by capitalizing on counter-attacking opportunities. The following line from Joe Goldstein in our preview proved to be prophetic however.
“(New York Red Bulls’) real strength is that they can recover from mistakes and not let teams that score first waltz away with the match. “
New York head coach Jesse Marsch made two effective substitutions in Gonzalo Verón and Derrick Etienne Jr. that combined for the first goal. Bradley-Wright Phillips then did the rest, highlighting his top-class finishing abilities. Marsch said the following in the post match press conference.
“We didn’t underestimate them. We knew we were in for a tough match. We knew they were well coached and well organized. It was just about our ability to stay after the game and feel like we could overwhelm them over time. We took the hard route, that’s for sure. But I think our team showed their character in a big way.”
Focus Returns to the League
FC Cincinnati now must turn their attention and quickly refocus on the USL league campaign. The team’s form in the league has been topsy-turvy, and with only nine matches remaining, they’ll need to produce more consistent results to ensure a playoff spot and a decent seed.
They currently sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, with the top eight advancing to the post season. Alan Koch’s side has two critical games in the next week against squads right behind them in the standings, New York Red Bulls II (the Baby Bulls) and Ottawa Fury.
Most of the remaining games are against teams below them in the standings, making for an easier strength of schedule. Success won’t come without its challenges though. Six of those nine games are on the road, and many of those teams will be looking to make-up ground on FC Cincinnati, and stamp their own ticket to the USL playoffs.
Match Photos via Joe Craven
Before closing the book on an exceptional 2017 US Open Cup campaign, I just wanted to highlight the sportsmanship from the players, fans, and coaching staff of the New York Red Bulls. Make no mistake, this was a hotly contested match on the field. But those heated moments made way for scenes of sportsmanship, with the Red Bulls making rounds to applaud the FC Cincinnati fans and the Bailey after the match.
After some ugly on-field sights, off-field drama, and refereeing controversies this season, it was fantastic to see this match and this tournament end with a touch of class.
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati’s 2017 season.