Whether it is the defending USL champions or their MLS parent organization, FC Cincinnati just can’t seem to figure out the Red Bulls.
Days after the miracle U.S. Open Cup run ended at the hands of the New York Red Bulls, the Boys in Orange & Blue mustered barely any form against a stingy Red Bulls II team that was firing on all cylinders, even when down by a man, walloping FCC 4-0 at MSU Soccer Park.
With Sem de Wit and Kenney Walker serving suspensions from cards earned in the last game against Lou City, Alan Koch trotted out a leaner 3-5-2 squad with Paul Nicholson filling the middle of the defensive line, and Marco Dominguez earning his second start of the season. The Baby Bulls set in their comfortable 4-2-3-1 system with their new scoring presence Stefano Bonomo at the helm (3 goals in the last 4 games).
FC Cincinnati appeared to have the earliest shot at first blood with Djiby finding the crossbar from a free ball in the box, only for the game to slip away gradually after. A bump from Dominguez on Noah Powder just inside the box in the 23rd minute drew a penalty kick, and Bonomo caught Mitch Hildebrandt going the wrong way on the kick for a 1-0 lead.
Red Bulls II doubled the lead before halftime with dangerous set piece that caught the back line napping. Three opposing players slipped through with Hassan Ndam heading home a Zeiko Lewis left-footed kick in the 42nd minute to go up 2-0.
FC Cincinnati seemed to recover after halftime with Jimmy McLaughlin and Danni König subbing on for more offensive depth. The momentum favored FCC, as Kyle Greig managed to squeeze two yellow cards out of Ndam by the 65th minute, giving them a man advantage for the much of the remaining time. That only appeared to strengthen the Baby Bulls, as Junior Flemmings twice took advantage of a tired back line to double the lead by the 74th minute. With the game out of hand, FC Cincinnati were clearly rattled—the team picked up 7 fouls in the last 10 minutes, with Josu getting his second yellow of the game in the 89th minute.
FC Cincinnati will have little time to lick their wounds over the stampede they received this week—they will be back at Nippert Stadium to host the Ottawa Fury on Wednesday in a must-win game to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
Four Numbers That Mattered
66.7% – FCC’s passing accuracy for the game. While it would be easy to suggest Walker’s absence aided to this low number, FCC found it difficult to string passes together throughout the game, completing them way below their 76.3% average. The heat map should also indicate the difficulty Cincinnati had in getting out of their own end.
10 – The number of consecutive goals FCC has given up during the last three USL road games. The demolitions suffered in the past two games have exposed Cincy as a team unable to keep opponents off of the scoreboard. Starting with the own goal late in the 3-2 win versus Lou City on July 15th, FCC have given up 10 consecutive away goals in the USL. That large number now puts FCC at a -14 goal discrepancy on the road (2W-2T-7L) and a +10 discrepancy at home (6W-5T-2L).
6 – The number of penalty kicks given up by FCC this year. Last year, FCC had gotten the fortune of fouls in the box, converting 5 kicks and giving up 5 of their own. This year, the pendulum has swayed the other way—FCC has only made 2 PKs so far, while opponents have deposited 6 already.
8 – Say what you will about the defense, but that lack of discipline has torched FCC this season. Last year, the team had only received one red card—Mitch Hildebrandt’s controversial VAR-assisted red in the away game vs. Red Bulls II. Josu’s red card was FCC’s 8th of the season.
Bonus Number (for confidence)
28.7 – The average total points for the seven remaining teams on FCC’s schedule. Of Cincy’s remaining eight games, only two are played against teams currently in playoff slots—away at Charlotte (44) and home vs. Red Bulls II (31). This could play into the team’s favor, as it is the third easiest remaining schedule behind Rochester (28.0) and St. Louis (28.2). However, points are now at a premium if Cincy wishes to make the playoffs this year, let alone host a game.
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