FC Cincinnati walked into FNB Field with a slight bit of momentum on their side from two positive home results and ten days of rest, but the ghosts of past away games still haunt them, needing a near-death goal from Jimmy McLaughlin in the 97th minute to escape from Harrisburg with a 1-1 tie.
Coach Alan Koch ran out a different-looking group than expected, resting up defensemen Matt Bahner and Austin Berry, while Corben Bone stayed in Cincinnati for the expected birth of his first child. The team welcomed the return of Aodhan Quinn and Kadeem Dacres to the Starting XI, sporting a 4-4-1-1 formation to shake the team’s poor away form.
The heavier defensive set worked well to keep Harrisburg off the board in the first half, but that focus on defense left the team threadbare in the front attack. The City Islanders managed to control the ball with 54% possession in the first 45 minutes, firing two shots on net, while Cincy could only manage corner kicks but no shots on net. The team also lost Tyler Polak again early in the game, as a hard tackle appeared to reaggravate an ankle injury in the 13th minute. Polak would be subbed off for Josu soon after.
Harrisburg came out of the locker room on fire after halftime, challenging Mitch Hildebrandt twice before the third chance—a left-footed strike by Jonathan Mendoza in the 52nd minute—beat the keeper’s left side for a 1-0 lead.
However, once given the lead, Harrisburg opted to take their foot off the gas. Djiby and Andrew Wiedeman were subbed onto the pitch in the second half, and both appeared to revitalize the team, helping get five shots off before Harrisburg showed any signs of fight. Harrisburg goalkeeper Brandon Miller was on point though and kept FCC off the board.
It appeared that Harrisburg had enough gasoline in the tank, but fouls and delays stretched the four minutes of stoppage time into six. Just before the whistle blew, Djiby deflected a long pass from Sem de Wit into the path of Jimmy McLaughlin, who managed to split the defense and pop the ball past a sprawling Miller, rescuing FC Cincinnati at the last possible minute.
The tie gives FC Cincinnati a round 9-9-9 record (36 points) and puts them in 7th place, while Harrisburg (7-7-14, 28 points) remains in 13th place, still barely in the hunt for the playoffs. Cincinnati returns this Saturday for their final home game of the season against a New York Red Bulls II squad before heading on the road for the last four.
Four Numbers That Mattered
3 – Number of goals that Jimmy McLaughlin has scored against his former USL squad. No wonder they call him “Pennsylvania Messi”—Jimmy Mac loves to score against teams from the Keystone State. Half of his 10 goals with FCC have come against Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, and Harrisburg over the past two years, and all three against the City Islanders have been clutch, coming at the 81st minute or later.
63’ – The minute that Djiby was substituted into the game. For much of the first half, Danni König was bottled up and frustrated by the Harrisburg back line, only managing a total of 15 touches in 63 minutes, but after his substitution was completed, Djiby managed to get 21 touches in only 34 minutes on the pitch, adding muscle and height to the front attack before deflecting a pass to McLaughlin for the tying score.
7 – The number of formations that Coach Alan Koch has used this season. The 4-4-1-1 formation was the first formation with a 4-man back line since June, and the lack of offensive spark in the first half showed that the team was not used to the new pattern. If Koch is going to get his team deep into the playoffs, he must figure out how this team operates best with an optimal Starting XI while resting up Berry, Bahner, and now Polak for a playoff run.
292 minutes – FC Cincinnati’s goalless streak on the road in the USL before their last-minute goal. While fans and pundits will remember FCC for their shutout streak during the 2017 U.S. Open Cup, their scoreless streak on the road is best forgotten. During their goalless streak over the past three-plus games, FCC gave up eleven consecutive away goals. While a 62-goal season is far out of reach, FCC must use their last four away games of the season to learn how to win again on the road, something they have only done twice all season.
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