The home finale of the 2017 USL season is upon us, taking place on Saturday night when FC Cincinnati hosts New York Red Bulls II at Nippert Stadium. Alan Koch’s side has their backs against the wall and needs to collect maximum points to ensure participation in the postseason.
The top eight teams advance from the Eastern Conference to the playoffs after 32 regular season matches conclude. FC Cincinnati currently sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference on 36 points, while Red Bulls II slot in one place and two league points above them in sixth. Both teams have played 27 league matches and have five left to stake their claim in the playoffs.
Saturday is the second match for the Orange and Blue in the space of five days. They drew 1-1 away to the Harrisburg City Islanders on Tuesday. Jimmy MacLaughlin earned a point for FCC with a last-gasp equalizer.
John Wolyniec’s Red Bulls II are in good form. They are on a three-game undefeated run following the 4-0 shellacking of FCC four weeks ago. Those three unbeaten games include wins over the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Toronto FC II.
A near-capacity crowd is expected for the 7pm kickoff. Pregame ticket sales have already eclipsed a USL attendance record for a regular season match.
Four Fast Facts
Here are four fast facts to help you ace the match preparedness exam that will be administered prior to kickoff.
- Despite the recent 5-0 and 4-0 thrashings away from home, FC Cincinnati has still conceded 9 fewer goals than Red Bulls II over the same number of games.
- FC Cincinnati has conceded 8 penalty kicks this season. New York Red Bull II have earned 7 penalty kicks and converted every one. Keep your eye on the penalty area as the combination of these stats could spell trouble. An early penalty kick awarded to Red Bulls II began the rout when these teams met in August.
- Our source in New Jersey, Joe Goldstein, tells us that NYRBII assists-leader Vincent Bezecourt will likely be with the Red Bulls first team this weekend and therefore miss this match. Bezecourt has 8 assists and 6 goals to his name this USL season.
- Mitch Hildebrandt is USL’s joint leader in saves (83). While that number highlights his shot-stopping ability, having your goalkeeper face enough shots to lead the league may not be the most brag-worthy statistic.
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of Saturday’s contest.