FC Cincinnati bolstered their playoff hopes with a critical 4-2 victory over New York Red Bulls II on Saturday in front of a USL record crowd. The fireworks started early in a six-goal thriller that featured end-to-end action throughout the 90 minutes.
The two teams traded goals in the opening minutes of the match, each goal the result of a corner kick. FC Cincinnati jumped out-front courtesy of a glancing near-post header by Austin Berry. But New York wasted no time in leveling the scoreline. Florian Valot eluded the Cincinnati defense on a corner kick and found himself alone at the top of the box. He settled the incoming corner and turned to strike the ball through traffic, beating Mitch Hildebrandt.
The Orange and Blue regained the lead in the 32nd minute of play. New York cleared a free kick high out of the penalty area. New father and birthday boy Corben Bone pounced on the free ball and produced a thunderous strike from 20 yards that found the net. That goal gave the home side a 2-1 advantage going into the halftime break in an exciting game that promised more goals.
The second half began with the Baby Bulls bossing possession and applying tremendous pressure to FC Cincinnati’s goal. Alan Koch’s defense bent but didn’t break, and Mitch Hildebrandt added his customary heroics with key saves in the 57th and 65th minutes.
Then Harrison Delbridge scored one of this team’s goals of the season to give the Orange and Blue a two-goal cushion. He crept forward into New York’s half and received a square ball from Kenney Walker. He stepped around an approaching defender and put his foot through the ball from 25 yards. The ball screamed off his boot and catapulted into the top right corner.
Not to be outdone, Kenney Walker added an insurance goal five minutes later with a stunning free kick. The ball was placed just outside the 18-yard box on the right. He cut his strike just over the wall and across goal into the opposite side-netting.
Red Bulls II continued to apply pressure and got a goal back in the 80th minute. But three goals were too much to overcome, and the Orange and Blue prevailed in their 2017 home finale.
It was FC Cincinnati’s first-ever victory over Red Bulls II, after losing to them three consecutive times over the past two seasons. The victory sees Alan Koch’s side move into 6th place on 39 points, leapfrogging NYRBII in the Eastern Conference standings.
It’s important to note that defender Austin Berry left the match after the first half of play with an undisclosed injury.
Four Numbers That Mattered
210 – The difference in the number of passes between New York Red Bulls II and FC Cincinnati. New York dominated possession with 210 more passes than FCC and created a LOT of scoring opportunities. Despite this advantage, FCC created quality opportunities of their own via the counter-attack and from set pieces. They also played “good-enough” defense that allowed them to hang on to the victory.
6 – The jersey number of Kenney Walker who had a bumper night in midfield for FC Cincinnati. Walker grabbed a goal and two assists on the night, adding considerable end-product to his traditional domination of passing, chance creation, and tackling statistics.
67 – The minute of the game when Harrison Delbridge scored his long-range rocket of a peach of a delicious wonder goal. That goal was a special moment in and of itself, however, it came at a critical point in the match when NYRBII was pounding on Mitch Hildebrandt’s door. The goal provided a cushion and was a platform for FC Cincinnati to build on to capture the victory.
30,417 – Saturday’s USL record crowd, for a regular season game or a playoff match. FC Cincinnati eclipsed their own record attendance set on October 2nd of last year when 30,187 attended their playoff loss to Charleston. We might talk a bit too much about attendance in Cincinnati, but if we keep putting up numbers like that, it’s not going to stop anytime soon.
Four Road Games to Close the USL Regular Season
FC Cincinnati now turns their attention to a four-game road trip that will determine their fate for the 2017 season. They have collected only 9 points in 12 away games this season for a 0.75 points per game average. They’ll likely need to improve on that form if they want to secure their spot in the postseason. The good news is that three of the four teams they will face are in the bottom five of USL’s Eastern Conference.
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s push for the playoffs.