Remember that miracle at Nippert Stadium when Mitch Hildebrandt said no three times in penalties against Chicago this year? Apparently, the FC Cincinnati keeper still has the wizardly ability to summon that magic. He turned away a stoppage-time penalty kick to secure a 1-0 win at Charlotte that provided three crucial points and a claim to this year’s Queen Cities Cup for the Orange & Blue.
Playing the second of four games on the road to close the season, FCC had to get out of the gate early against a stacked Charlotte offense. The Independence have two of the top seven most prolific scorers in the USL in midfielder Enzo Martinez (16 goals) and forward Jorge Herrera (12). FCC trotted out their own stacked 3-4-3 pattern, putting Djiby, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Danni König in the front line.
Much like their recent performances on the road, FC Cincinnati did not have much success in the first half. The team failed to record a shot—let alone any on frame—by the time the first-half whistle sounded. Meanwhile, Charlotte managed to control the ball for much of the first half, but could only muster one late shot on frame. Martinez skirted around Hildebrandt in the 21st minute for a free shot on goal, only for his momentum to send the ball wide.
The second half began much the same way it ended—while Cincinnati played from their heels and conceded corner kicks, Charlotte was putting more shots on goal. However, while the front line found difficulty in receiving passes from the midfield, the back tandem of Austin Berry and Harrison Delbridge kept the Charlotte offense off-balance and off the scoring sheet.
FC Cincinnati found their offensive hero in an unlikely form when Kevin Schindler came on for König in the 74th minute. Not only did the big German quickly have FCC’s first shot on frame, but he put in the game’s only goal. Djiby directed a header on target from a Kenney Walker corner kick, only for Schindler to deflect the shot into goal in the 75th minute.
Like their last two away games, FCC’s flare for the dramatic took center stage. Walker was sent off in the 89th minute for a second yellow card, giving Charlotte multiple chances on net. After Herrera skied a wide-open shot inside the box, it appeared that Charlotte had gotten a well-deserved point after Corben Bone fouled Martinez in the penalty area. However, Herrera’s penalty kick with seconds left in stoppage time was blocked by Hildebrandt sprawling to the right, rescuing the win for FC Cincinnati.
With the Queen City Cup in hand, FC Cincinnati (11-9-10, 43 points) now heads to Canada for their final two games. They stay in 6th place but are now five points ahead of the playoff line. Wins over both Ottawa and Toronto will assure them a spot in the postseason and possibly a home playoff match, but Cincy will have to develop a sharper offensive game if they intend to go far.
Four Numbers That Mattered
3 – The number of penalty kicks that Mitch Hildebrandt has saved in USL play this year. While FCC has given up a whopping 10 penalty kicks this season, Mitch has managed to say no three times, the third being perhaps the biggest save of his USL career. Mitch has 88 saves this year, putting him second in the USL (which is not necessarily a good thing if there are a lot of shots to save).
18 – The number of interceptions by FC Cincinnati. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but while FCC had a disadvantage in possession (48% to 52%), shots (6 to 20), and passing accuracy (78% to 82%), they managed to intercept and stop the flow of attack better than Charlotte (18 interceptions to 8). Of course, much of the momentum was also stopped by fortunate misses, but that’s another stat for another time.
9 – Kenney Walker’s red card in the 89th minute marked the 9th that FCC has received this season, compared to 2 all last season. The big difference this time around was that this was the first game that FC Cincinnati managed to get a win in a game they also received a red card. This means that Kenney will miss the big away game in Ottawa next weekend.
59 – The number of days between clean sheets for FC Cincinnati. While people have bragged about Cincinnati’s long scoreless run in the US Open Cup this year, the last time Cincinnati managed a shutout was back on August 2nd (1-0 over Miami FC). Their last USL clean sheet was their 3-0 home win over Harrisburg on July 22nd. If the team wants to excel, they’ll need their defense to bend and not break like it did in this game.
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