FC Cincinnati fought back twice in front of 24,505 Orange and Blue chanting faithful to earn a 2-2 draw with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. FCC arguably closes out their most competitive opening five USL regular season game stretch ever with a 2-1-2 mark and 8 points. Danni König and Jimmy McLaughlin were awarded their first starts of the year; both were subbed off in the second half but not before making their impact known. Let’s dive a level deeper into last night’s electrifying match.
If you feel like you have seen this movie before, you have. The Orange and Blue, for the third game in a row gave away a goal in the first 15 minutes of play. Last night, this early hole driver came in the sixth minute after a failed clearance and sloppy defending by the left side of the backline.
For the second home game in a row, FCC was down 0-1 at the half to a formidable Ohio River city rival. As the team entered the break, Koch remarked, “It’s got to be better obviously…we’re going to have to come out with a lot more energy than we showed through the entire 45 minutes. We’re definitely going to make some tactical adjustments right now; we’ll come out with a different shape to start the second 45 minutes.”
During the post-game press conference, König shared, “We were all angry when we came in at halftime, the first half wasn’t good enough.”
Tale of Two Halves
Fortunately, the halftime speech and tactical adjustments proved effective. Although FCC controlled the possession in the first half 62% to 38%, and matched the Riverhounds with one shot on target, they never looked capable of finding an equalizer. As Koch prescribed, the first 15 minutes of the second stanza proved critical to defining and deciding the match. FCC came out with a different shape, intensity, and pressure to set the tone. The boisterous Nippert crowd fully engaged in appreciation.
The turnaround in play wasn’t seen in total possession percentage, pass attempts or pass accuracy numbers. The evidence was visible in where these critical statistics took place on the pitch. The following charts depict the successful FCC passes and heatmap in the 1st half.
Now compare this to the successful FCC passes and heatmap in the 2nd half.
The result was a considerable switch in play to inside the Riverhounds half and defensive third. Furthermore, take a look at these differentiating figures between the second and first half in FC Cincinnati’s statistics:
- 11 shots to two
- 4 shots on target to one
- 10 key passes to two
- 6 successful dribbles to two
- Most importantly, 2 goals to none
Breaking Down the Pittsburgh Fortress
How did FCC break down a Riverhounds defense that started the season with a club record 414 minutes without allowing a goal? The shape Koch deployed in the second half caught Bob Lilley and his squad scrambling to counter-defend.
Contrary to the second half in the season home opener vs LouCity, where FCC literally pushed numbers down the edges for one unsuccessful cross after another, last night’s tactical change pierced the middle of the defense. Koch sent out more of a 4-3-3 approach that unlocked the creativity, ball handling, and pass combinations we have been desiring to witness. He established Ryan as the lone central defending midfielder and anchored the attack by placing Nazmi and Bone aside him in the midfield. This allowed Penn Messi (McLaughlin) and Ledesma to take more attacking positions alongside König upfront. Hoyte and Laing were then better able to utilize the lanes up and down the flanks. Walker and Welshman were confident reinforcements helping influence the final stage of the match.
The following chart illustrates how effective these changes were to FCC’s attacking promise in the second half. They found freedom in the central spaces, created quality chance after chance, and were able to penetrate the Pittsburgh fortress through the channels and seams.
Is this attacking shape a glimpse of the future or only a single match second half adjustment? The Orange & Blue head north to Canada’s capital city Saturday for a matinee versus Ottawa Fury FC. The Fury picked up their first point this weekend in a 1-1 home draw against North Carolina FC. FCC enters the contest in sixth place; the Fury sits in last place.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.