While FC Cincinnati is still in a better place in the standings after their second home loss to Louisville City this year, suddenly the picture is not so rosy. The Orange & Blue are now behind their form from 2016. This season they stand at 6-2-3 (20 pts), one point behind their pace from their first season (6-3-2, 21 pts).
The confidence is still there in the team, but this feels like the definition of madness. This loss may sting more, but it resembled their first loss. An early first-half goal from Cameron Lancaster forced the team to struggle to make up the difference. By the time the offense came to life, Louisville’s pressure had converted a deflected shot into the net.
With this year’s Dirty River Derby all but decided, let’s take a deeper look at Cincinnati’s difficult home loss.
Defensively, this game could have easily been as much a clean sheet as it could have been a second-half blowout. The two goals conceded by FCC were due to Lancaster’s free kick sneaking through an unprotected wall and an unlucky, but bad deflection off Matt Bahner’s leg. If it wasn’t for Evan Newton getting big late in the second half, the score could have easily been worse.
— USL (@USL) May 27, 2018
Newton managed to show some flashes from the first two games of the season during the match, making five saves in net. However, we’re starting to see lapses and trends in the defense that could cause concerns against better teams. A +5 goal differential is still decent in this league after 11 games, but that’s more from the spike in offense. The defense is projected to give up 46 goals, not too far from the 48 given up last year.
The zero shots on target should be a concern, but it’s likely more a demonstration of Louisville’s ability to keep the ball away. Only three teams in the Eastern Conference have faced less shots than Lou City (28) so far this season, and only two—Pittsburgh and Indy—have given up less goals. FCC, on the other hand, has already faced 45 shots this year, sixth-worst in the conference.
A strong offense is a remedy for a shaky defense, but when that’s gone, a scoreless draw is harder to preserve. Until the defense can control the number of shots taken, the clean sheets will be far and few.
As much as the defense was off its game, the zero shots on target should be circled in red. FCC actually had more shots on target than Lou City in the first matchup this season. This time around, there seemed to be a lack of connection between the midfield and forwards, and the number of chances created by the offense heavily favored Louisville (10-6).
The overall heat maps show that Lou City’s offense-heavy formation produced more penetration, but perhaps that alone doesn’t show the disconnect. The pressure from Lou City forced the FCC midfield to make mistakes they couldn’t recover. The ball rarely reached König or Ledesma in the front third of the field. Quick math indicates that the front six for FCC had just as many successful passes per player as the front seven for Louisville. However, FCC had also two extra unsuccessful passes per player.
The heat maps above show just how much distribution the Louisville City midfielders and forwards maintained. In comparison, FCC’s forwards got very little opportunity to handle the ball.
The frustration was obvious at halftime, but the team was unable to overcome James O’Connor’s system. Louisville’s cohesion has dictated play this season, and their solid roster has made it easier to focus on their opponent. Since the 3-2 upset at Slugger Field last year, the Orange & Blue have been outscored 8-0 over the last three games.
With Louisville out of the way until September, FCC has time to figure out O’Connor’s system. However, the U.S. Open Cup only adds to the workload—FCC must now play five meaningful games over the next 20 days. This first comes on Saturday at New York Red Bulls II, where they have yet to get a point.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of this week’s impending MLS announcement and next Saturday’s match at New York.