Following an eventful week where #MLS2CINCY became a reality, FC Cincinnati went back on the road to face a young, talented New York Red Bulls II squad. The Baby Bulls have historically given the Orange & Blue difficulty, winning three of the four previous tilts. After a sluggish start, FCC converted several second half chances to earn their first 3 points in New Jersey.
The road win, FCC’s fifth of the season, vaults the team back into first place in the Eastern Conference (for now). The squad now sits at 7-3-2 with 23 points. Remarkably, sixteen of these points have come away from home, where the team is 5-1-1. This matches the same number of road points earned during the entire 2017 season.
Whether it was the early 1 PM start time on the road or the heat and humidity, the Orange & Blue once again started sluggish. As we’ve seen previously this season, the backline was caught off guard early from high pressing forwards (Lou City and Pittsburgh come to mind). This time around, Blake Smith’s pass back to Forrest Lasso was intercepted, starting the NYRBII attack. The home side took advantage with Jared Stroud playing a square ball to Amando Moreno, who slotted the ball past the scrambling and disjointed defense. One thing is for certain—if you want to impact FCC’s defensive shape and efforts to play out of the back, press and press some more.
The Orange & Blue performance did not improve until the late stages of the first half. Fortunately, there are two halves to soccer, giving Alan Koch an opportunity to reset tactics, positions, and an eagerness to attack.
First, we need to give credit where it is fully due—Emmanuel Ledesma, everyone! The highly touted Argentinian, who has played in top leagues throughout Italy, England, and Greece, has not disappointed. In the 62nd minute, his creativity and sublime touch found the needed equalizer for the Orange & Blue. Let’s take one more look at this delightful goal.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) June 2, 2018
This takes Ledesma to 5 goals and 7 assists for the season. He’s now contributed to 12 of the 22 FCC goals this season. He leads the team in the following offensive categories:
- Goals – 5 (tied with Danni König)
- Assists – 7 (next players with two)
- Shots – 27 (13 more than König & Bone)
- Shots on Target – 13 (4 more than König)
- Chances Created – 22 (10 more than Bone)
Ledesma has already earned Week 10 USL Player of the Week honors, as well as Best XI in Weeks 8 and 10. A fairly easy case can be made that he’s been the top new signing this season. Manu has been magnificent, the engine to the attack, and could lead this team to the next level.
Key Differences in the Match
Many times, there is a razor-thin margin in matches between a loss and earning three valuable points. Yesterday was no different. What looked like a sleepy, abysmal performance on the road turned out to be a productive day at the office. Let’s break down three key areas that defined the final score-line at Red Bull Arena.
Although the Red Bulls II out-shot FCC 13-8, the effectiveness and efficiency of these shots are what matter. Of their 13 shots, the home side put only one on target, the goal in the first half. This converts to a shooting accuracy of 7.7% and a conversion rate of 11.1%. [Note, USL defines conversion rate as goals divided by shots attempted (excluding blocked shots)]. On the flip side, the Orange & Blue had a shooting accuracy of 62.5% (five of eight shots on target) and a conversion rate of 28.6%. The direct result—2 goals for FCC versus 1 for the NYRBII. Obviously, the NYRBII penalty miss was the biggest shot off target of the day.
The next two statistical areas are not as sexy as shots and goals but may be even more telling to why FCC secured the away win.
An interception is defined as when a player intentionally takes a pass away by moving into the line of the intended ball. In the first half, both teams were near equal in this area—FCC held a small 13-10 interception advantage. The following chart illustrates these interceptions (FCC in green and NYRBII in black).
Now look at the second half interception chart. FCC not only dominated 14 to 5, but more of these interceptions occurred further upfield in the Red Bull half (left side of the chart) that helped create the two FCC scoring chances.
Similarly, the tackles the two squads had in the second half illustrate how effective FCC were at controlling the play and cementing the win. A successful tackle is when a player connects with the ball in a challenge on the ground and gains possession of the ball. A missed tackle is when the player loses possession of the ball to the other team.
Of note on the NYRBII tackle chart below, they had 8 successful tackles (green) to 8 unsuccessful tackles (red). These unsuccessful tackles predominantly occurred in the Red Bull defensive third (left side of the chart). This allowed FCC to keep the pressure and play mostly in the opposing half during the second stanza.
In contrast, FCC had 10 successful tackles in the second half and did not fail at a tackle once, a significant statistic against a strong Baby Bulls’ offense.
Alan Koch’s 63rd-minute substitutions of Danni König and Jimmy McLaughlin, following the NYRBII penalty miss, were perfectly timed and placed. Both players made immediate impacts contributing to the build-up in each of the two goals. Special mention should go to König for his winning tally, which now brings him equal on total FC Cincinnati career goals (16) with Sean Okoli and Djiby Fall.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as FC Cincinnati returns home Wednesday for U.S. Open Cup fourth-round action versus the Loons of Minnesota United FC.