FC Cincinnati was eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, falling to Minnesota United FC on penalty kicks at Nippert Stadium. The fourth round matchup was the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Minnesota United is playing their second year in MLS after rising from the NASL to U.S. Soccer’s top division. The match was played in front of a bustling crowd of 15,486 at Nippert Stadium, who created an energy that felt larger than their actual numbers.
Despite starting a rotated lineup that leveraged FC Cincinnati’s squad depth, the Orange & Blue played a convincing first half and created a handful of chances through Jimmy McLaughlin, Russell Cicerone, and Emery Welshman. A leg injury forced Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath to replace defender Eric Miller with Carter Manley in the 13th minute of play. An evenly played first half ended like all the others would, goalless.
Several fans thought this first half effort from Jimmy McLaughlin opened the scoring. However, his shot hit the side of the net rather than the back of it.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) June 7, 2018
The second half unfolded similarly to the first. Both teams defended well and created a few half-chances to score but neither could make a breakthrough. Spencer Richey was called upon to make a key save in the 81st minute when he denied Minnesota forward Abu Danladi’s whistling shot with a strong right hand.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) June 7, 2018
The match headed to extra time. Alan Koch introduced two attack-minded players, Tomi Ameobi and Nazmi Albadawi, in an attempt to break the deadlock. One of FC Cincinnati’s clearer chances came in the 108th minute when fullback Blake Smith made an overlapping run on the left. Jimmy Mclaughlin fed him the ball and he eluded his defender to break through on goal. Smith shot from a wide angle but his effort went agonizingly over the crossbar. After 120 minutes of play, neither team could produce a decisive moment, and the match went to penalty kicks.
Penalty kicks didn’t go as planned for the Orange & Blue. Neither Kenney Walker or Sem De Wit could convert the team’s first two spot kick opportunities, and Minnesota United jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the shootout. Mike Lahoud then scored and Minnesota’s fourth effort was saved by Spencer Richey to keep the contest going. But Nazmi Albadawi was denied by goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth on FCC’s fourth PK, and that was enough to seal the victory for the visitors.
Final Score: FC Cincinnati 0-0 (1-3 PKs) Minnesota United FC
The penalty kick loss eliminates FC Cincinnati from the 2018 U.S. Open Cup and they will now turn their attention to league play where they currently sit on top of the USL’s Eastern Conference. Minnesota United advances to the fifth round of the Open Cup where they will learn their opponent in a draw held on Thursday, June 7th at 11am Eastern.
The matched was characterized by organized, stubborn defensive play from both teams, with neither doing enough in the offensive third to alter the scoreline. FC Cincinnati made their mark last year from the penalty spot in a dramatic Open Cup victory against the Chicago Fire. They couldn’t replicate that success this year, however, and a fourth round exit is the result.
Head coach Alan Koch conveyed the following sentiments about his team’s performance on the night.
“Incredibly proud. Penalty shootouts are an absolute lottery. We went through that last year obviously. Anything can happen in them, a lot of it is momentum. There’s no point in putting your heads down. They should be very proud of the effort they put in tonight.”
76′ – YELLOW CARD – MIN – Maximiano
80′ – YELLOW CARD – MIN – Collen Warner
115′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Blake Smith
120′ – YELLOW CARD – MIN – Brent Kallman
Christian Ramirez – MIN – good
Kenney Walker – CIN – miss
Collin Martin – MIN – good
Sem De Wit – CIN – saved
Brent Kallman – MIN – good
Michael Lahoud – CIN – good
Collen Warner – MIN – saved
Nazmi Albadawi – CIN – saved
FC Cincinnati outshot Minnesota United 15-10 over the course of 120 minutes, but could only manage two shots on target. Minnesota held a 66% possession advantage overall but was perhaps not as dominant as that possession number suggests.
FCC is now 1-2-1 all-time against MLS opposition in competitive matches. They beat Columbus Crew SC and drew the Chicago Fire (advancing in a PK shootout) in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup before falling to the New York Red Bulls in the semifinals.
Club captain Dekel Keinan returned to action for FC Cincinnati after missing Saturday’s league match due to yellow card accumulation. Assistant coach Yoann Damet also returned to the bench after serving a suspension for being ejected the match prior.
Welshman (98′ Ameobi)
McLaughlin – Bone (106′ Albadawi) – Cicerone (77′ Haber)
Lahoud – Walker
Smith – De Wit – Keinan – Bahner
Wednesday’s cup exit comes on the heels of the Major League Soccer announcement last Tuesday that FC Cincinnati will be joining as the 26th expansion team, starting play in 2019 at Nippert Stadium.
The cup run is over but the fixture congestion is not. The Orange & Blue are back in action and back on the road this weekend. They head to the Tarheel State to face North Carolina FC at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday. That game is the third in a stretch of five matches over 15 days. They’ll also face Bethlehem Steel FC and the Richmond Kickers next week; both matches at home.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.