The Bonus Track segment is an abridged version of Orange & Blue Press’ Deeper Cuts series. It takes one component of a recent match and breaks it down in more detail.
Despite two well-timed goals and a man advantage, FC Cincinnati could not claim all three points against a young but talented Bethlehem Steel FC, drawing 2-2 at Nippert Stadium. This article takes a deeper look at how the team fared without key playmaker Emmanuel Ledesma.
Life Without Manu
One question that was answered clearly on Wednesday is that the team can create and convert chances without Manu. The Argentine playmaker was suspended for the match after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season last Saturday. While FCC boasts the ability to score from many positions on the field, Ledesma clearly is the most threatening component of the attack. He currently leads FC Cincinnati in assists, shots, shots on target, chances created, and crosses. He’s also second on the team in goals with 5, just behind leader Danni König.
Without Ledesma on Wednesday, FCC had 27 total shots over the course of the entire match, converting twice. They created 15 of those 27 shots in the first 52 minutes of the match, before the red card was issued to Bethlehem.
So who stepped up to fill the void in Ledesma’s absence? Primarily Nazmi Albadawi and Russell Cicerone.
Albadawi had one of his most influential games of the season. The Raleigh, NC native had the most passes of any player in FC Cincinnati’s front six (40) at a 82.6% passing accuracy. He scored the first goal, won 4 out of 6 duels, fired 8 shots (most on the team) with 4 on target, and created 6 chances (also most on the team).
In addition to Naz’s contributions, Russell Cicerone continued to impress on the right flank, starting his third consecutive match in 8 days. He took 7 total shots—2 were blocked, 4 on target, and just 1 off target—and scored the goal to go ahead 2-1. He also created 1 chance and won 9 duels during the contest.
Nazmi Albadawi said the following about the the team’s offensive effort after the match:
“(Bethlehem) is a good team and they played well in the first half. That being said, in the first half, I thought their goalkeeper had two or three really good saves … We had opportunities … they just didn’t go our way for one reason or another. I thought we were better in the second half.”
Obviously Manu’s clinical finishing ability could have been a difference-maker in this match. However, FC Cincinnati created enough chances and scored enough goals to win. If they kept things tidier in defense, they would have earned the other two points.
That Second Goal Though
Alan Koch said the following about Bethlehem’s second goal in the post-match press conference:
“That’s frustrating, you should never concede a goal straight after you scored. You’ve got to have the focus, and we always preach five-minute segments of the game. We should have managed that a lot better.”
Despite the draw, the team showed it can cope without their star playmaker if needed. That playmaking depth will be of some comfort over a long USL campaign, where Ledesma will need rest, and injuries are always a possibility.
It’s worth noting that the overall stats skew in FC Cincinnati’s favor because of the man advantage, but Albadawi and Cicerone influenced the game well before the 52nd minute, even if their goals came afterwards.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of Saturday’s league matchup against Richmond Kickers.