After a 3-0 statement victory over the Battery on Saturday, the Charleston monkey is now truly off of FC Cincinnati’s back. Prior to this match, the Orange & Blue had only beaten the Battery one time in six attempts. In the three prior meetings at Nippert, FCC could never muster a win. Charleston was the only Eastern Conference team* that FCC had never defeated on home turf. They erased those bad memories on Saturday with a dueling midfield, a miserly defense, and a plug-and-play squad that is rolling on a 13 game unbeaten streak.
*Stat excludes teams new to the USL this year (i.e.: Nashville SC, Indy Eleven).
Adding Fatai Alashe to an already talented midfield reaped rewards that made their way onto the stat sheet. The team passing accuracy (PA) elevated to 82%, which is 5% higher than their season average coming into the game. Kenney Walker led the way in distribution with a standout 91.7% PA on the evening.
FC Cincinnati was noticeably aggressive to the ball throughout the match, winning over 72% of the duels in the first half, and two-thirds of duels over the duration of the contest. Alashe, Walker, and Ledesma led the squad with 7 duels won each. It was a team effort though. Six FC Cincinnati players won 5 or more duels. Alan Koch has an embarrassment of riches in central midfield at his disposal, and he spent his currency effectively in the roster selection against Charleston.
Miserly Defense & Plug-and-Play Squad
Saturday’s victory came packaged with yet another clean sheet. That’s 11 shutouts total on the season, and 7 in the last 10 games. Charleston was kept at arm’s length on Saturday, with the exception of Ataulla Guerra’s ferocious long-range effort that rattled the crossbar. FCC’s defense allowed just 6 total shots and not a single one was from inside the box. What’s more impressive is that FCC has produced two consecutive cleans sheets while swapping in center back Paddy Barrett for team captain Dekel Keinan.
That’s not the only example of FC Cincinnati’s increasingly plug-and-play roster. Alashe entered for Lahoud. Welshman started in place of König, and Spencer Richey was still minding the nets rather than Newton. Neither the offense or defense is missing a beat despite these regular changes.
Early Numbers for Alashe and Adi
Fatai Alashe is the first of FC Cincinnati’s three summer signings to see the starting eleven. Over the 62 minutes he played on Saturday, he showcased a passing accuracy of 82.4%. He also won 5 fouls, 2 tackles, and 7 of 11 duels. He paired with Kenney Walker in the defensive midfield of FCC’s 4-2-3-1 and provided strength on possession, toughness in the tackle, and a partnership that could match the physical Battery attack.
Alan Koch is taking a measured approach to using his most dangerous new weapon, Fanendo Adi. For the third consecutive match, Adi replaced FC Cincinnati’s starting striker in the final third of the contest. Adi now has accumulated 47 total minutes over three appearances. He has 3 shots, all on target. He has earned 2 fouls, won 7 of 14 duels, including all of the aerial duels he’s been involved in.
While there’s not much to go on in terms of numbers for Adi, his impact in the matches is apparent. Defenders react differently when he’s in the match. He has a commanding presence and directs traffic on the field. His calm touches help the team maintain possession. He’s looked capable of scoring during each outing as well. He would have certainly have opened his account on Saturday if it weren’t for Skylar Thomas’ own goal.
While we don’t have a big enough sample size to really assess either Alashe or Adi right now, there’s plenty more to come from these two in 2018 and beyond.
Well, the home cooking has been nice. The Orange & Blue secured 16 of 18 possible points during their two month home stand in Cincinnati. It’s back on the plane this week though, and the team is headed south. On Wednesday August 22nd they’ll face Atlanta United 2 before heading to Florida for a showdown in Tampa with the Rowdies on Saturday.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.