FC Cincinnati continues their Southeast road trip as they take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies in St. Petersburg on Saturday. These sides faced each other six weeks ago when FCC secured a convincing 2-0 victory at Nippert. The result was the Orange & Blue’s first victory over the Rowdies, improving to 1-2-1 all time.
FCC will be looking to extend their unbeaten streak to 15 and turn the corner at Al Lang stadium. In their previous two contests they lost 0-2 and 0-3 (2017 playoffs). Fortunately, the road has been a safe place for the Orange & Blue in 2018. Entering Saturday’s match, they are 7-1-3 away from home. In these 11 games, they have earned five clean sheets and posted a plus 10 goal differential.
Tampa Bay were included in most pre-season polls to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With only ten games remaining in their regular season, they are on the outside looking in. The Rowdies currently sit in twelfth place and have only earned six points in the last six games. Following Saturday’s match, they conclude the regular season by playing six of nine on the road.
Since coming over from the Red Bulls in early July, forward Stefano Bonomo has added a spark. In five matches donning the Rowdies kit, the former U.S. Men’s U-18 player has scored three times. He is now tied for the team lead with six goals. However, Tampa Bay has struggled to replace two key creative forces in the midfield. In June, current team assist leader and thorn in FCC’s side, Marcel Schäfer, returned to Germany as the Sporting Director for the Bundesliga club Vfl Wolfsburg. In addition, 2017 NASL Young Player of the Year Jack Blake was loaned to Real Monarchs SLC for the remainder of the 2018 season.
On a short-week, both sides are traveling into Tampa on Thursday (the Rowdies had a come-from-behind draw in Pittsburgh Wednesday evening) and will likely make changes to their game rosters. FCC certainly didn’t need any extra lift while flying, after their emphatic 5-1 thrashing of Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday.
Alan Koch will continue to rotate his squad to keep legs fresh and fine-tune the lineup for the upcoming playoff run. USL MVP-candidate Emmanuel Ledesma is set to return following his one match yellow card accumulation suspension. Fanendo Adi was given the night off in Atlanta and is likely chomping at the bit in anticipation of playing on the manicured Florida grass. Will the Orange & Blue extend their unbeaten streak to 15 games?
Here are five fast facts to get you ready for Saturday’s 7:30 pm away kickoff.
- What’s a fast fact section without mentioning Emmanuel Ledesma? Not only is he leading the team with 11 goals and 10 assists, the timing of these achievements have been significant. Ledesma has 4 game-winning tallies and 4 game-winning assists. That’s a ton of potential one-point results that he’s helped secure the full three points.
- Interchangeable backline – FC Cincinnati has kept eight clean sheets during their fourteen match unbeaten run (0.57 goals against overall). Of note, the club utilized four different center back and keeper combinations in these eight shutouts, with Justin Hoyte and Blake Smith anchoring the outside fullback spots.
- Statistically, these two sides vary greatly. On offense, the Orange & Blue have scored 19 more goals (51 to 32) and created 12 more assists (33 to 21). Additionally, FCC have converted their strike opportunities at a significantly better rate, 20% to 13%. From a defensive angle, FCC has conceded 10 less goals (24 to 34) and has kept six more clean sheets (11 to 5).
- Tampa Bay has started 31 different players this season, with only two players exceeding 1,500 total minutes. In contrast, FCC has started 24 different players with eight logging more than 1,500 minutes. Corben “Ironman” Bone leads the team in starts (23), games played (all 25) and minutes (2,018).
- The Orange & Blue’s five goals in Atlanta set a new club record for goals in a match. With his brace, Nazmi Albadawi raises his season tally to nine. This places three FCC players (Ledesma, König and Albadawi) in the top 25 for goals scored this season (best in the USL).
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus the Tampa Bay Rowdies.