FC Cincinnati produced their eighth road win of the season on Saturday in a messy water-logged match at Al Lang Stadium. There they dispatched the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1, courtesy of two Emmanuel Ledesma penalty kick conversions. Before this match, FC Cincinnati had never scored a goal or earned a point against the Rowdies in Florida.
The Orange & Blue were on the scoresheet just two minutes into the contest. Emmanuel Ledesma controlled a long ball from Evan Newton just outside of the box. He feathered a diagonal pass through to Jimmy McLaughlin who was streaking down the left. Afrim Taku clipped McLaughlin’s legs in the box. He went down, and referee Kevin Broadley pointed to the penalty spot. Ledesma converted to the keeper’s left using his customary stutter-step penalty kick technique.
Tampa took control of the match shortly thereafter and created most of the chances in the first half. Evan Newton was up to the task though, and his four first-half saves helped to keep Tampa goalless at the break.
The match dynamics changed in the 62nd minute when FCC fullback Blake Smith was controversially shown a second yellow for time-wasting. Tampa Bay pressed for the equalizer and capitalized on their man advantage 13 minutes later. Kwadwo Poku dribbled across the top of the penalty area and fired a low pulled-back shot through traffic that beat Evan Newton. The score was then 1-1.
The rain-soaked drama didn’t end there. Substitute Pa Konate, a defender who replaced Fanendo Adi after FCC was reduced to 10 men, impacted the match in the 85th minute. He played a give-and-go with Jimmy McLaughlin on the left side and broke free into the box. Rowdies defender Pape Diakite intervened just as Pa reached a ball-stopping puddle in the penalty area. Diakite made contact with the ball, but Konate tumbled over him and looked to the referee. Kevin Broadley awarded a penalty kick, and Ledesma converted his second of the night to give the visitors a late lead.
FC Cincinnati survived nearly nine minutes of stoppage time to escape Tampa with all three points. Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov had a golden chance to equalize before time expired, but chipped the ball over the crossbar.
Final Score: Tampa Bay Rowdies 1 – 2 FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati continues to set the pace in the Eastern Conference and the USL with 57 points. They’ve won 7 of their last 8 and extend their unbeaten streak to 15 games. Louisville City FC is now in second place after a 6-0 victory over the Richmond Kickers. The Orange & Blue are now 11 points clear at the top of the East. Both Louisville and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds have two games in hand.
Highlight of the Match
Emmanuel Ledesma displayed great composure by converting two penalty kicks, but Evan Newton made several key stops to limit Tampa to just one goal. Those saves included this fine play to thwart Junior Flemmings in first half stoppage time.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) August 26, 2018
Quote of the Match
Alan Koch had the following to say about his team’s gritty victory.
“Tampa were fired up to play, we could tell that they were fighting for their lives, but we’re fighting for our lives too. We’re in a slightly more favorable position right now, but every game is important. . .Tonight’s performance in terms of how we played was not good, in terms of the character, (but) it was very good to get that result.”
Stat of the Match
This match was littered with sloppy tackles, yellow cards, and player ejections. Twelve total cautions were issued on the night including a questionable second yellow to Blake Smith for time-wasting. A second yellow was also issued to Tampa defender Pape Diakite for the tackle that led to Emmanuel Ledesma’s second penalty kick. In fact, all of the USL seemed card-happy on Saturday, as six total red cards were handed out in all competitions.
Fanendo Adi made his first start for FC Cincinnati on Saturday. He was sacrificed in the 67th minute after Blake Smith received his second yellow card. The midfield was anchored by Mike Lahoud and Fatai Alashe. Newton, Smith, Ledesma, and Barrett all returned in to the the starting eleven.
Adi (67′ Konate)
McLaughlin – Albadawi (78′ König) – Ledesma
Alashe (55′ Walker) – Lahoud
Smith – Lasso – Barrett – Hoyte
After three games in eight days, the Orange & Blue get a week’s respite before returning to league play. They will lick some wounds and recover from a physically demanding match in Florida. Eight games remain in the USL regular season, and the next one is a high stakes affair. The Orange & Blue play the third-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Nippert Stadium on Labor Day weekend. Due to their yellow cards, Paddy Barrett and Blake Smith will both miss that game.
Trivia: Orange & Blue Press’ first article covered the 2016 U.S. Open Cup match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang. Here’s how things looked on our site then.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.