The Orange & Blue punched their ticket to the USL playoffs on Saturday when they beat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in a dramatic comeback victory at Nippert Stadium. Over 25 thousand fans celebrated Fanendo Adi’s 88th minute near-post strike that gave the Orange & Blue the victory. It was his first goal for the club after signing from the Portland Timbers on July 30th.
Alan Koch’s side is the first team in 2018 to clinch a USL playoff berth. As highlighted earlier in the week, with a concurrent loss by North Carolina FC to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, FC Cincinnati’s point total now exceeds the maximum point total possible for 8 other USL teams.
Pittsburgh put up a fierce resistance and were the better team for portions of this contest. They conceded a large amount of possession to FCC, but featured an organized defense and a lightning quick counter-attack that troubled Alan Koch’s side. Both teams could have easily scored in the first half but did not. Emmanuel Ledesma had a 27th-minute-strike cleared off the line by Pittsburgh defender Joseph Greenspan. Eight minutes later, Pittsburgh striker Kay Banjo was denied by a save-of-the-week worthy right-footed kick from Spencer Richey. A cagey first half between Eastern Conference elite ended goalless.
Pittsburgh was quick off-the-line in the second half and it paid dividends. Kay Banjo was fouled by the stray leg of Forrest Lasso, earning a penalty kick shortly after play resumed. The Washington, D.C. native skied the subsequent spot kick over the crossbar. Then, after peppering Spencer Richey’s goal with a succession of shots and corner kicks, the visitors finally broke through. Romeo Parkes thumped home a close range strike, redirecting a 57th minute cross from Kenardo Forbes. 1-0 Riverhounds.
The visitors were in control until a series of substitutions in the final 25 minutes changed the match. Mike Lahoud entered the game for an injured Pa Konate in the 66th minute, and the team shifted into a more aggressive 3-5-2. Shortly thereafter, Jimmy McLaughlin and Fanendo Adi also joined the action. The change took full effect and captain Dekel Keinan evened the score in the 80th minute. He nodded home a free kick that Emmanuel Ledesma earned, then delivered from outside the box on the left.
That set up the moment of the match as Saturday’s game drew to a conclusion. Fanendo Adi, the big money man, the MLS DP, collected a well placed through-ball from Kenney Walker on the right side of the box. He used all six-foot-four inches of his frame to shake off two Pittsburgh defenders, and fire a near-post strike that won the match, and send FCC to the playoffs.
Final Score: FC Cincinnati 2 – 1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds
FC Cincinnati continues to set the pace in the Eastern Conference and the USL with 60 points. They are now out of reach of eight teams, because North Carolina FC lost 3-0 to Tampa Bay on Saturday, clinching their playoff berth. They extend their unbeaten streak to 16, and have won 7 of their last 8 matches.
Highlight of the Match
We present the 88th minute game-winning, playoff-clinching, first goal for Fanendo Adi in Orange & Blue.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) September 2, 2018
Quote of the Match
Fanendo Adi said the following about his goal-celebration, when he ran immediately to Alan Koch to share a moment. The Nigerian striker gave him a huge bear-hug just before the entire team piled on to revel in the moment
“I think he wants me here so much, he has supported me, and that’s just to show him I’m very tight to him for everything he has done for me. It’s been a tough time for me, adjusting to the league, to the players and to the city as well, but he’s been there every day for me.”
Stat of the Match
2 goals in the last 10 minutes of regulation. We put out a lot of stats at Orange & Blue Press, but the stats sometimes don’t tell the story of the match. With over 65% possession and almost the same number of shots-on-target as Pittsburgh, one might think FCC was in the driver’s-seat for most of this game. That wasn’t the case. Pittsburgh controlled proceedings and missed good opportunities to capitalize on the chances they created. FCC made some late tactical and personnel changes and took their chances in the last 10 minutes to snatch a dramatic victory.
Alan Koch made six changes to the side that started in the 2-1 win versus the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Danni König led the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Corben Bone recovered from an ankle injury to start. Kenney Walker, Dekel Keinan, Pa Konate, and Spencer Richey all returned to the starting 11.
König (75′ Adi)
Bone – Albadawi – Ledesma
Alashe (72′ McLaughlin) – Walker
Konate (66′ Lahoud) – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte
There are just seven matches left in the 2018 regular season. Up next is another big top of the Eastern Conference clash between FC Cincinnati and bitter rival Louisville City FC. After two defeats at Nippert to LCFC, the Orange & Blue will look for a measure of revenge at Slugger Field.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.