Update: Pittsburgh is now in second place after defeating Bethlehem Steel FC 4-1 on Friday.
The final regular-season “Dirty River Derby” takes place this weekend, as FC Cincinnati visits Louisville City FC for their third match in 2018. If the cards fall a certain way, this could be the final USL game between the two sides ever. However, there is still much more at stake than merely bragging rights. A win or draw by the Orange & Blue won’t take the River Cities Cup from Lou City, but it will likely put the Eastern Conference out of reach for FCC’s rival.
Lou City has already taken the regular-season crown between the two squads, dispatching FC Cincinnati twice at Nippert this season. In their home opener, FCC was unable to score, despite owning the ball most of the match and firing 38 crosses to Lou City’s 10. The 13th-minute goal from Cameron Lancaster was all the difference in the 1-0 loss.
In their second match, Lou City’s defensive clamp on the Orange & Blue was far tighter. Goals from Lancaster and George Davis IV put the game out of reach, and FCC could not get any offense. So far, the 2-0 loss in May is the only game where FC Cincinnati was unable to get a single shot on target.
However, since that loss, the two teams’ trajectories have been slightly different. FC Cincinnati’s 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday gives the home squad a 16-game unbeaten stretch, equaling the longest such streak in the USL this year. The win lifted Cincinnati to a 13-point lead over Lou City. It also got their newest acquisition Fanendo Adi into the scoring column with his 88th-minute strike. The Orange & Blue are officially in the playoffs for the third-straight year and are close to getting a first-round home game.
The Boys in Purple, on the other hand, are trying to claw their way back to their familiar form. The departure of coach James O’Connor to Orlando City came during a 5-match winless streak (4 draws, 1 loss). While a three-man carousel kept Lou City afloat, the arrival of new coach John Hackworth has had mixed results. Two loud road wins against Charlotte and Richmond were countered by a home loss against Toronto FC II and a draw against Charleston last week.
FC Cincinnati will be without two of their key midseason acquisitions. Both Michael Lahoud (Sierra Leone) and Pa Konate (Guinea) are abroad during international duty. FCC is also likely without defender Matt Bahner and midfielder Richie Ryan due to leg injuries. Louisville City is still awaiting results for injuries to midfielders Brian Ownby (concussion) and Magnus Rasmussen (knee).
Here are five facts that should keep you satiated until the final “Dirty River Derby” on Saturday:
- Lou City has gotten into a recent habit of dropping points at home. After winning their first five at home, Lou City has won only once in the last 7 home games (1-4-2). While their goal differential has been good on the road (+14), it is only +6 at home.
- Goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh has started all 26 USL games in net for Lou City, but that could be affecting his numbers. Compare his stats over 26 games the past three years, and it’s apparent that opponents could be figuring him out in 2018:
- 2016: 77.9% save percentage, 12 clean sheets, 20 goals against
- 2017: 70.0% save percentage, 12 clean sheets, 21 goals against
- 2018: 64.4% save percentage, 9 clean sheets, 32 goals against
- In comparison to Ranjitsingh, Evan Newton and Spencer Richey have shown that two goalkeepers could be better than one. The two have a combined 73.2% save percentage, 11 clean sheets, and 26 goals against over 27 games. FCC had 10 clean sheets in the USL all of 2016 and only 7 last year.
- Emmanuel Ledesma is proving to be a solid MVP candidate, leading FC Cincinnati in goals and assists. However, Lou City has a gold-caliber contender of their own. Forward Cameron Lancaster leads the league with 18 goals and is the only player in the USL with over 1,000 minutes who averages under 90 minutes a goal. At this current clip, Lancaster will score 24 goals this year and break the record of 22 set in 2015 by Matt Fondy (who also played for Lou City).
- DID YOU KNOW? A win or draw by FC Cincinnati would match Lou City’s longest-ever unbeaten streak of 17 games. That unbeaten streak in 2016 came to a halt on July 23rd when Lou City lost 2-0 to—you guessed it—FC Cincinnati.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s possible final match against Louisville City.