FC Cincinnati returns home carrying a seventeen match unbeaten streak, tied for third best in the USL modern era. The club’s second Sunday home match of the season comes against Toronto FC II. This match is truly a tale of the haves and have nots this season. The Orange & Blue are firmly in front in the East and have now secured a top 4 placement. Toronto FC II, in comparison, were the first USL club to be eliminated from playoff contention this season.
Although the Canadian club anchors the bottom position in the East with only 12 points in 26 matches, there is a revenge factor at play this weekend. FCC had a commanding 3-1 lead at halftime in Toronto in late June before giving up two second half goals resulting in a disappointing 3-3 draw. Adding injury to insult, Richie Ryan hurt his ankle in that match and is still in recovery mode. TFC II is one of three teams FC Cincinnati has not beaten this season. Nashville SC and Bethlehem Steel FC are the other two.
Toronto FC II announced in July that they will be a founding member of USL Division III’s inaugural 2019 season. TFC II is operated by Major League Soccer’s 2017 MLS Cup Champions Toronto FC and is owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Group. They were the sixth team to announce they were joining the new league. This is likely a good move for the club as the new league will focus on positioning teams for long-term success by creating regional rivalries and developmental opportunities.
Both teams are coming into the match on shortened work weeks. TFC II play the New York Red Bulls II in New Jersey Thursday evening before traveling to Cincinnati. The Orange & Blue have a couple of extra days of rest and an easier travel burden this week having bused 100 miles down to Louisville and back on Tuesday. Prior to their match vs the Baby Bulls this week, Toronto brings a woeful 1-12-0 road record to Nippert.
With the playoffs secure and the East all but locked up, look for Alan Koch to tap into his roster depth and make a number of line-up changes. Michael Lahoud and Pa Konate have returned from International Duty, but likely are a bit jet-lagged from their journey to Africa. In preparation for the USL Cup run, this may be an opportune time to rest some heavy legs and play those who haven’t seen a lot playing time recently.
Here are five fast facts to help get you prepared for Sunday’s early 4:30pm kickoff time:
- USL MVP candidate Emmanuel Ledesma now has 12 assists this season to accompany his 13 goals. This ties him for the USL single-season assists record. Former Orange & Blue player Aodhan Quinn sits one behind with 11 during his resurgent 2018 season with Orange County SC.
- FCC is a remarkable 13-0-4 (43 points) during their 17 match USL unbeaten streak. Out of a possible 51 points in this stretch, they’ve dropped only 8. Contrast this to LCFC’s own 17-game streak in 2016 when they went 11-0-6. With a win or draw Sunday, the Orange & Blue will tie the 2nd longest USL unbeaten streak at 18 games. Orlando City FC, during their final USL season before jumping to MLS, went 15-0-3 to open the 2014 campaign.
- Since that dreaded draw in Toronto in July, FCC have suffocated their opponents. In the last 12 matches, FC Cincinnati has kept 7 clean sheets and allowed only 5 goals against. The team has reduced their goals against average (GAA) to 0.93 for the season. Only Nashville and Pittsburgh can claim better.
- Don’t necessarily count on an easy 3 points on Sunday. Since facing FCC last, Toronto FC II has actually improved, going 3-8-0 (9 points). This represents 75% of their season point total. Don’t forget that they shocked Louisville City 4-1 at Slugger just over two weeks ago. Japanese midfielder Tsubasa Endoh’s return to Toronto has given a much needed spark to his side. He is tied for second on the squad with 4 goals in seven matches played.
- Expect a few balls to be retrieved from the back of the net on Sunday. FC Cincinnati ranks second in the league with 56 goals scored (2.00 GFA) and Toronto is 3rd worse this season with allowing 59 goals (2.27 GAA). FCC still leads the league in conversion rate at 21%.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 regular season and playoff run.