In a matchup of the top and bottom teams on the table, FC Cincinnati needed all 90 minutes and more to scratch out a 4-3 win over Toronto FC II. While TFC II has never beaten Cincinnati, their recent upset of Louisville City on the road and their 3-3 draw against FCC earlier this season indicated that this would be harder than it appeared. All 27,275 in attendance at Nippert Stadium would have to agree with that statement.
While FCC began the game with solid ownership of the ball, it was Toronto that took the early lead. Midfielder Tsubasa Endoh took hold of a free pass in the 24th minute and fired a deep volley that beat goalkeeper Spencer Richey to his left. This tended to be a common theme, as Endoh enjoyed miles of space in front of the 18-yard-box all afternoon.
However, Endoh wasn’t the only one with a hot foot. Emmanuel Ledesma set a new USL assists record (and then some) in the 31st minute, lacing a free kick into the box for a Forrest Lasso header. The big man’s third goal of the year made it 1-1.
The teams traded goals right before halftime. Fenando Adi flicked a pass over his defender’s head deep in first-half stoppage time to toe-poke a shot past goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell to claim the lead. However, Endoh evaded coverage a minute later to graze a shot past a diving Richey and knot it 2-2 at halftime.
The second half was almost a carbon-copy of the first. While FCC owned possession again, their efforts were being halted by the Toronto D line pulling them offside. Endoh then potted his hat-trick by firing a shot from distance atop the box past Richey’s left. His eighth goal in six games made the score 3-2 in the 73rd minute.
Coach Alan Koch then appeared to make the right call by switching his wingers. Jimmy McLaughlin, subbed in the 62nd minute, moved to the right side of the pitch, while Ledesma switched to the left. In the 78th minute, McLaughlin chipped a give-and-go to Corben Bone. The birthday boy flicked a right-footed shot past Patterson-Sewell to tie it at 3-3.
Ledesma made his own connection to Bone to win the game late. His cross and league-leading 15th assist in the 88th minute went unclaimed until Bone read the bounce and headed it home. Bone’s eighth of the season gave FCC the 4-3 win in the end. Not a bad way to celebrate your 30th birthday, Corben!
Final Score: FC Cincinnati 4 – 3 Toronto FC II
The win over Toronto and draw between Pittsburgh and Louisville on Saturday puts FC Cincinnati 16 points ahead of the pack. This means that FC Cincinnati cannot finish any lower than second place. With a win over Penn FC Saturday or a Riverhounds draw or loss against Indy, the Eastern Conference crown will belong to Cincinnati. Toronto FC II’s loss keeps them in last place.
Highlight of the Match
While he lost points for the dismount, Adi’s goal was a perfect ten.
The best view you’re gonna get of @fanendo’s goal. 👀
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) September 16, 2018
Quote of the Match
While FCC fought hard to capture all three points, Alan Koch wasn’t too happy about the team’s overall performance. The coach did not mince his words when asked about treating this game as a learning experience and Toronto’s overall game plan.
“No disrespect to Toronto, I thought they came in and they played very well. They had a good game plan—they almost executed it—but we gave a quality player way too much space, first off. And we didn’t play the way we needed to play. Thankfully, we have enough individual and collective class to go out and get a positive result, and at the end of the day that’s the most important thing.”
Stat of the Match
9 – FCC only managed 12 shots to Toronto’s 10, but nine of Cincinnati’s shots (and all four goals) were from inside the box. While Toronto had less shots inside the box, the space left for Endoh gave the team an incredible 50% accuracy from beyond the box.
Much of the starting XI from last week’s match against Lou City started, with Adi and Lahoud replacing Emery Welshman and Fatai Alashe. Matt Bahner returned to the 18 after a few weeks out with a leg injury, but did not see the pitch. The team also did not see a yellow card issued, so there should be no suspensions for their next game.
Adi (75′ König)
Bone – Albadawi (60′ McLaughlin) – Ledesma
Lahoud (70′ Gibson) – Walker
Smith – Lasso – Barrett (c) – Hoyte
FC Cincinnati takes a two-game detour away from Nippert before their last regular-season home game. The Orange & Blue face Penn FC on Saturday at FNB Field with the opportunity to clinch the regular-season title. Penn FC is still fighting for their playoff lives after losing to North Carolina FC 1-0.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.