FC Cincinnati extended their winning streak to eight in a row and are now 19 games unbeaten after a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory over Penn FC on Saturday. More importantly, the win secures the top spot in the Eastern Conference and secures home field advantage through the Eastern Conference finals.
An unattractive first half on an unattractive FNB field saw the former City Islanders claim the lead after 33 minutes. Emmanuel Ledesma conceded a foul to Penn FC 30 yards outside of the box on the right. The subsequent free kick bounced in the penalty area and was headed back across goal by Penn FC’s Harri Hawkins. Brazilian midfielder Paúlo Junior was first to react and thumped the ball easily past Spencer Richey to make it 1-0 to Penn FC. Both teams struggled to produce many more clear chances as the first 45 minutes expired. The Orange & Blue went into the break a goal down, only managing to generate one shot in the first half.
The second half didn’t start much better for FCC. The Pennsylvania side created more chances and held an 11-4 shot advantage after 57 minutes of play. Alan Koch decided to change things up at that point with a wave of substitutes. In the 61st minute he introduced Emery Welshman for Danni König, who had picked up an early yellow card. Six minutes later he modified the midfield by introducing Nazmi Albadawi and Kenney Walker.
Just after the third substitute was made, FC Cincinnati broke on a dangerous counter-attack. Emmanuel Ledesma dribbled at goal then laid the ball off to Emery Welshman who shot from inside the box but wide left. Penn FC goalkeeper, Sean Lewis, who had been excellent to that point, parried the ball away. The rebound fell right into the path of Ledesma, who struck it first-time into goal from close range. 1-1.
Sixteen minutes later, “Magic” Corben Bone produced an Eastern Conference-clinching goal. Albadawi stripped Penn FC’s Aaron Dennis just outside of the home team’s penalty area. The ball fell to Corben Bone who took one touch then launched a delicate diagonal strike from outside the box into the right side-netting to make it 2-1, FC Cincinnati.
Penn FC was shocked and down, but kept swinging. Forrest Lasso used every inch of his 6’4” frame to jump and clear a Richard Menjívar curler off the line in stoppage time. In a game that looked headed for a disappointing FCC result, the Orange & Blue’s difference-making talent found a way . . . for the 19th straight time.
Final Score: Penn FC 1 – 2 FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati clinched the Eastern Conference on Saturday with four matches remaining in the regular season. Even though second-place Pittsburgh won on Saturday as well, FCC’s victory brings them to 69 points on the season. That’s higher than the total of 68 points that the Riverhounds can reach if they win the rest of their remaining matches. Alan Koch’s side now can turn their attention to the USL regular-season title, which is within very close reach.
Highlight of the Match
The high press from Naz to win the ball, the immediate, inch-perfect strike from Corben Bone–this is a goal worthy of clinching a conference title.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) September 23, 2018
Quote of the Match
Alan Koch talked about the historic win, but as always, kept a measured approach to what this accomplishment means.
“It’s step one, there’s a lot of people going crazy in the change room right now – as they should be – I’m smiling, I’m happy, we’ve all worked our backsides off to get where we are, but we’re hungry for more. You can hear the players inside, they’re congratulating each other, but we’re getting ready for Wednesday, we want to win the regular season title for both conferences.”
Stat of the Match
18% – FC Cincinnati didn’t dominate many statistical categories in this match. One thing they did do, as they have all season, is convert the chances they created at a better rate than their opponent. FC Cincinnati, who leads the USL in conversion rate, scored two goals from 11 shots (excluding blocks) – for an 18% conversion rate. Penn FC had 1 goal from 14 shots, for a conversion rate of 7%.
Alan Koch made five changes from the side that beat Toronto FC II 4-3 last Saturday. Jimmy McLaughlin, Danni König, Tyler Gibson, Dekel Keinan, and Matt Bahner all joined the starting eleven. Fatai Alashe and Richie Ryan missed the match through injury. Fanendo Adi was not in the 18 for this match.
König (61′ Welshman)
Ledesma – Bone – McLaughlin (68′ Albadawi)
Lahoud (68′ Walker) – Gibson
Smith – Lasso – Keinan (C) – Bahner
FC Cincinnati has a short turnaround following this conference-claiming match. That shouldn’t matter much though because they have a deep squad and a chance to clinch the USL regular season title on Wednesday. They’ll travel to Virginia for a midweek contest against the Richmond Kickers. It’s one that FCC should win on paper. The Kickers have just 6 wins and have been eliminated from playoff contention already. Can FCC get it done against one of the longest-tenured teams in the U.S. second division, and one with a historic unbeaten streak of their own?
Tune into Orange & Blue Press on Wednesday to find out.