The Orange & Blue emphatically finished their regular-season home schedule on Saturday with a 3-0 victory over I-74 rivals, Indy Eleven. The post-match celebrations of the USL Regular-Season Championship are now the stuff of local legend. Here are three deeper cuts on how the match played-out in front of 31,478 fans.
Alan Koch rotated his roster, changing 10 of 11 players from the team that defeated Richmond on Wednesday. With the Regular Season Championship won, Saturday presented a great opportunity to give some deserved playing time to members of FCC’s squad. Players like Sem de Wit, Russell Cicerone, Matt Bahner, Tyler Gibson, and Tomi Ameobi have been with the team since the start of the season. All are in the bottom ten in minutes played, but contributed to the 3-0 win. Expect to see more of this capable cast in the final two matches of the season.
Make no mistake though, the FC Cincinnati squad was not substantially weakened. The lineup morphed from its customary 4-2-3-1 into a conventional 4-4-2 with a flat midfield. Adi, König, Cicerone, and McLaughlin gave the starting 11 an attacking look. Imagine being the Indy Eleven defenders staring down Fanendo Adi and Danni König starting in a “rotated” FCC lineup.
FCC could have been excused for turning in a less than perfect performance on Saturday. The league was won and they couldn’t improve their playoff position. It was their third match in eight days, including two on the road. Add to that an hour-and-twenty-minute lightning delay on Wednesday, post-match celebrations in Richmond after claiming the regular-season crown, and flight delays returning home. Alan Koch’s team delivered again despite these obstacles. The team showed up for the fans, providing a convincing performance that pumped-up the crowd for the trophy ceremony that followed. It was a fitting end for their last home USL regular season match ever.
While the final score wasn’t flattering for the visitors on Saturday, Indy Eleven was very much in this match for almost two-thirds of the contest. Indy Eleven managed a 60% possession advantage, and had more than twice as many shots as FC Cincinnati over the entire contest.
FCC’s next-level quality in the final third was the difference. Fanendo Adi struck first with a ferocious long-range strike. Indy pressed hard for the equalizer but were then undone by Danni König’s well-taken counter-attack goal in the 65th minute. An own goal for FCC’s third added insult to injury and the Orange & Blue walked away easy winners. Two goals from 8 shots (excluding blocked shots), produced a 25% FCC conversion rate in this match. Note that the third own goal doesn’t count toward conversion rate.
With two matches remaining, FCC leads the league in goals scored with 69 (2.2 per game). The Orange & Blue can claim 15 different goalscorers in 2018 and if Corben Bone scores one more goal, they will finish the regular season with four players with double-digit goal totals.
It’s fun to talk about offense, but one also can’t overlook the performance of Evan Newton (5 saves) and a bend-but-don’t-break defense that kept their 13th clean sheet of the season.
Who’s Up First?
The race for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference is very tight indeed, especially in spots 6 through 10. That’s important, of course, because FC Cincinnati will face the team that finishes eighth in the Eastern Conference in the first round of the USL playoffs. It’s difficult to predict right now just who that opponent will be. Currently, based on Orange & Blue Press projections, our first round opponent will be Nashville SC. But things can change quickly based on one or two results.
North Carolina FC continued their good late season form and picked up a 3-2 win against Richmond on Saturday. All of the rest of the teams in the 6-10 spots — Bethlehem, Nashville, NY Red Bulls II and Ottawa — tied and earned one point this weekend.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press through the end of the regular season and we’ll keep you up to date on how thing are shaping-up as the October 20th date for the first playoff game approaches.