One down, three to go. FC Cincinnati continues their quest for the USL Cup this Saturday against perennial Eastern Conference contender New York Red Bulls II. It’s another high-stakes, winner-takes-all matinee at Nippert Stadium. The Orange & Blue advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals after a grueling 1-1 draw with Nashville SC that was settled by penalty kicks. Kenny Walker delivered the decisive spot kick to win the shootout 6-5 after Nashville SC’s Justin Davis put his attempt over the crossbar. It’s the first time FCC has advanced to the conference semifinal in their three-year history.
New York Red Bulls II punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference semis by beating the Charleston Battery 1-0 on the road. A 21st-minute Tom Barlow strike and some tidy defending were enough to seal the victory. For more details on these teams’ recent head-to-head-history and predictions for both semifinals in the East, check out Orange & Blue Press’ article by Geoff Tebbetts.
Alan Koch’s squad finished 25 points ahead of a talented but inconsistent Red Bulls II squad during the regular season. The Orange & Blue, of course, are still carrying a USL-record unbeaten streak heading into this playoff match. That streak currently stands at 24 games (17-0-7). The Baby Bulls are the #5 seed and are in sizzling form. They come into the contest on a 7-game unbeaten run that includes four straight wins.
There are no major injuries for FC Cincinnati ahead of Saturday’s contest. However, the squad may still be without striker Danni König. The Danish forward and double-digit goalscorer returned home last week citing personal reasons. The FCC jerseys worn last Saturday against Nashville donned a small 11 on the sleeve to recognize his absence.
Here’s a heavy dose of fast facts to get you ready for this Eastern Conference semifinal showdown.
- This contest features two of the best offenses in the USL. FC Cincinnati has 73 goals so far in 2018 and New York Red Bulls II is right behind with 72. Those are the third and fourth highest totals in the league. FC Cincinnati finished the regular season with the highest goal total, but Orange County FC (74) and Louisville City FC (75) leapfrogged them last week with high-scoring playoff matches.
- Red Bulls II has one of the worst defenses in the league and conceded 24 more goals than FCC during the regular season (59). Only 7 teams allowed more goals than New York, and none of them made the playoffs. John Wolyniec’s squad only kept 5 clean sheets compared to FCC’s 15. However, they’ve been stingy recently, conceding only 2 goals in their last 3 matches.
- New York likes to do their damage from close range. Of their 72 goals, only 6 have been scored from outside the 18-yard box (8%). In comparison, FCC has scored 22% of their goals from outside the box in 2018.
- Red Bulls II have created three times as many penalties kick opportunities as FCC (12 to 4). They have only converted 66% of those spot-kicks though, and FCC has converted all 4 of their attempts.
- NYRBII’s Jared Stroud and Tom Barlow are players to watch as they account for 5 of the team’s last 7 goals. Barlow has 3 and Stroud has 2 over their last 4 matches.
- Corben Bone is red-hot in Orange & Blue with three goals in the last 2 games. If you include last weekend’s playoff strike, he now has the second most goals of any FCC player in 2018. Bone also joined Eric Stevenson as only one of two FCC players to score a playoff goal.
- Spencer Richey is coming off of his third five-save match of 2018 against Nashville SC, and FCC is 11-1-3 this season when he’s between the sticks. Jack Stern’s goalkeeping squad needs to be at their best again on Saturday to stop a potent Red Bulls II attack.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s playoff match versus New York Red Bulls 2.