FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 New York Red Bulls II: USL Era Ends in Conference Semis

FC Cincinnati set two new USL records and finished their regular season while playing Nashville SC to a 3-3 stalemate at First Tennessee Park.

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Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati’s dominant 2018 season came to an abrupt end on Saturday in the USL Cup playoffs, when they were defeated 1-0 by New York Red Bulls II. A modest crowd of 16,617 witnessed the end of FC Cincinnati’s USL era on a damp fall afternoon in the Queen City.

New York came into the match confident, on the heels for four straight wins, and clearly had the better first half. They capitalized quickly on their good start 12 minutes into the contest. Following a cleared Emmanuel Ledesma free kick, the Baby Bulls unleashed a piercing counter-attack. Supporting New York players distracted three FCC defenders long enough to allow Amando Moreno space for a shot. His effort from just outside the penalty area beat Spencer Richey to the lower left corner. John Wolyniec’s side shut down a one-dimensional FC Cincinnati with Fanendo Adi leading the line, allowing only one shot in the first stanza. At halftime, Alan Koch said, “we have to be better in the second,” but also cited New York’s gamesmanship and time-wasting following the goal.

FC Cincinnati adjusted to their alternate formation in the second half — a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. That change plus the introduction of Kenney Walker in the 61st minute produced immediate benefits. The game opened up and both teams had chances to change the scoreline. Alan Koch also introduced Jimmy McLaughlin and Emery Welshman late in the match in an attempt to find a breakthrough. It wasn’t to be though. Despite 19 second-half shots between the two teams, neither team found the back of the net. A resilient Red Bulls II side salted away the game and FC Cincinnati’s record-setting season fell short of the promises offered by their regular season championship.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 New York Red Bulls II

Highlight of the Match

FC Cincinnati had clear chances to equalize in the second half. New York also had quality chances to double their lead. Neither team could convert. Fanendo Adi’s 50th-minute effort was probably the best of the bunch for the Orange & Blue.

Stat of the Match

Emmanuel Ledesma was clearly the standout player of 2018 for the Orange & Blue. The Baby Bulls, however, limited FC Cincinnati’s star to just two off-target shots on Saturday. Manu was still able to create 3 chances and win 14 of 19 duels, but the Red Bulls were able to neutralize what should have been a deadly combination of Ledesma and Adi. Therefore, one 12th-minute goal was enough to sink the USL regular season champions.

Quote of the Match

Team captain Paddy Barrett had the following to say about the loss in the post-match press conference.

“We’re all mature enough to take this on the chin . . . To be part of this group, we don’t want it to end on such a low. From me and everybody in the dressing room, we should keep our heads up and be proud of what we did this year.”

Who Started?

Alan Koch started the exact same 11 players that started last weekend in the penalty-kick victory over Nashville SC. The formation changed from the visual below to a 4-4-2 in the second half, with Ledesma moving up to join Adi.

Bone – Albadawi (79′ McLaughlin) – Ledesma
Gibson (61′ Walker) – Alashe
Smith (86′ Welshman) – Lasso – Barrett – Hoyte

What’s Next?

Another exit from the playoffs, earlier than expected, leaves FC Cincinnati fans wanting more as they exit the United Soccer League. There will be a day to reflect on the loss and put it in perspective, given a season full of fine moments. That quiet reflection won’t last for long though. Monday is expected to be a day full of team news and player exits, as FC Cincinnati turns the chapter and looks forward to its first division future.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as we put a finishing touch on the 2018 season and keep you filled-in on the conclusion of the USL Cup Playoffs.

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