Players I’m Going to Miss – Andrew Wiedeman

Andrew Wiedeman is one of the most popular players in FC Cincinnati’s short history. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and discuss how the Orange and Blue will cope without him.

20170815_CRAVEN_FCC v NYRB_USOPENCUP_Semis - 23-2

We’re continuing our series that looks back at the players we won’t see suit up in Orange and Blue this season, and discuss how we’ll cope without them. Next up…

Andrew Wiedeman.

He’s possibly the most popular player to ever put on an Orange and Blue jersey, and he made contributions both on and off the field that will be hard to replicate. He was our second-leading goalscorer in 2016, behind Golden Boot winner Sean Okoli. That hair too, …amazing hair. He’s an “inaugural” and he will surely be missed.

Photos courtesy Ryan Meyer, Joe Schmuck, and Joe Craven

Favorite Moments

“Wieda” scored the first goal in franchise history* in 2016 against Bethlehem Steel FC. He also scored a perfectly good onside goal in extra-time that could have won the US Open Cup match against the Chicago Fire, but was sadly disallowed.

He scored a number of memorable goals but none were more impressive than this individual effort against the Charleston Battery. It was one of the top 10 goals of the USL’s 2017 season.

Where’s He Going

After FC Cincinnati’s 2017 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, he told traveling fans about his plans to retire. He confirmed that news last Wednesday via Twitter and the FC Cincinnati press release that followed.

Many hoped Wiedeman might pursue a coaching role or continue playing and accept a locker room leadership role like the one Omar Cummings performed in 2017. Alas, it was not to be. He recently married in his native California and is planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of California – Berkeley, where he played college soccer.

Who Can Replace Him?

Wiedeman spent most of his on-field time positioned in an attacking role on the right flank. He tucked inside frequently, and at times operated in a playmaking capacity behind the forwards.

The replacement for him is not immediately clear because we don’t yet know Koch’s preferred formation. It’s not clear if wingers will play as prominent of a role in this year’s setup as they have the past two seasons. So we’ll look at both playmakers and right-footed attackers that could replace the roles filled by FC Cincinnati’s #23.

In terms of playmaking ability, Alan Koch added talent in that category superior to what this team has seen in the past. Emmanuel Ledesma is a right-footed forward that has playmaking ability in buckets. His 73 chances-created in 2017 led the NASL by a large margin. The Argentine also accumulated 10 goals and six assists in only 17 starts. Ledesma could certainly set up on the right and drift inside to attack and create for others. He is likely to start and should be a treat to watch in 2018.

One can also look to Nazmi Albadawi as a talent that can replace the playmaking work that Weideman contributed. He’s more of a midfielder than a forward though and one would expect him to contribute to the team in that capacity. He’ll also likely play more centrally than Wiedeman typically did.

Jimmy McLaughlin has almost always featured on the left, but could flip to the right, and play the same role. Daniel Haber is also a natural right winger. The 25-year-old Toronto native has 14 goals and 5 assists over the past two seasons with Whitecaps 2 and Real Monarchs. Emery Welshman is also a righty, and a forward whose speed could be an asset on the wing. The Guyana native accumulated 11 goals between his time at Real Monarchs and Puerto Rico FC between 2015 and 2017. Welshman has a lot of potential, but we’ll see whether he can break into the first team on this loaded roster.

FC Cincinnati’s preseason slate of games should give us more clues as to exactly how Wiedeman’s role will be filled with this new cast of characters. Regardless of who does the job, the Orange and Blue shouldn’t be short on attacking prowess in 2018.

“Wieds was fanstastic”

Alan Koch had the following to say about Wiedeman’s retirement after the first session of preseason training.

Wieds was fanstastic, an unbelievable guy, not just with our group but in the community, he had a great career as a player and obviously we wish him nothing but the best moving forward…, but he was a huge member of the club for the past two years and we’ve obviously had to identify guys to come in and replace him.”

It’s clear that Andrew Wiedeman’s play, his spirit, and his humor made a connection with the Cincinnati community. He’s an Orange and Blue legend and he will be missed. Thanks Wieda and good luck in the next chapter.

It’s going to be hard to replace this.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.
20170815_CRAVEN_FCC v NYRB_USOPENCUP_Semis - 23-2

*regular season USL goal, excludes 2016 preseason

Orlando City B 1 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Djiby Returns for Florida Stalemate

Early goals were traded but neither team could find a winner when FC Cincinnati and Orlando City B met in Florida on Saturday.

Orlando-Report-Header
Photo credit Mark Thor / Orlando City B
FC Cincinnati played Orlando City B to a 1-1 stalemate at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday evening. Djiby provided the equalizer for the Orange and Blue in the 17th minute in response to a strike by OCB’s Jordan Schweitzer in the opening minutes of the match.

The goal for Alan Koch’s team originated when Corben Bone intercepted the ball deep in FC Cincinnati’s own half. He played it forward to Djiby, who quickly laid it off to the nearby Jimmy McLaughlin. The Pennsylvania native played a long diagonal ball to Andrew Wiedeman who was streaking down the right side. Wiedeman outpaced the left back and rolled the ball into the center for DJiby, who tapped it home.

FC Cincinnati had opportunities to take the lead after the 17th minute, creating many more chances than Orlando City B, but could not convert.

Orlando City B ended the game with ten men. Pierra Da Silva was sent to the lockers for violent conduct after kicking-out in a tackle against substitute Kadeem Dacres. There was little time for Alan Koch’s side to take advantage though, and the teams shared the points.

Talking Points

Djiby Recovers Quickly

The Senegalese forward sustained an ankle injury last Saturday in the 2-0 win against Saint Louis FC. That injury saw him miss Wednesday’s US Open Cup triumph against the Chicago Fire. Fortunately, his injury was short in duration and he went right back into action against Orlando City B, playing 73 minutes.

Djiby led the team in shots (5) and shot on target (3), and scored FCC’s only goal of the match with a simple tap in. That’s his eighth USL goal of the season and 11th overall. He will rue a missed first half opportunity to score the game winner. An errant pass by OCB goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. was put right into his path, but an bad touch saw the opportunity come and go.

Weakened Lions

Two of OCB’s leading goalscorers, Hadji Barry and Richie Laryea, were with the senior Orlando City MLS team on Friday for their game against Real Salt Lake. They therefore did not suit up against FC Cincinnati on Saturday. Barry and Laryea have each netted three times for the Anthony Pulis’ side this season.

Held at Arm’s Length

FC Cincinnati produced far more shots than Orlando City B in this match. They had a 14-2 shot advantage, excluding blocked shots. Many of those efforts were from long range though. In fact, the only on-target shot that FC Cincinnati took from inside the box was Djiby’s goal. The rest of their on-frame efforts were from distance. FC Cincinnati has not scored a goal from outside the 18-yard box this season.

Graphic from USL’s Match Center showing FC Cincinnati’s on-target shots, excluding the goal.

Screenshot 2017-07-02 08.20.42

Away Woes

This result in isolation is not a bad one. A point on the road against a team that beat FC Cincinnati 2-0 at Nippert is decent. However, when you look at the team’s form away from home in the first half of the season, you might be concerned. FC Cincinnati has only one win in seven matches away from Nippert in 2017, collecting five of 21 possible points.

At the halfway point of the 2016 season, they had three wins and 11 total road points. They’ll look to quickly improve on their season totals when they visit the Tampa Bay Rowdies this Thursday.

Halftime on FC Cincinnati’s Season

With 16 matches played, Saturday’s result brings FC Cincinnati to the halfway point of their 2017 USL season. They are 5-5-6 with 21 points and sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. At the halfway point of the 2016 season, FC Cincinnati had a 9-2-4 record with 31 total points (last year’s season was 30 games rather than 32).

Alan Koch’s side is positioned right in the middle of a log jam of teams with fairly average results. Only five points separates Tampa Bay in third place from Pittsburgh in eleventh. The good news for FC Cincinnati is that a lot will be decided in the second half of the season. The first half of this season has been about figuring out how to configure a deep roster with a lot of new faces into a system that fits their talent.

Many fans are optimistic about the team’s form after recent changes to the formation. That form has provided monumental victories in the US Open Cup and a trip to the quarterfinals of that tournament. They’ll need to translate that cup form into league results in the second half of the season to ensure playoff qualification and a decent seed.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati. Next up is another road match in Florida against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Thursday, July 6th.

Orlando-Report-Header

Blog: Subplots, Chicago Fire US Open Cup Victory

Subplots from FC Cincinnati’s US Open cup victory including scary selection, Hoyte’s central role, and Wiedeman’s glorious disallowed goal.

Subplots-Header
Photo courtesy of JES Photography / Joe Schmuck

There are so many storylines from Wednesday night’s triumph at Nippert. I jotted down a few thoughts on the smaller narratives that people aren’t talking about enough in my opinion. The majority of the chatter is about Mitch’s master performance, the games implications on the MLS bid, what it meant to Austin Berry and Corben Bone, and even what it means for American soccer. All valid topics, but some of the less obvious talking points are more interesting to me. Screw clicks, right?

Ballsy Lineup

Alan Koch set the team up in a 3-4-3 formation that looked like a 5-4-1 when Chicago had the ball. Critically, HE MADE SIX CHANGES from the strong eleven that started last Saturday in USL action. If you didn’t gulp when that lineup was announced, to match-up against a Schweinsteiger-led Chicago Fire, you’re one of those overly-positive people I’ll never understand.

Everyone expected some rotation. Everyone expected König to play a role. Djiby of course was hurt. But six changes and no Jimmy Mac, no Kenney Walker, no Corben Bone, no Wiedeman? Koch started Stevenson and Dominguez, both players I like, but both young players that haven’t figured much in the starting eleven this season.

The beauty is that it worked, somehow. He put a lot of trust in the squad and it paid off. They certainly needed the spark and possession-play from McLaughlin, Bone, and Wiedeman as substitutes. They needed a game-of-your-life performance from Mitch Hildebrandt to pull off the victory, but wow. It could have backfired. In light of the result, you have to tip your hat to the coaching staff. I’m still not sure whether it was genius or crazy.

Hoyte Steps into the Back Three

Justin Hoyte started in the center of the back three, and combined with Berry, Delbridge, and defense-minded wingbacks to keep the Fire at bay for 120 minutes. Surely Hoyte is a quality defender, and we know he has the ability to play center back. But we’ve only seen him at fullback or wingback this season, and Nico’s been a rock there recently. Was now the time to experiment? In arguably the biggest match in club history to date? Again, it worked. Hoyte was stingy in defense. Berry was everywhere, and the best at the back in my opinion. Bahner cleared a sure goal off the line. Delbridge was a monster in the air as always. In truth, the entire defense had a great performance.

Wieda One Bad Call Away from All the Headlines

Every article you’ve read about this match has one man on the cover photo, Mitch Hildebrandt. And rightly so. His performance during the game, and in the shootout was at a different level.  I’m not trying to minimize that at all. One should also point out that Mitch was quick to heap praise on his teammates and give them all the credit in post match interviews.

However, Andrew Wiedeman’s extra time goal was SO onside. It should have been the game winner and if that had happened, think about how different the dialogue and the headlines might be. Who would be on the cover photos? Also think about the outrage that would have ensued about that incorrect offside call if Chicago had won the shootout. We talk a lot about statistical trends, aggregate numbers, and the like to analyze matches. But individual moments and decisions, by players and officials, usually define matches. It’s part of why this game is so unpredictable, and why we love and hate this sport all at the same time.

Danni and Kadeem’s Effort

Thursday was truly a team performance. Danni König and Kadeem Dacres don’t get many mentions in the write-ups, but I thought they absolutely ran their socks off, especially in the earlier portions of the match. The Fire were pressing for the opening goal, and these two were a big part of a defend-from-the-front approach, that made life difficult enough to keep the Fire off the score sheet. Effort isn’t everything, but these guys really laid it out there on Wednesday night. Staying in the game despite Chicago’s early onslaught was a key part of this US Open Cup success.

No Djiby, No Kenney, No Problem

If I had to write down the starting eleven for any FC Cincinnati match, Djiby Fall and Kenney Walker would likely be the first two names I would write down. The fact that we beat an almost full strength, in-form Chicago Fire team without those two players is incredible. The depth of this roster, which has been touted since preseason, paid off on Wednesday. We’ll continue to need that depth as the Orange and Blue will play six matches in the first 15 days of July. That run starts tomorrow against Orlando City B. Just one more day left to savor that historic US Open Cup win.

So many storylines, which is one of many reasons why this match will live on in FC Cincinnati legend for some time.

Any underreported storylines that I missed? Let me know in the comments section or on social media.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati.

Subplots-Header

FC Cincinnati 0 – 0 Chicago Fire (3-1 PKs): Four Numbers That Mattered

Four numbers that mattered and the match changing moment from FC Cincinnati’s round of 16 US Open Cup triumph over the Chicago Fire.

USOC-Fire-Header
Photo Courtesy JES Photography / Joe Schmuck
NO. NO. NO.

In what could be considered arguably the biggest “cupset” of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, FC Cincinnati continued their miracle run with a win over the Chicago Fire of MLS, winning 3-1 in penalties after 120 minutes of 0-0 action. Most of the honors will go to Cincy goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt, as all 26 shots fired by the Fire, 10 of which were on goal, were parried or stopped by the 2016 USL Goalkeeper of the Year. His efforts were seen by a national audience, thanks to ESPN’s coverage of the 5th-round game.

The entire first half of the game was a wait-and-see approach by Chicago, controlling the ball and forcing Cincinnati onto their heels. With most of the action taking place in their defensive third, FC Cincinnati’s back line was forced to deflect shots out for corner kicks. The highlight clearance came at the 16th minute when a juicy cross by Bastien Schweinsteiger found Juninho, only for the misdirect to be narrowly cleared off the line by Matt Bahner.

The second half started with more of the same pressure put on Hildebrandt, who had to make three sprawling saves within a 20-minute span. However, once FC Cincinnati started to slide in their substitutes, the pace of the game changed dramatically. Jimmy McLaughlin and Corben Bone came in and began to take advantage of the Chicago press, intercepting in the middle and sprinting ahead of the tiring Chicago defense. Both were denied scoring opportunities in stoppage time, only to be turned away by goalkeeper Matt Lampson and a questionable non-call in the Chicago box.

Extra time saw some point-blank saves by both keepers, as action ran from goal line to goal line. An early extra-time substitution almost paid dividends, as Andrew Wiedeman’s intense 109’ goal celebration was cut short with an offsides call. That chance was followed by more fingertip saves by Hildebrandt, and a late near-post save by Lampson.

With all the time played with no resolution, Hildebrandt outperformed Lampson in penalty kicks, letting in only one shot to Lampson’s three. After watching Hildebrandt deflect Juninho’s final attempt, the bouncing Nippert crowd erupted in cheers and blue-orange smoke while the team dog-piled on the hero of the day in excitement.

This win marks the furthest a USL team has made it into the U.S. Open Cup tournament since then-USL Orlando City upset Colorado and Kansas City to make it into the quarterfinals in 2013. FC Cincinnati now travels to play NASL division-leaders Miami FC on July 12th, as Miami upset MLS’s Atlanta United with their own late-game heroics, advancing on a 3-2 win after a 93rd minute goal by Kwadwo Poku. This matchup guarantees a D2 team in the USOC semifinals for the first time since the Richmond Kickers did it in 2011.

Match Changing Moment

Mitch Hildebrandt’s first PK save on Chicago’s Nemanja Nicolic. After Aodhan Quinn had skied FCC’s first PK attempt, Hildebrandt slapped the MLS scoring leader’s shot away to the left with a sprawling save. Had it not been for this play, FCC could have been forced to come from behind for the win. Instead, Josu, Harrison Delbridge, and McLaughlin calmly stepped up to bury their shots, while Mitch said “No!” two more times against Arturo Alvarez and Juninho.

Four Numbers That Mattered

18-7 – The advantage Chicago had in corner kicks. While FCC managed to adjust and make more ventures into the Chicago box in the second half, most of the possession belonged to Chicago, who held a 70-30 advantage over the entire game. Chicago received the first 9 CKs of the game, only for the FCC D-line to bend and not break. Outside of the possession and corner kick battle, Cincinnati managed to keep it close in shots (20 to 26), shots on goal (7 to 10), and fouls (13 to 14).

66’ – The minute that Jimmy McLaughlin came on to substitute for Eric Stevenson. With Cincinnati struggling to keep consistent possession during the game, McLaughlin was subbed on to give a spark on the edge. McLaughlin immediately stretched the field with his speed, matching König for most attempts on goal (5).

499 – Number of minutes since the last time FC Cincinnati conceded a goal in U.S. Open Cup play. Ever since the 11th minute in the loss at Tampa Bay June 1st of last year, the combination of Hildebrandt and backup Dallas Jaye have completely shut down the opposition over the four games this year (three 1-0 wins and the 0-0 result vs. Chicago). All of Hildebrandt’s 10 saves came in the second half and extra time, not including those stellar three blocks in PK time.

32,287 – People packing the Nippert Stadium stands. This goes without saying. The crowd once again flooded the seats and stayed rocking throughout the game. FC Cincinnati and Chicago played in front of the second-largest modern-day U.S. Open Cup crowd ever, bested only by the 35,615 who witnessed the 2011 U.S. Open Cup final, in which Chicago also lost (this time to Seattle).

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s cup run and the 2017 season.

USOC-Fire-Header

FC Cincinnati 2 – 0 Saint Louis FC: A Much Needed Home Three

Three takeaways from a comprehensive home victory for FC Cincinnati against Saint Louis FC at Nippert Stadium on Saturday, June 24th.

Header-St-Louis
Photo courtesy of JES Photography / Joe Schmuck

FC Cincinnati earned a vital 2-0 home victory against Saint Louis FC at Nippert Stadium on Saturday. The Orange and Blue started on the front foot, and took the lead in the seventh minute courtesy of an A. J. Cochran own goal. Andrew Wiedeman broke through Saint Louis’ defense, and had a one-on-one opportunity against the keeper. He put a shot past Saint Louis net-minder Adam Grinwis. The shot deflected off Cochran’s foot and into goal as the center back tried to recover. Substitute Danni König then doubled the tally for Alan Koch’s side in the 66th minute, slotting home a close-range effort assisted by Jimmy McLaughlin.

The victory was the most complete performance by FC Cincinnati this season. Their play was characterized by precise midfield passing and movement, threatening attacks from a dynamic front three, and a defense that snuffed-out Saint Louis FC’s attacks before they materialized.

Takeaways

Strong Lineup with a Formation Twist

FC Cincinnati sent out a first choice eleven for this match, despite speculation that some of the team’s best players might rest with an eye on the midweek US Open Cup match. Alan Koch tweaked the 3-5-2 formation the team has employed over the past three games, and transitioned to a 3-4-3. Rather than two pure strikers at the top of the formation, Andrew Wiedeman and Jimmy McLaughlin flanked Djiby Fall. FC Cincinnati’s attack looked as dynamic on Saturday as it has all season. The team came out flying, producing 9 shots in the first half, with 6 on target. Jimmy McLaughlin should have scored a second for FC Cincinnati in the 44th minute. His right-footed blast beat the keeper but clattered off the right post. Danni König came on for Djiby to seal the victory. His goal came just two minutes after he entered the match.

Kenney Walker Ran the Midfield

A lot of players produced great performances on Saturday, and are worthy of individual praise. Kenney Walker was exceptional though. He led the team in touches (90), passes (69 total at an 84% completion rate), duels won (10), tackles (8), and chances created (3, tied with McLaughlin). He is a complete player and the heartbeat of the team. A midfielder with an eye for a tackle doesn’t often make the highlight reel, but his contributions with and without the ball should not be underestimated.
Alan Koch said the following of Walker after the match.

“Kenney is one of those players, you notice him when he’s playing, but you notice it maybe more when he’s not playing. He’s a player that every single little individual detail that you ask him to do, he does it right. It says a lot about him as a professional, he’ll embrace whatever role you’ll give him. As a coach, I see every single day how good he is…it’s great to have him back fit, healthy, and sharp.”

Andrew Wiedeman and Jimmy McLaughlin also had standout performances. König iced the game. Nicholson continues to thrive in the back three, and Polak impressed again. In truth, the performance by the collective unit was impressive and it was great to see the team win and not rely so heavily on Djiby to do so.

Much Needed Home Three

FC Cincinnati’s league form has simply not been great this season. Coming into the match, they were in tenth place in the Eastern Conference. Further, they were in the bottom third of the conference in points-per-game average. They were coming off back-to-back home draws in the league, and had earned only four points away from home out of 18 possible. Anything other than a win in this match would have sent this team close to the cellar of the Eastern Conference. Although there’s over half of the season to play, a loss would have put in doubt the team’s ability to compete for a top four spot, which secures at least one home playoff game.

An emphatic win is just what the doctor ordered. This team has shown glimpses of improvement in recent games, and everything came together against Saint Louis FC Saturday. The win elevates FC Cincinnati to sixth place on twenty points after 15 matches played. This victory will hopefully act as a platform for the team to build on for the second half of the 2017 season.

Spotlight on Cincy

FC Cincinnati fans don’t need to be reminded about what’s in store for them this week, but I’ll do it anyway. The Chicago Fire, the second place team in MLS’ Eastern Conference, travels to Cincinnati for a US Open Cup round-of-16 clash at Nippert Stadium. The national spotlight will be on Cincinnati for one of the most important matches in this club’s short history. Kenney Walker said the following about Wednesday’s matchup.

“I’m just excited to play against that caliber of team. The atmosphere is going to be phenomenal, but you always want to match up with the best players you can. Every position will be tested. We had the opportunity against the Crew, and now we have another top MLS team at Nippert. It allows you to see how you match up with the guy standing across from you.”

Match Photos via Joe Schmuck

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati.
Header-St-Louis

FC Cincinnati 1 – Louisville City FC 1: Game of Twos

Twos were the theme in FC Cincinnati’s derby day showdown with Louisville City FC on Saturday. Plus match photos and quotes from the stalemate at Nippert.

Quinn-Cover
Photo Credit: JES Photography / Joe Schmuck
FC Cincinnati played Louisville City FC to a 1-1 stalemate at Nippert Stadium on Saturday. The Orange and Blue equalized late to secure a point from a match that their rival had led since the 20th minute. Midfielder and former Louisville City FC captain Aodhan Quinn got the equalizer. Quinn respectfully didn’t celebrate the goal against his old club.

Alan Koch introduced Andrew Wiedeman and Daryl Fordyce in the 60th minute in an aggressive move to put pressure on LCFC’s defense. His team shifted to a 3-5-2 formation thereafter and it paid off with Quinn’s goal. Forward Djiby Fall was sent off for a dangerous tackle nine minutes after the equalizer and will miss next week’s game against Bethlehem Steel FC.

Game of Twos

Two goals were scored in the match, one for each side.
For the 2nd consecutive match FC Cincinnati conceded an early goal from a shot outside of their own penalty box.
For the 2nd consecutive match they’ve come from behind to equalize.
FC Cincinnati is now 2-2-2 after this result on 8 points.
FC Cincinnati has a +2 goal difference after the match.
2 red cards have been issued to FC Cincinnati over their past two matches.

Bitegate

After the match, Louisville City head coach James O’Connor accused FC Cincinnati forward Djiby Fall of biting Niall McCabe in the aftermath of the red card. There was shoving between the two players and their faces came together during the dispute. The angle of the video shows the back of McCabe’s head so it’s difficult to clearly tell what happened. The issue has been reported to the USL by LCFC. FC Cincinnati has issued a statement in defense of Djiby Fall, as reported by Pat Brennan. Stay tuned for more details on the USL’s review as this story unravels.

Update: Djiby Fall was disciplined by USL with a 1 game ban and a fine for the red card plus 5 additional games for major game misconduct.

Photos

Twenty five images of blackout derby day at Nippert courtesy of JES Photography / Joe Schmuck. For any given image, a high resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.”

Quotable

Koch: “We were running on empty and Louisville were definitely the better team.”
This was the third match FC Cincinnati played in eight days. In contrast, LCFC had a full week of rest coming into the match.

Koch (of the substitutions in the 60th minute): “We pushed Daryl up front, …It was a tactical adjustment. It allowed us to get more bodies further up the field. And when you play direct, which we did in the last 30 minutes, you need to get more bodies around the ball.”

Koch: “We are getting very good at playing the last few minutes a man down. Hopefully that does not continue.”

Quinn: “I have a lot of respect for that club, the coaches, the players, they treated me so well there…there was no chance I was going to celebrate if I scored.”

Back to Bethlehem

FC Cincinnati remains in fifth place in the Eastern Conference after six matches played. In a strange scheduling twist, FC Cincinnati heads back to the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania to take on Bethlehem Steel FC on their home turf for the second time in the space of 20 days. Why so soon and why are we playing Bethlehem three times this year? Only the USL scheduling gods know for sure.

Quinn-Cover

FC Cincinnati at Bethlehem Steel FC – History Making Matchup

FC Cincinnati made history last season in the corresponding fixture with Bethlehem Steel FC. Plus, inside intel from Evan Villella of the ECC podcast.

Tyler Polak. Photo courtesy JES Photography / Joe Schmuck

FC Cincinnati finishes its three game road series on Sunday when they take on Bethlehem Steel FC at Goodman Stadium. The Orange and Blue currently sit seventh in the Eastern Conference on three points with one win and one loss after two games. Last Saturday they earned their first points of 2017 with a narrow 1-0 victory over a 10 man Pittsburgh Riverhounds side.

Bethlehem Steel is the MLS 2 side for the Philadelphia Union, and like FC Cincinnati, are playing just their second season in USL. Unlike some MLS 2 sides, Steel FC has their own branding and plays outside of their MLS team’s metro area.

Bethlehem played their first match of the year last Saturday and lost 3-2 to Rochester as the result of an 88th minute goal from Jochen Graf. Steel FC controlled 60% of possession and outshot Rochester, but came out on the wrong end of a match where three goals were scored from the penalty spot.

Q&A With Evan Villella

Orange and Blue Press caught up with Evan Villella to get the run down on Steel FC. Evan is the host of the Eastern Conference Confidential podcast, and the Bethlehem Steel staff writer for the Brotherly Game.

I remember talking to you last year after the match at Goodman Stadium and you thought that Steel FC was a playoff team. Bethlehem finished 11th in the East. What happened to a team that looked good early? 

“Losing Ryan Richter and Mickey Daly midseason to New York Cosmos and NCFC respectively was a huge blow for the defense. It didn’t help that defender and Union loanee Anderson was outplayed consistently by Union homegrown Auston Trusty. Between that and no one stepping up to grab goals consistently, Steel was stuck on the outside looking in.”

Steel FC lost their season opener to Rochester in a game that featured 3 PKs, what did they do well in that match?

“I thought they controlled possession really well against a very tough Rochester side. Between that and getting quality performances from academy products Tomas Romero (16 year old keeper who will be away on YNT duty with El Salvador) and Josue Monge (looked pretty good in the CM role next to Brian Carroll), there’s a lot to like from a narrow defeat.”

Charlie Davies scored for Bethlehem last weekend. It’s not often that we see a former US international matched up against us. How has Davies looked in preseason, and will see him on Sunday?

“Davies was a short term loan, which all MLS 2 sides have the ability to do at any time during the season. Really those are just to get guys minutes and Chuck needed them this preseason. He looked, fine, burying a penalty at the death of the first half and generally being one of the more dangerous guys on the pitch for Steel in the opening 45. That being said, for the way Steel play, Jamaican International Cory Burke or even Seku Conneh is a better bet.”

Steel FC featured eight Union loanees last week. Are we going to see that much MLS talent again this Sunday?

“I hope not. Perhaps for selfish reasons (I saw a ton of Derrick Jones before he lit up MLS last year), but I really enjoy seeing the next crop of young talent in the organization apply their craft in USL. Chris Nanco should be available and I would be very wary of him and Marcus Epps out wide.”

Unlike some MLS2 teams, Steel FC has unique branding and plays in a removed market from the parent club. Do you think this model works better in terms of drawing fan support? Are there other benefits?

“The Lehigh Valley (kind of the surrounding area where Bethlehem play) is a hot bed for development teams. The Philadelphia Flyers have their AHL team in the LV and the Philadelphia Phillies have their top affiliate (AAA) in the LV as well. From that stand point, it’s a real smart move. In terms of drawing fans I didn’t get an attendance number this last weekend but 800-1600 is not bad all. From a marketing stand point I think the “MLS 2″ team name is lazy and boring, but that’s one man’s opinion.”

Anything else we should know about Bethlehem Steel ahead of the match?

Auston Trusty (#26) helped the USMNT u-20’s take home their first CONCACAF crown this summer. He is frightfully good at knowing where he is and plays strong for a young kid just out of the Academy. We also might have Adam Najem who was the crown jewel of the Red Bull academy, and could turn into one of the best attacking mids in USL.”

History Making Fixture

In FC Cincinnati’s inaugural 2016 season, the away match at Bethlehem Steel produced the team’s first ever goal and their first ever win. Andrew Wiedeman has the honor of being the team’s first goalscorer.  He opened FC Cincinnati’s account with a low near post drive assisted by Kenney Walker in the 25th minute. Sean Okoli doubled FC Cincinnati’s lead in the 35th minute with a goal that featured some great combination play with Wiedeman. The match was also history making for Steel FC. It was their inaugural home opener at Goodman Stadium.

Re-live those trivia-making moments here. The second goal is especially good to watch.

The match kicks off at 4pm Eastern on Sunday and can be viewed on Star64 (WSTR) or streamed on YouTube.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0 – FC Cincinnati 1: Massive Road Points against Rival

FC Cincinnati earned their first points of the 2017 season by defeating the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Highmark Stadium on Saturday.

Pitt-Cover2
Photo Courtesy Chris Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds

FC Cincinnati earned a massive road victory on Saturday when they defeated the Pittsburgh Riverhounds by a 1-0 scoreline. Djiby Fall delivered a headed goal in the 55th minute against a ten man Pittsburgh side to secure the victory. The three points earned were FC Cincinnati’s first of the 2017 season, after they lost their season opener last Saturday.

FC Cincinnati earned nearly 60% of possession in an evenly played first half. They went up a man in the 42nd minute when Pittsburgh defender Gale Agbossoumonde brought down Andrew Wiedeman, who was making a threatening run down FC Cincinnati’s right. The center back was shown a second yellow card for the tackle and was sent off. Agbossoumonde earned his first caution for a hard challenge delivered to Austin Berry that forced the Cincinnati native to leave the match. FC Cincinnati had more possession and created chances, but nothing that truly threatened Pittsburgh’s goal. Pittsburgh had opportunities to score on the counter, and had the best chance for either team in stoppage time. The first half ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

FC Cincinnati capitalized on their man advantage in the 55th minute, when Andrew Wiedeman delivered a fine cross from the left for Djiby Fall. Djiby rose and nodded the ball firmly down at goal. It bounced back up and into the top right corner. The strike was Djiby’s second headed goal in as many matches, both assisted by Wiedeman.

FC Cincinnati continued their possession game in the second half, allowing a weakened Pittsburgh side few chances to equalize. They created chances of their own and outshot Pittsburgh 10-4 in the second period of play. One goal was all they needed, and the match finished 1-0.

New defensive signing Justin Hoyte was on the bench for FC Cincinnati but did not see his first action for the team.

For more play-by-play details of the match’s events, turn your attention to the FC Cincinnati full match recap.

FC Cincinnati will play its third consecutive road match next Sunday when they face Bethlehem Steel at Goodman Stadium. It’s the final road match before the Orange and Blue return to Nippert for their home opener on April 15th.

Kudos to all of the FC Cincinnati supporters that traveled to Pittsburgh to support the team.

Pitt-Cover2

FC Cincinnati Dispatches Playoff Hopeful Wilmington

FC Cincinnati made progress toward improving their playoff seeding with a victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads on Sunday.

Photo courtesy Wilmington Hammerheads FC

FC Cincinnati made progress toward improving their playoff seeding with a 2-0 victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads on Sunday. Sean “Ugo” Okoli scored the first goal in the 30th minute when Wilmington goalkeeper John Smits spilled a difficult cross from his left side. Okoli knocked the ball into an open net from close range, tallying his 15th of the season (tied for 1st in USL). Andrew Wiedeman added another for the Orange and Blue in the 64th with a great individual effort. He evaded a defender and the keeper’s challenge to find space behind and slot the ball home from the left side. Both goals featured noteworthy skill from FC Cincinnati but were aided by less than perfect goalkeeping by their opponent. The game was disjointed at times, with possession changing frequently, and suffered from play under hot and humid conditions in the Carolina sun.

For blow-by-blow details of the game’s event, see the following sources.

FC Cincinnati Official
USL
Cincinnati Soccer Talk
Enquirer
Wilmington

Team captain Austin Berry left the match with an injury after 52 minutes. FC Cincinnati continues their road trip on Wednesday and continues their search for maximum points when they face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for coverage of this week’s action.

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI): Check out the feature article “John Harkes Looking Forward” on the Last Word on Soccer website.

FC Cincinnati Rights the Ship, Targets Home Playoff Games

A deeper look at FC Cincinnati’s victory over Saint Louis FC and what it means for their home playoff prospects.

FC Cincinnati earned a hard fought but well deserved victory over Saint Louis FC at Nippert Stadium on Monday afternoon. For play-by-play details of the games’ events, see the articles featured in our news post from Monday. This article intends to delve deeper into the cookie jar and see what treats are hidden underneath the top layer.

Photos

 

Four Numbers 

The following four numbers help to tell the tale of how this match unfolded.

89 – The temperature in degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff. After a week of lovely weather in the true Queen City (as evidenced by the Queen City Cup), Monday’s match against Saint Louis FC was played under scorching conditions at Nippert Stadium. The official air temperature may have been 89 degrees but it was much hotter on Nippert’s field turf surface. While on the field taking match photos, my iPhone literally stopped working because it was too hotFans on the sunny East side of the stadium were leaving their seats during the match and retreating into the upper shade to find respite from the swelter. FC Cincinnati continues to pack the house this season despite a notable lack of support from Mother Nature. 17,145 showed up. Kudos Cincinnati.

2 – The number of key starters that Saint Louis FC was missing due to international call-ups. Leading goalscorer Irvin Herrera and starting goalkeeper Ryan Thompson were both absent from this match, representing El Salvador and Jamaica respectively. This was a quality win for FC Cincinnati but it’s important to understand the diminished strength of the opponent coming into the match.

11 – The jersey number of Álvaro Anton Ripoll, who had an impactful performance in Monday’s victory. Ripoll has started the last 2 matches in the place of injured Omar Cummings, playing on the right side of FC Cincinnati’s front three. The 22 year old native of Madrid, Spain was involved in everything the Orange and Blue did offensively and played with a passion that will soon make him a fan favorite.

9 – STAT CORRECTED: The average number of shots taken by FC Cincinnati in their 3 games against the Charlotte Independence, NY Red Bulls II, and Rochester Rhinos. FC Cincinnati had 16 total shots in Monday’s game against Saint Louis FC, emphasizing their improved offensive productivity. Of those 16, only 4 shots were on goal though (including the 2 actual goals). The offensive effort was much better overall, but FC Cincinnati will need to be more ruthless in front of goal come playoff time.

Quotable [Press Conference]

John Harkes:

“We created so many chances today. In the first half that was some of the best soccer I’ve seen all year.”

“The fan base actually pushed us on today. It’s unlike anything else in the league. It doesn’t matter about the quantity but about the quality of the fans. It drives the guys. It is fantastic. It really is.”

Ugo Okoli:

“To be honest after the first half that I had, I knew I was gonna get one.” (You’ve got to love that striker’s confidence)

Álvaro Ripoll:

“It felt amazing to play in front of this crowd. I was worried about my fitness, but I could have played 3 games in front of this crowd.”  (I highly recommend that you watch Ripoll in the press conference, the genuine excitement in his eyes to be starting and performing comes through in an amazing way).

Playoff Picture

FC Cincinnati has reclaimed their 3rd place position in the Eastern Conference after this result. With four games left in the season, earning the right to play at Nippert in the postseason must be the focus for the Orange and Blue.

The bad news is that last week’s poor results put a big dent in FCC’s chances of catching the top two. Overtaking second place Louisville City FC is possible, but it will take a perfect season’s end and some help.

The good news is that all of the remaining opponents are in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings, so FCC has a good opportunity to maximize points. They will have to contend with pressure from the chasing pack though. There are four teams just behind FC Cincinnati poised to overtake them if they slip up. Negative results in the final stanza of the season could leave the Orange and Blue seeded fifth through eighth, which would mean no home playoff game.

okoli-header-notes