Deeper Cuts: Limiting Quality Chances and Projected Playoff Matchups

A deeper look at the FC Cincinnati stalemate in Pittsburgh, and a look at how the weekend’s USL action impacted the playoff picture.

Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati shared the points with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in a scoreless draw on Saturday in their second-to-last game of the 2018 USL season. Pittsburgh, who leads the league in clean sheets with 17,  is notoriously difficult to break down, especially at Highmark Stadium. While this scoreless contest didn’t provide a lot of interesting stats, the match did offer a chance to look at at FC Cincinnati’s recent trend in shots against.

Limiting Quality Chances

FC Cincinnati has a high-performing defense of their own. They can now boast 14 clean sheets this season, which is tied for fifth best in the USL. One aspect of their recent success has been the team’s ability to limit quality chances, despite conceding a lot of shots. FCC been outshot by their opponents in 6 of their last 8 matches, especially in games against playoff-caliber opponents. While the Orange & Blue’s opponents are allowed to shoot, FCC blocks a fair number, and many of the opponent’s shots are from outside the box or unflattering angles.

In Saturday’s contest, Pittsburgh outshot FC Cincinnati 18 to 4. However, FCC blocked 8 of those shots, and 6 of Pittsburgh’s remaining shots were off-target. Only 4 were on target over the entire contest, which they could not convert. FCC put 3 of their 4 total shots on goal, and therefore ended up with only 1 less shot on target than Pittsburgh.

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Shots – FCC on the left, Pittsburgh on the right. Blocked shots are in light blue. Off-target shots are in red. On-target shots are in green.

Just over a week ago, FCC faced off with another likely playoff-bound team, Indy Eleven. Indy outshot FC Cincinnati 20 to 9. However, FCC blocked 6 of those shots, and 9 of Indy Eleven’s shots were off target. FCC put 5 of their 9 shots on target and ended up with the same number of shots on target as their opponent. They also won the match 3-0. If this just happened once or twice, you’d think FCC was lucky that the other team didn’t make the most of their chances, but this is a pattern that has appeared several times over the last 8 games.

As we’ve featured in recent analysis articles, Alan Koch’s offense is the most efficient in the league, scoring a league-leading number of goals from a relatively low number of shots. This ability to limit the quality of the opponents chances and be very efficient in converting their own, has been one of the storylines of their recent success. The combination of the two has resulted in a record-setting win streak and an unbeaten run that is still in progress.

Would it be better if FCC were limiting opponent’s shots altogether, as Pittsburgh is so adept at doing? Possibly, but the defensive posture FCC would have to take to achieve that goal would likely hamstring their prolific attacking players. Right now they are finding the right balance, a trend Cincinnati fans hope will continue into the postseason.

Projected Playoff Matchups

Things are still extremely tight in the Eastern Conference near the playoff cutoff line. New York Red Bulls II picked up a vital 2-1 victory against North Carolina FC, who is now on the outside looking in. Nashville SC also improved their playoff posture by delivering a convincing 3-0 victory over the Richmond Kickers, who are whimpering out of the U.S. second division. Indy and Bethlehem Steel FC shared the points in a 1-1 draw in another match with implications on FC Cincinnati’s first round playoff opponent. With one week remaining, there’s still plenty to play for in the USL, and FCC’s opponent is still unclear.

Here are Orange & Blue Press’ projections for the first round playoff matchups based on where things stand today. Our updated projections line up the Orange & Blue with Bethlehem Steel FC in the first round on October 20th.

Both graphics: Connor Paquette

The USL schedule features seven midweek games this week, and many of them have playoff seeding implications. Louisville City, Pittsburgh, North Carolina FC, NY Red Bulls II, and Nashville SC are all in action and looking to improve their current position. The picture is likely to keep shifting all the way through next Sunday when league play concludes.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s final USL league game at Nashville SC and USL Cup playoff run.

Deeper Cuts: Rotation Riches, Finishing Class, and Who’s Up First?

A deeper look at FC Cincinnati’s late-season victory over Indy Eleven including Rotation Riches, Finishing Class, and Who’s Up First?

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Danni König / Image: Ryan Meyer

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.

Rotation Riches

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.

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Russell Cicerone started Saturday’s match and made the cross that led to the third goal. Image: Ryan Meyer

Finishing Class

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.

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Fanendo Adi opened the scoring in the 35th minute on Saturday. Image: Ryan Meyer

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.

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Eastern Conference ranked by projected point total
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Both graphics via Connor Paquette

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.

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Scouting the Field: Ranking FCC’s Possible First-Round Opponents

Now that FC Cincinnati is guaranteed a first-round home match, what potential matchup could spell the most trouble?

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Image: Ryan Meyer

The common cliché in sports is that you need to take things “one game at a time.” Looking too far ahead in the future will catch you napping against your next opponent. As good as this undefeated streak has been, coach Alan Koch has emphasized doing what you can against the next opponent, not the one you might play in the USL playoffs. The near-loss to Toronto FC II this weekend was a reminder of that.

While it helps to scout the opposition before the last minute, the planets could still align badly in the playoffs. Last year, #2 Charleston couldn’t beat #7 New York during the regular season, then got trucked at home by the Baby Bulls the first round. The same thing happened with FC Cincinnati in 2016—despite the strong end to the season, FCC couldn’t figure out the Battery during the regular season, then wilted in the second half to get knocked out early.

Basically, solid preparation is good, but the last thing you want is for fate to provide a difficult opponent. For this article, without looking too far ahead, we scout FC Cincinnati’s possible first-round opponents and rank the six in order of upset potential.

The Playoff Picture

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Image: Connor Paquette, teams are ordered by projected points.

Currently, FCC is the only team that has safely qualified for the playoffs. While the competition is getting closer to the top, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Charleston still own paths to first-round home games.

Aside from Toronto, Richmond, and Atlanta, the rest of the pack is still realistically alive. Charlotte, Tampa Bay, and Penn FC all have a tough road to get to that coveted playoff line, and while all could upset FC Cincinnati if they make it in, for the sake of brevity, we’ll focus on the closer competition.

6. Ottawa Fury FC

1200px-Ottawa_Fury_svgRecord:               12-13-5 (41 pts.), currently 7th
Schedule:           at Louisville, at Toronto, vs. Bethlehem, vs. Charleston

While they started out of the gate with three losses, Ottawa has been able to hang in the middle of the table. Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau leads the East with 13 clean sheets, while the defense has kept the powerful New York Red Bulls II offense checked over three games. Forward Tony Taylor has managed to get hot lately with five goals in 11 games.

However, it’s hard to really view the Fury as a credible away threat. The team has been shut out seven times in 15 road games and has yet to score on Cincinnati’s defense. In fact, most of Ottawa’s points have come against the poorer competition—they have no wins against the Top 4 teams (0-1-5). While the road wins against Indy and New York are notable, until they can break out a credible secondary scorer, Ottawa’s chances at pulling a first-round upset appear slim.

5. Indy Eleven

Indy_Eleven_Logo_svgRecord: 12-8-9 (45 pts.), currently 5th
Schedule: at Pittsburgh, vs. Tampa Bay, at Cincinnati, vs. Bethlehem, at Louisville

This position in the rankings could be debatable. For one thing, it’s hard to guess what position Indy may finish—four of the final five games are against projected playoff teams. On the other hand, Indy has yet to face FCC at Nippert Stadium, so it’s hard to gauge just how difficult a team they are on the road.

Goalkeeper Owain Fôn Williams has quietly claimed 10 clean sheets in 29 games started, and seven of them have been on the road. Forward Eugene Starikov (5 goals in his last 10 games) has become a solid second scorer next to Jack McInerney, while Ayoze (4 goals, 6 assists) is still a mammoth presence in the defending line.

Again, Indy could legitimately be higher after their game at Cincinnati—we’ll see how well they can perform at Nippert—but so far, they’ve yet to figure out FCC. They may also be searching for that extra threat on offense, as their other big offseason pickup, forward Soony Saad, hasn’t scored since Week 11. Their away offense also may need improvement, as they’ve only scored 14 on the road in 14 games.

Their proximity to Cincinnati could bring a huge away crowd to Nippert in the playoffs. Right now, the game on September 29th could be the indicator of how difficult Indy would be in the playoffs.

4. North Carolina FC

1200px-North_Carolina_FC_logo_svgRecord: 10-10-8 (38 pts.), currently 10th
Schedule: at Atlanta, at Charleston, vs. Richmond, vs. New York, at Louisville, at Charlotte

While the former Railhawks dug themselves into an early-season hole, NCFC has bounced back. They started the first 14 games with 7 losses (including two to FCC), but have gone 6-5-3 in the next 14 games.

Forward Daniel Ríos has been a blessing on loan from Guadalajara and currently sits second in the Golden Boot standings (17 goals). Midfielders Kyle Bekker (2nd in assists) and Austin da Luz (2nd in passing) are also high on the stats charts. The potent offense is ranked fifth in the East and has gotten better with the addition of midfielder Zach Steinberger from Indy.

Considering that NCFC still has four road games to play against difficult teams, the final stretch could show how serious the team is against competition. That would require a statement away win at either Louisville or Charleston. Without either, they may miss out on the playoffs completely.

3. Bethlehem Steel FC

Bethlehem_Steel_FC_(USL)_CrestRecord: 12-12-6 (42 pts), currently 6th
Schedule: vs. Toronto, at Ottawa, at Indy, vs. Tampa Bay

Bethlehem’s form may not scare most, as their inconsistency will flare up at bad times. Of their 12 wins, 11 have come against teams currently below them in the table. Their only marquee win is a victory at Indy Eleven in Week 10. They’ve also suffered bad losses to Penn FC twice and Atlanta. It’s hard to say which Bethlehem squad will show up.

That’s what makes them difficult to predict. So far, FC Cincinnati is the only team in the top half of the table that hasn’t defeated Bethlehem. The Orange & Blue looked inconsistent and shaky on the road, needing a Nazmi Albadawi goal late to force a 1-1 draw. The home match was even more deluding, as the team couldn’t take advantage of a lead late against a 10-man Bethlehem squad.

In total, 21 players have scored for Bethlehem, and their 50 goals ranks them fourth in the East. Santi Moar is a solid midfielder (6 goals, 8 assists) who has given FCC trouble this year, while forward Chris Nanco has improved over the season. This is an offense that will rarely be shut out. However, it’s also a team that will also rarely shut down your side. The goalkeepers have only six clean sheets, and their 40 goals allowed are tied for sixth-worst in the East.

As frustrating as the draws were against Bethlehem, let’s keep in mind that these two teams were vastly different then. Emmanuel Ledesma was serving a yellow-card suspension during the 2-2 home draw. FCC also have added Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe to the team since that match, while much of the Bethlehem offense has been promoted to the MLS squad. On paper, a match between the squads would look a lot different.

2. New York Red Bulls II

220px-Red_Bull_New_York_II.pngRecord: 10-8-11 (41 pts), currently 8th
Schedule: at Charlotte, at Nashville, at North Carolina, at Penn FC, vs. Pittsburgh

I don’t blame people if they see the Baby Bulls as less of a threat than the past two years. New York has been counterproductive on the road, as they haven’t won in 13 away games (0-5-8). Much of their talent could be frozen in place on their MLS squad, and the defense is the fourth-worst in the East (54 goals allowed). However, their defense was dead-last in the East last year, and they made it to the Conference Finals!

Even though they have no players with double-digit goals, Red Bulls II still leads the USL with 62 goals scored. Six of their players have five or more goals, including forward Jared Stroud, who is tied for second in the East in assists (10). The team has almost 100 more shots than the nearest competition (544 to Phoenix’s 442). They also play a very aggressive game—their 438 tackles lead the East, as well.

However, the top teams in the East still have the Red Bulls’ number. Their lone win over the Top 4 has been a home victory over Charleston. FC Cincinnati has also appeared to figure them out over the last three matches played (3-0-0). However, this is still a young and hungry team that sees the USL as a feeding ground, not as a training ground.

1. Nashville SC

Nashville_SCRecord: 10-9-9 (39 pts), currently 9th
Schedule: vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Charleston, at Atlanta, vs. New York, at Richmond, vs. Toronto, vs. Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati has exterminated a lot of ghosts this season. The Orange & Blue managed to claim their first victories over Charleston and Tampa Bay this year. They have also beaten Louisville and Charlotte after losses to both earlier.

However, there is one ghost they have not been able to bust—the enigma known as Matt Pickens.

Over the past two years, Pickens has had Cincinnati’s name. His Tampa Bay Rowdies squad eliminated FCC in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup and the 2017 USL Playoffs. While he may not have been the sole reason for the victories, Pickens only gave up one goal against FCC in four games as a Rowdie.

Pickens has only gotten better with the change of scenery. In 24 starts for Nashville SC, Pickens has conceded only 19 goals. His 12 clean sheets put him second in the USL and are already better than his numbers from last year. His 67 saves also puts him at fourth in the East. Over three seasons against Cincinnati (6 games), Pickens has never lost, giving up only two goals (3-3-0).

That solid wall in front of Pickens just adds to the frustration FCC fans have had with Nashville. While the offense has not been at Cincinnati’s level, forwards Brandon Allen, Ropapa Mensah, Alan Winn, and Tucker Hume have the potential to crack defenses. The team has shown that it is unafraid of the large Cincinnati crowds, which may be the kryptonite for an upset in the Queen City.

Most importantly, of the teams that are trying to make the playoffs, Nashville has the best record when it comes to playing the Top 4 (2-4-1). NSC is one of only two teams to have beaten the Riverhounds in Pittsburgh, and their only loss was a Week 1 loss at Louisville. Considering the team also has a U.S. Open Cup victory over an MLS side, the potential for a Music City upset is there.

Of course, they must make the playoffs first, and they’ll need to face FCC once more to do so.


Which team outside of the Top 4 terrifies you the most in a potential first-round matchup? Let us know what you think!

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FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Bethlehem Steel FC: Bonus Track

The Orange & Blue Press Bonus Track segment is a shortened version of our Deeper Cuts series. This edition takes a look at how FCC fared without playmaker Manu Ledesma.

Image: Ryan Meyer

The Bonus Track segment is an abridged version of Orange & Blue Press’ Deeper Cuts series. It takes one component of a recent match and breaks it down in more detail.

Despite two well-timed goals and a man advantage, FC Cincinnati could not claim all three points against a young but talented Bethlehem Steel FC, drawing 2-2 at Nippert Stadium. This article takes a deeper look at how the team fared without key playmaker Emmanuel Ledesma.

Life Without Manu

One question that was answered clearly on Wednesday is that the team can create and convert chances without Manu. The Argentine playmaker was suspended for the match after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season last Saturday. While FCC boasts the ability to score from many positions on the field, Ledesma clearly is the most threatening component of the attack. He currently leads FC Cincinnati in assists, shots, shots on target, chances created, and crosses. He’s also second on the team in goals with 5, just behind leader Danni König.

Without Ledesma on Wednesday, FCC had 27 total shots over the course of the entire match, converting twice. They created 15 of those 27 shots in the first 52 minutes of the match, before the red card was issued to Bethlehem.

So who stepped up to fill the void in Ledesma’s absence?  Primarily Nazmi Albadawi and Russell Cicerone.

Albadawi had one of his most influential games of the season. The Raleigh, NC native had the most passes of any player in FC Cincinnati’s front six (40) at a 82.6% passing accuracy. He scored the first goal, won 4 out of 6 duels, fired 8 shots (most on the team) with 4 on target, and created 6 chances (also most on the team).

In addition to Naz’s contributions, Russell Cicerone continued to impress on the right flank, starting his third consecutive match in 8 days. He took 7 total shots—2 were blocked, 4 on target, and just 1 off target—and scored the goal to go ahead 2-1. He also created 1 chance and won 9 duels during the contest.

Nazmi Albadawi said the following about the the team’s offensive effort after the match:

“(Bethlehem) is a good team and they played well in the first half. That being said, in the first half, I thought their goalkeeper had two or three really good saves … We had opportunities … they just didn’t go our way for one reason or another. I thought we were better in the second half.”

Obviously Manu’s clinical finishing ability could have been a difference-maker in this match. However, FC Cincinnati created enough chances and scored enough goals to win. If they kept things tidier in defense, they would have earned the other two points.

That Second Goal Though

Alan Koch said the following about Bethlehem’s second goal in the post-match press conference:

“That’s frustrating, you should never concede a goal straight after you scored. You’ve got to have the focus, and we always preach five-minute segments of the game. We should have managed that a lot better.”

Despite the draw, the team showed it can cope without their star playmaker if needed. That playmaking depth will be of some comfort over a long USL campaign, where Ledesma will need rest, and injuries are always a possibility.

It’s worth noting that the overall stats skew in FC Cincinnati’s favor because of the man advantage, but Albadawi and Cicerone influenced the game well before the 52nd minute, even if their goals came afterwards.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of Saturday’s league matchup against Richmond Kickers.

Images: FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Bethlehem Steel FC

Images of FC Cincinnati’s 2-2 draw with Bethlehem Steel FC on June 13th, 2018 at Nippert Stadium. Images by Ryan Meyer and Joe Schmuck.

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Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s 2-2 draw with Bethlehem Steel FC on Wednesday, June 13th on Equality Night at Nippert Stadium. When browsing the gallery below, for any given image, a high-resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.” Photographer credit is found on the watermark for each image. Images courtesy of Joe Schmuck and Ryan Meyer.

All images are copyright protected to safeguard the creative rights of our photographers. We’re very open to sharing our work with those who want to show support for FC Cincinnati. We simply request that you ask (via DM on Twitter or email) and give credit where it’s due. Thanks!

For more particulars of Wednesday’s contest, turn your attention to the following article.

Bethlehem 6.13_Match Recap
FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Bethlehem Steel FC: Wild Second Half Ends in a Deadlock

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.

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FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Bethlehem Steel FC: Wild Second Half Ends in a Deadlock

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

On a momentous day when the United 2026 North American bid won the the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, FC Cincinnati returned home to Nippert Stadium. Prior to the match, Jeff Berding spoke to the media about the significance of potentially being a host city for the world’s largest event. Berding said, “Hundreds of thousands of people will be coming here…it’s going to be the whole world putting their eyeballs on Cincinnati.”

On the pitch two hours later, FCC found themselves in an all too familiar scenario falling behind 0-1 in the 29th minute. Derrick Jones found space in between the FCC defense and successfully converted his own blocked shot with a strike into the right corner of the net. The holding midfielder from Ghana proved a handful for the Orange & Blue the entire match. FC Cincinnati had their chances to equalize prior to the half time whistle, but none of their five first half shots on target found the net. Steel FC keeper John McCarthy was up to the challenge and made several fine saves to keep the visitors in front at half.

Tempers flared when Steel defender Olivier Mbaizo was called for a foul and lost his cool six minutes into the second half. After the initial foul, and with the match referee holding a yellow card in his hand, Mbaizo placed his hand on Jimmy McLaughlin’s face, then also appeared to make contact with Nazmi Albadawi’s head. The referee had no option than to brandish a straight red for Mbaizo’s out of control behavior.

With Steel FC down to ten men, FCC was able to dictate and prod play further. Finally, in the 66th minute Nazmi found the equalizer when he followed his own blocked shot and slotted the ball pass the previously impenetrable McCarthy. The goal was Nazmi’s second equalizer this season versus the squad from Bethlehem. Then the goals started to rain down on Nippert. Less than 90 seconds later and the smoke still clearing from the first FCC goal, bourgeoning fan favorite Russell Cicerone was able to score his first Orange & Blue goal when he headed home an in-swinging cross from Blake Smith.

Unfortunately, the Steel FC players did not lay down on the road.They took the ensuing kick off, rushed down the pitch and immediately equalized to knot the game at 2-2. The 22,407 in attendance, and the entire squad, looked stunned. Although FCC continued to press until the end, they were unable to find the winner and were forced to settle for a draw. While at half time the draw would have been a welcomed result, it felt like a loss in many ways.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Bethlehem Steel FC

Key Events

29′ – GOAL – BST – Derrick Jones
51′ – YELLOW CARD – BST – Olivier Mbaizo
52′ – RED CARD – BST – Olivier Mbaizo (violent conduct)
66′ – GOAL – CIN – Nazmi Albadawi
68′- GOAL – CIN – Russell Cicerone (assist by Blake Smith)
69′ – GOAL – BST – Fabian Herbers (assist Michee Ngalina)
86′ – YELLOW CARD – BST – Herbers

Match Notes

Alan Koch switched out seven players from the side that beat North Carolina FC last Saturday. An injury to Dekel Keinan during the initial Steel FC goal forced Koch to make a first half substitute with Forrest Lasso replacing the captain. Koch also switched out Emery Welshman with Danni König in the 64th minute.

FC Cincinnati’s home form has not matched their success on the road. The draw brings the Orange & Blue’s home record to 2-2-2, as compared to 6-1-1 away from Nippert. The squad remains in first place in the Eastern Conference with 27 points after 14 games. Louisville City sits 4 points behind, but with three games in hand.

Corben Bone regained the team lead in minutes played with 1,145 minutes. He also leads the team in regular season starts (12) and matches played (13) this season.

FCC was without creative spark Emmanuel Ledesma this match due to the club’s third suspension due to yellow card accumulation this season. The attack was still able to pepper the Steel FC defense with 26 total shots, ten of these in target.

Starting XI

Welshman (64′ König)
McLaughlin – Albadawi – Cicerone
Bone – Walker
Smith – Keinan (36′ Lasso) – de Wit – Bahner
Newton

What’s Next?

The final match of a 5-in-15 day stretch comes to a conclusion Saturday as the Orange & Blue meet the Richmond Kickers at home. The Kickers lost 1-2 to Penn FC last night and currently sit in 14th place with a 4-7-1 record and 13 points.

FCC will enjoy a ten-day respite after the Richmond match, until they visit Toronto FC II on Wednesday, June 27th. Following their visit north, FCC will play seven of their next eight USL matches at home.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for continuing coverage of another busy week of action for FC Cincinnati.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Bethlehem Steel FC

Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program supplies the information and fast facts you need to prepare for FC Cincinnati’s midweek clash with Bethlehem Steel FC.

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Design: CSDIV / Image: Ryan Meyer

Alan Koch’s “road warriors” return home to face Bethlehem Steel FC on Wednesday after claiming a second victory in the Carolinas this season. The Orange & Blue, who have won six of eight matches away from Nippert, captured maximum points this weekend, claiming a 2-0 victory over North Carolina FC at Sahlen’s Stadium. As a a result, FCC still sits on top of the Eastern Conference. However, second place Louisville City FC is just three points behind with two games in hand.

One of the few teams FCC didn’t topple on the road this season is Brendan Burke’s Bethlehem Steel FC. Back on April 15th, FC Cincinnati earned a comeback 1-1 draw against Steel FC in the Lehigh Valley. Nazmi Albadawi scored a late equalizer to rescue a point in the match after going down a goal early.

The Philadelphia Union’s USL affiliate currently sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference on 18 points. They are in quite respectable form, capturing 10 points out of the last 15 on offer, including two road wins and a recent draw with Louisville City FC at Goodman Stadium. The Orange & Blue grabbed all three points in this match at Nippert Stadium in each of the past two years. They won by one goal each time; 1-0 in 2016, and 2-1 in 2017.

Playmaker and assists leader Emmanuel Ledesma is suspended from this match due to yellow card accumulation after receiving his fifth of the season against North Carolina FC. That’s the third yellow card accumulation suspension for FCC so far this year. They are second in the USL in total yellow cards, but just one of six teams to not receive a red card all season.

Look out of for equality-themed adornments placed around the field on Wednesday. It’s Equality Night at Nippert as FCC celebrates the LGBTQ community during Pride Month.

Fast Facts

Here are four fast facts to get you ready for more midweek soccer in the Queen City.

  • Midfielder Richie Ryan, with 728 passes, has 131 more passes than anyone else on FC Cincinnati’s roster and 74 more passes than anyone on Bethlehem Steel FC. He also leads both teams in passing accuracy for players with more than 150 passes.
  • Bethlehem Steel FC has 6 fewer goals than FC Cincinnati this season, even though they have 16 more shots (excluding blocked shots) over the same number of games. FCC’s conversion rate is almost 7% higher than Steel FCs.
  • FC Cincinnati claimed their first clean sheet in 7 league matches against NCFC last Saturday. Portland Timbers 2 leads the USL with 8 clean sheets. FC Cincinnati has half as many as that (4), and Steel FC has half as many as FCC (2).
  • Neither team is much of a threat in the air. Only 3 of the 42 combined goals these two teams have scored have been from headers. All 3 were scored by FC Cincinnati. Bethlehem is yet to score a headed goal this season.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati vs Bethlehem Steel FC on Wednesday.

Bethlehem Steel FC 1 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Albadawi Steals Back A Point

FC Cincinnati claw back to get an important road point against Bethlehem Steel at Goodman Stadium.

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Charlotte Muscroft/Bethlehem Steel FC

FC Cincinnati visited Goodman Stadium this week to take on Bethlehem Steel FC, hoping to reverse recent momentum. While FCC won the home match last year against the Philadelphia Union’s USL affiliate, they lost both away matches and failed to score in either. This year’s result was a positive one, as the Boys in Orange & Blue return with a 1-1 tie.

Much like the past two away games, FC Cincinnati came out of the barn hot and reaching for the first strike. Crosses from Justin Hoyte and Matt Bahner were finding marks, but forward Emery Welshman was constantly wedged between defenders.

Despite the pressure, Bethlehem flipped the field early and capitalized off of a scattering FCC defensive line. In the 15th minute, a skidding cross from midfielder Anthony Fontana caught the boot of forward Cory Burke, who deflected a looping shot over Evan Newton for the early goal.

For the rest of the half, FCC found themselves playing prevent defense to avoid a second goal. Midfielder Santi Moar started to dictate play to the right of Newton, pulling the back line into the box and freeing up Anthony Fontana for a shot that caromed off the post in the 35th minute. FC Cincinnati managed to win the possession battle (52/48) after 45 minutes but only took seven shots against Bethlehem’s ten. The second half managed to finally swing FC Cincinnati’s way as Bethlehem lost steam due to two early subs. After some heightened physical play in the second half, FCC managed to capture offensive possession and pressure, but shots were still missing the target. Manu Ledesma had a few looks on goal in the box in both halves, only for the shots to sail high.

 

The constant pressure finally paid off in the 71st minute. Hoyte’s cross from the right was deflected by Welshman in the box, and Nazmi Albadawi scooped up the pass to beat the goalkeeper to knot the game 1-1. Albadawi was playing his first game of the season in place of Kenney Walker, who is still out from a concussion injury sustained against Indy Eleven.

Despite some late challenges from both sides and a late cracker from Corben Bone that sailed wide, neither team was able to muster much else against the wind, splitting the points in the end.

Key Events

15’ – GOAL – BST – Cory Burke (assisted by Anthony Fontana)
66’ – YELLOW CARD – BST – Prosper Chiluya
71’ – GOAL – CIN – Nazmi Albadawi (assisted by Emery Welshman)
83’ – YELLOW CARD – BST – Cory Burke

Match Notes

The draw leaves FC Cincinnati in 7th place with seven points, while Bethlehem is currently in 10th with five. The two teams will play each other again on Wednesday, June 13th at Nippert Stadium.

FCC started a 4-2-3-1 formation that was similar to the previous three, but Walker’s injury opened the door for changes to the overall Starting XI. Albadawi was started as the central attacking midfielder, while Bone was pulled back to play alongside Richie Ryan. Daniel Haber and Bahner also saw their first starts of the season, but both were subbed out later.

Starting XI 
Welshman (76’ Konig)
Haber (80’ McLaughlin) – Albadawi – Ledesma
Ryan – Bone
Hoyte – Lasso – Keinan – Bahner (63’ Laing)
Newton

FC Cincinnati gave up its first away goal of the season, but the draw also gives FCC their best four-game start in club history. The team was 2-2-0 with six points at this point both in 2016 and 2017. However, they also had scored six goals in four games both years. Albadawi’s goal was only the team’s third so far.

What’s Next?

FC Cincinnati (2-1-1) returns home for their big “Orange Out” match against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday. Last year, FCC managed to win once and tie once against Pittsburgh, but the Riverhounds are a different team this year, having yet to give up a goal. Bethlehem (1-2-2) gets a week break before they head to Louisville City FC on April 28th.

Stay tuned as Orange & Blue Press provides a deeper analysis into today’s match and gives more insight into what could be a pivotal week for the future of the club.

Audio: Steel FC Insights with Alan Koch

Alan Koch shares details on their preparations for Bethlehem on Sunday, including possible lineup changes, injury updates, and how they’ll prepare for the environment at Goodman Stadium.

Orange and Blue Press checked in with Alan Koch at FC Cincinnati’s final training session before Sunday’s match. As introduced in our Match Program yesterday, the team will be playing in front of a significantly smaller crowd at Steel FC and will likely see several lineup changes.

Key Thoughts

Regarding Goodman Stadium, Koch agreed, “Very different environment…this game is a business where you have to be self-motivated.”

Koch stated about Sunday’s starting lineup and formation, “There might be some changes, I certainly don’t push panic buttons…we looked at a couple different options this week in training”. He added, “Formations are just numbers, how we play it can be completely different…how individual players play within that formation can be completely different each game”.

Audio

Listen to the full audio of our conversation with Alan Koch below, including an injury update (1:52).

Continue to tune in to Orange and Blue Press for FC Cincinnati’s match versus Steel FC Sunday.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Bethlehem Steel FC

Orange and Blue Press’ Match Program supplies all the information and fast facts you need to prepare for FC Cincinnati’s visit to Steel FC on Sunday.

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Design: CSDIV / Image: Ryan Meyer

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On to Bethlehem!

FC Cincinnati will look to rebound away at this historic American steel town. After a disappointing home opener, Alan Koch stated, “Six points out of nine to start the season is certainly not a bad start”. Four weeks ago, I think most realistic Orange & Blue fans would have gladly taken six points at this early stage of the season.

For the third season in a row, FC Cincinnati will be visiting the small confines of Goodman Stadium in April. The Orange and Blue rode two first-half goals by Andrew Wiedeman and Sean Okoli to beat the Steel 2-1 in April 2016. However, a season later, FCC did not fare so well in two April 2017 matches, losing 0-2 and 0-1 within 20 days of each other. Overall, FCC leads the series 3 wins to 2 losses.

Night and day. The Orange and Blue will certainly miss the energy of the recent large Indy crowd and the record 25,667 faithful last weekend at Nippert. They will need to adjust to playing in near silence at Goodman Stadium versus a non-rival opponent. Don’t expect more than 1,500 to 2,000 in attendance Sunday.

As the official USL affiliate (MLS 2) of the Philadelphia Union, the Steel FC thirty-three player roster is full of Union reserves and fluctuates weekly. Steel FC started nine MLS reserves this past weekend in their 1-1 draw at home versus the Battery. In their first four matches, 19 different players have started with 23 seeing the pitch overall. The Steel run-out a similar starting formation as FCC and rely heavily on Brandon Allen, Cory Burke, and Marcus Epps in attack. Also, two key players they missed last week, James Chambers and Brandon Aubrey, will be available for selection.

Fast Facts

Here are your steel cold facts for Sunday’s match.

  • FC Cincinnati has scored 98 goals in all competitive matches since its August 2015 inception. Will the squad match their total production for the season and reach the 100 goal landmark in PA?
  • FCC’s season leaders for passing accuracy in the opponent’s half are Richie Ryan (81.5%), Daniel Haber (80%), and Justin Hoyte (80%). Ryan and Haber also clock in as the top two in passes per 90 minutes played, 63 and 51 passes respectively.
  • The Orange and Blue should have all their players available (minus the improving Tyler Gibson) for Sunday’s match. However, Lance Laing did suffer a knock in training Tuesday. Coming off the Dirty River Derby loss, stay tuned to see if Coach Koch will tinker with this weekend’s line-up.
  • Steel FC have found the back of the net only once in their last three games. They scored four of their five goals in their opening match at home to the Richmond Kickers.
  • Did you know? The original Bethlehem Steel F.C. existed from 1907-1930. They were sponsored by the Bethlehem Steel company and were one of the most successful early American soccer clubs. In 1914, the corporation’s CEO Charles Schwab took the team professional. Until its demise in 1930, the team won eight league championships, six American Cups, and five National Challenge Cups.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage leading up to Sunday’s contest.