FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: Deeper Cuts

FC Cincinnati fought back twice in front of 24,505 Orange and Blue chanting faithful to earn a 2-2 draw with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. FCC arguably closes out their most competitive opening five USL regular season game stretch ever with a 2-1-2 mark and 8 points. Danni König and Jimmy McLaughlin were awarded their first starts of the year; both were subbed off in the second half but not before making their impact known. Let’s dive a level deeper into last night’s electrifying match.

Déjà vu

If you feel like you have seen this movie before, you have. The Orange and Blue, for the third game in a row gave away a goal in the first 15 minutes of play. Last night, this early hole driver came in the sixth minute after a failed clearance and sloppy defending by the left side of the backline.

For the second home game in a row, FCC was down 0-1 at the half to a formidable Ohio River city rival. As the team entered the break, Koch remarked, “It’s got to be better obviously…we’re going to have to come out with a lot more energy than we showed through the entire 45 minutes. We’re definitely going to make some tactical adjustments right now; we’ll come out with a different shape to start the second 45 minutes.”

During the post-game press conference, König shared, “We were all angry when we came in at halftime, the first half wasn’t good enough.”

Tale of Two Halves

Fortunately, the halftime speech and tactical adjustments proved effective. Although FCC controlled the possession in the first half 62% to 38%, and matched the Riverhounds with one shot on target, they never looked capable of finding an equalizer. As Koch prescribed, the first 15 minutes of the second stanza proved critical to defining and deciding the match. FCC came out with a different shape, intensity, and pressure to set the tone. The boisterous Nippert crowd fully engaged in appreciation.

The turnaround in play wasn’t seen in total possession percentage, pass attempts or pass accuracy numbers. The evidence was visible in where these critical statistics took place on the pitch. The following charts depict the successful FCC passes and heatmap in the 1st half.

FCC Pass Chart & Heatmap (First Half)

Now compare this to the successful FCC passes and heatmap in the 2nd half.

FCC Pass Chart & Heatmap (Second Half)

The result was a considerable switch in play to inside the Riverhounds half and defensive third. Furthermore, take a look at these differentiating figures between the second and first half in FC Cincinnati’s statistics:

  • 11 shots to two
  • 4 shots on target to one
  • 10 key passes to two
  • 6 successful dribbles to two
  • Most importantly, 2 goals to none

Breaking Down the Pittsburgh Fortress

How did FCC break down a Riverhounds defense that started the season with a club record 414 minutes without allowing a goal? The shape Koch deployed in the second half caught Bob Lilley and his squad scrambling to counter-defend.

Contrary to the second half in the season home opener vs LouCity, where FCC literally pushed numbers down the edges for one unsuccessful cross after another, last night’s tactical change pierced the middle of the defense. Koch sent out more of a 4-3-3 approach that unlocked the creativity, ball handling, and pass combinations we have been desiring to witness. He established Ryan as the lone central defending midfielder and anchored the attack by placing Nazmi and Bone aside him in the midfield. This allowed Penn Messi (McLaughlin) and Ledesma to take more attacking positions alongside König upfront. Hoyte and Laing were then better able to utilize the lanes up and down the flanks. Walker and Welshman were confident reinforcements helping influence the final stage of the match.

The following chart illustrates how effective these changes were to FCC’s attacking promise in the second half. They found freedom in the central spaces, created quality chance after chance, and were able to penetrate the Pittsburgh fortress through the channels and seams.

FCC Key Passes, Assists, Shots on Target and Goals (Second Half)

Is this attacking shape a glimpse of the future or only a single match second half adjustment? The Orange & Blue head north to Canada’s capital city Saturday for a matinee versus Ottawa Fury FC. The Fury picked up their first point this weekend in a 1-1 home draw against North Carolina FC. FCC enters the contest in sixth place; the Fury sits in last place.

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

FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Pittsburgh Riverhounds: Electric Second Half Comeback Secures Draw

A recap and match notes from FC Cincinnati’s 2-2 draw with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, April 21st at Nippert Stadium.

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Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati came from behind not once, but twice to earn a 2-2 draw against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday. Substitute Kenney Walker scored a late equalizer in the 78th minute to secure the point for Alan Koch’s side. A crowd of 24,505 filled Nippert stadium to take in the action on a brisk April evening in the Queen City.

The visitors drew first blood in the sixth minute of play. Defender Jordan Dover beat Lance Laing to a bouncing ball on the left side of FCC’s defense. He waltzed into the box, did a scissors-move and fired a driven shot at goal. The strike took a deflection off of Forrest Lasso, and Evan Newton got his fingertips to the ball but couldn’t keep it out of the net.

FC Cincinnati significantly out-possessed the Riverhounds in the first half but rarely looked threatening in the final third. Bob Lilley’s team fell into an unsurprisingly organized defensive shape and took a 1-0 lead into halftime.

Alan Koch promised changes after the halftime break and a re-energized FC Cincinnati squad took the field in the second half. They poured bodies forward and got their reward in the 59th minute through Danni König. A poor clearance from Pittsburgh defender Thomas Vancaeyezeele fell to Corben Bone outside of the 18-yard box. Bone faked a shot then slid a through ball to Danni König who finished to Dan Lynd’s right.

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König goal celebrations. Image: Joe Craven

Fourteen minutes after König’s goal, FC Cincinnati fell behind again. Thomas Vancaeyezeele made amends for his earlier mistake and slotted a firm strike past Evan Newton from 12 yards, assisted by Kenardo Forbes.

FC Cincinnati continued the pressure though and found an equalizer that would stand, fifteen minutes before the match ended. It came from the right foot of midfielder Kenney Walker who entered the match only eight minutes before.

Alan Koch introduced Emery Welshman for Danni König shortly after the goal. König rolled his ankle and wasn’t able to compete at the same level after the injury. The Orange & Blue continued to possess the ball and pin Pittsburgh back, but they weren’t able to create another truly meaningful chance, and the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

Key Events

6′ – GOAL – PGH – Jordan Dover
36′ – YELLOW CARD – Jordan Dover
59′ – GOAL – Danni König (Corben Bone assist)
68′ – YELLOW CARD – Emmanuel Ledesma
73′ – GOAL – Thomas Vancaeyezeele (Kenardo Forbes assist)
78′  – GOAL – Kenney Walker
88′ – YELLOW CARD – Dekel Keinan
90’+2 – YELLOW CARD – Lance Laing

Match Notes

The result leaves FCC on eight points in the Eastern Conference and the draw moves them up a spot into sixth place. The Riverhounds remain one point above and one place ahead of the Orange & Blue in the standings. Louisville City remains at the top of the East after drawing 1-1 with Atlanta United 2.

Despite a first half that he was unhappy with, Alan Koch heaped praise on the FC Cincinnati players in the press conference. He said he was “very proud of the group for coming back, not once but twice against a Pittsburgh team that had not conceded (a goal) all season.”

Danni Konig’s ankle injury appears minor at this point and he said he was fine in the post-match press conference. He did request to be substituted from the match because the injury was affecting his performance.

FC Cincinnati made a couple of tweaks to their roster, starting Danni König for the first time this season. Emery Welshman was in the 18 but struggled with a back injury in practice earlier this week. Jimmy McLaughlin also made his first start of the season in place of Daniel Haber, who started on the left week last week. Lance Laing dropped back to left fullback for this match to pair with McLaughlin.

Starting XI 
König (Welshman 79′)
McLaughlin (Walker 70′) – Albadawi – Ledesma
Bone – Ryan
Laing – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte
Newton

Alan Koch changed into a 4-3-3 formation as a halftime adjustment and flipped the wing positions of Ledesma and McLaughlin. He also made a significant change in the 70th minute when he introduced Walker for McLaughlin. The eleven after the change looked like the following.

Ledesma – Konig
Albadawi
Bone – Ryan – Walker
Laing – Lasso – Keinan – Hotye
Newton

What’s Next?

The Orange and Blue head to Canada for a Saturday matinee with Ottawa Fury FC on April 28th. It will be their fourth road match of the season in only six outings. Ottawa currently sits in last place in the Eastern Conference despite earning a 1-1 draw against North Carolina FC today.

Check in tomorrow for our “Deeper Cuts” analysis of Saturday’s result and more match photos from Joe Craven and Joe Schmuck.

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Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Orange and Blue Press’ Match Program supplies the information and fast facts you need to prepare for FC Cincinnati vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday.

Design: CSDIV / Keinan Image: Ryan Meyer / Nippert Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati is back home at Nippert for the second time this season after another road-heavy start to a USL campaign. They’ll face the undefeated Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday for the first of three meetings in the 2018 regular season. The Orange & Blue most recently earned a comeback draw against Steel FC in Bethlehem last Sunday. That result leaves them in seventh place in the Eastern Conference after four matches played. They do, however, have a game in hand on most of the teams ahead of them in the table.

A revamped Pittsburgh Riverhounds side sits two places above them in fifth place. The visitors from the Iron City have impressed thus far in 2018. They’ve earned two wins and two draws in four matches played. Their success has been based on the stingy strategies of their defensive mastermind coach, Bob Lilley. The Riverhounds have not conceded a single goal so far this season. Four matches — four clean sheets. The former Rochester Rhinos skipper moved to Pittsburgh and brought some key talent with him after the Rhinos announced a one-year hiatus from the USL. It’s worth noting that three of Pittsburgh’s four positive results came against the bottom three teams in the Eastern Conference.

On a positive note, FC Cincinnati has never lost to the Riverhounds in two years of competition. They are 3-0-2 all-time in this series. Last season they beat the Hounds 1-0 in Pittsburgh then drew in the second meeting, 1-1 at Nippert Stadium.

In transfer news, FC Cincinnati recently announced the signing of Michael Lahoud from Miami FC to bolster their midfield ranks. However, the 31-year-old is not expected to feature for Alan Koch in this match.

Fast Facts

Here are four fast facts to relay to the person in orange sitting next to you on Saturday.

  • FC Cincinnati has a solid defensive record of their own. They can claim two clean sheets and only two goals allowed in four matches played. Some of that has been based on the goalkeeping heroics of Evan Newton, however. Newton has made 13 saves this season compared to only a combined 4 saves required between Pittsburgh’s two goalkeepers.
  • Bob Lilley has some serious USL street cred. He has been in charge as a head coach for 188 total games, claiming 89 wins and a 2015 USL Cup championship with the Rochester Rhinos. In addition, his teams have never missed the playoffs or had a negative goal difference at the end of a season.
  • The Orange & Blue like to attack from the flanks more than Saturday’s opponent. FC Cincinnati has crossed the ball 55% more than Pittsburgh (26 more times) over four matches. FCC also boasts a higher crossing accuracy of 30% compared to Pittsburgh’s 23%.
  • FC Cincinnati has never defeated a Bob Lilley coached team. They were 0-3-1 all-time against Lilley while he led the Rochester Rhinos.

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