Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Louisville City FC

Orange & Blue Press presents a preview of the final regular-season showdown between FC Cincinnati and defending-champion Louisville City FC.

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Design: CSDIV / Image: Joe Craven

Update: Pittsburgh is now in second place after defeating Bethlehem Steel FC 4-1 on Friday.

The final regular-season “Dirty River Derby” takes place this weekend, as FC Cincinnati visits Louisville City FC for their third match in 2018. If the cards fall a certain way, this could be the final USL game between the two sides ever. However, there is still much more at stake than merely bragging rights. A win or draw by the Orange & Blue won’t take the River Cities Cup from Lou City, but it will likely put the Eastern Conference out of reach for FCC’s rival.

Lou City has already taken the regular-season crown between the two squads, dispatching FC Cincinnati twice at Nippert this season. In their home opener, FCC was unable to score, despite owning the ball most of the match and firing 38 crosses to Lou City’s 10. The 13th-minute goal from Cameron Lancaster was all the difference in the 1-0 loss.

In their second match, Lou City’s defensive clamp on the Orange & Blue was far tighter. Goals from Lancaster and George Davis IV put the game out of reach, and FCC could not get any offense. So far, the 2-0 loss in May is the only game where FC Cincinnati was unable to get a single shot on target.

However, since that loss, the two teams’ trajectories have been slightly different. FC Cincinnati’s 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday gives the home squad a 16-game unbeaten stretch, equaling the longest such streak in the USL this year. The win lifted Cincinnati to a 13-point lead over Lou City. It also got their newest acquisition Fanendo Adi into the scoring column with his 88th-minute strike. The Orange & Blue are officially in the playoffs for the third-straight year and are close to getting a first-round home game.

The Boys in Purple, on the other hand, are trying to claw their way back to their familiar form. The departure of coach James O’Connor to Orlando City came during a 5-match winless streak (4 draws, 1 loss). While a three-man carousel kept Lou City afloat, the arrival of new coach John Hackworth has had mixed results. Two loud road wins against Charlotte and Richmond were countered by a home loss against Toronto FC II and a draw against Charleston last week.

FC Cincinnati will be without two of their key midseason acquisitions. Both Michael Lahoud (Sierra Leone) and Pa Konate (Guinea) are abroad during international duty. FCC is also likely without defender Matt Bahner and midfielder Richie Ryan due to leg injuries. Louisville City is still awaiting results for injuries to midfielders Brian Ownby (concussion) and Magnus Rasmussen (knee).

Fast Facts

Here are five facts that should keep you satiated until the final “Dirty River Derby” on Saturday:

  • Lou City has gotten into a recent habit of dropping points at home. After winning their first five at home, Lou City has won only once in the last 7 home games (1-4-2). While their goal differential has been good on the road (+14), it is only +6 at home.
  • Goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh has started all 26 USL games in net for Lou City, but that could be affecting his numbers. Compare his stats over 26 games the past three years, and it’s apparent that opponents could be figuring him out in 2018:
    • 2016: 77.9% save percentage, 12 clean sheets, 20 goals against
    • 2017: 70.0% save percentage, 12 clean sheets, 21 goals against
    • 2018: 64.4% save percentage, 9 clean sheets, 32 goals against
  • In comparison to Ranjitsingh, Evan Newton and Spencer Richey have shown that two goalkeepers could be better than one. The two have a combined 73.2% save percentage, 11 clean sheets, and 26 goals against over 27 games. FCC had 10 clean sheets in the USL all of 2016 and only 7 last year.
  • Emmanuel Ledesma is proving to be a solid MVP candidate, leading FC Cincinnati in goals and assists. However, Lou City has a gold-caliber contender of their own. Forward Cameron Lancaster leads the league with 18 goals and is the only player in the USL with over 1,000 minutes who averages under 90 minutes a goal. At this current clip, Lancaster will score 24 goals this year and break the record of 22 set in 2015 by Matt Fondy (who also played for Lou City).
  • DID YOU KNOW? A win or draw by FC Cincinnati would match Lou City’s longest-ever unbeaten streak of 17 games. That unbeaten streak in 2016 came to a halt on July 23rd when Lou City lost 2-0 to—you guessed it—FC Cincinnati.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s possible final match against Louisville City.

FC Cincinnati 0 – 2 Louisville City FC: Deeper Cuts

It wasn’t pretty to look at in person, but we attempt to digest FCC’s one-sided 2-0 loss to Louisville City.

Image: JES Photography

While FC Cincinnati is still in a better place in the standings after their second home loss to Louisville City this year, suddenly the picture is not so rosy. The Orange & Blue are now behind their form from 2016. This season they stand at 6-2-3 (20 pts), one point behind their pace from their first season (6-3-2, 21 pts).

The confidence is still there in the team, but this feels like the definition of madness. This loss may sting more, but it resembled their first loss. An early first-half goal from Cameron Lancaster forced the team to struggle to make up the difference. By the time the offense came to life, Louisville’s pressure had converted a deflected shot into the net.

With this year’s Dirty River Derby all but decided, let’s take a deeper look at Cincinnati’s difficult home loss.

Defensive Miscues

Defensively, this game could have easily been as much a clean sheet as it could have been a second-half blowout. The two goals conceded by FCC were due to Lancaster’s free kick sneaking through an unprotected wall and an unlucky, but bad deflection off Matt Bahner’s leg. If it wasn’t for Evan Newton getting big late in the second half, the score could have easily been worse.

Newton managed to show some flashes from the first two games of the season during the match, making five saves in net. However, we’re starting to see lapses and trends in the defense that could cause concerns against better teams. A +5 goal differential is still decent in this league after 11 games, but that’s more from the spike in offense. The defense is projected to give up 46 goals, not too far from the 48 given up last year.

The zero shots on target should be a concern, but it’s likely more a demonstration of Louisville’s ability to keep the ball away. Only three teams in the Eastern Conference have faced less shots than Lou City (28) so far this season, and only two—Pittsburgh and Indy—have given up less goals. FCC, on the other hand, has already faced 45 shots this year, sixth-worst in the conference.

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Shot chart for Louisville (green) and FCC (black)

A strong offense is a remedy for a shaky defense, but when that’s gone, a scoreless draw is harder to preserve. Until the defense can control the number of shots taken, the clean sheets will be far and few.

Up-field Disconnection

As much as the defense was off its game, the zero shots on target should be circled in red. FCC actually had more shots on target than Lou City in the first matchup this season. This time around, there seemed to be a lack of connection between the midfield and forwards, and the number of chances created by the offense heavily favored Louisville (10-6).

The overall heat maps show that Lou City’s offense-heavy formation produced more penetration, but perhaps that alone doesn’t show the disconnect. The pressure from Lou City forced the FCC midfield to make mistakes they couldn’t recover. The ball rarely reached König or Ledesma in the front third of the field. Quick math indicates that the front six for FCC had just as many successful passes per player as the front seven for Louisville. However, FCC had also two extra unsuccessful passes per player.

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FCC’s heat maps for midfielders (left) and forwards (right).
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Louisville’s heat maps for midfielders (left) and forwards (right).

The heat maps above show just how much distribution the Louisville City midfielders and forwards maintained. In comparison, FCC’s forwards got very little opportunity to handle the ball.

The frustration was obvious at halftime, but the team was unable to overcome James O’Connor’s system. Louisville’s cohesion has dictated play this season, and their solid roster has made it easier to focus on their opponent. Since the 3-2 upset at Slugger Field last year, the Orange & Blue have been outscored 8-0 over the last three games.

With Louisville out of the way until September, FCC has time to figure out O’Connor’s system. However, the U.S. Open Cup only adds to the workload—FCC must now play five meaningful games over the next 20 days. This first comes on Saturday at New York Red Bulls II, where they have yet to get a point.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of this week’s impending MLS announcement and next Saturday’s match at New York.

FC Cincinnati 0 – 2 Louisville City FC: FCC Hands Points and Top Spot to League Rival

FC Cincinnati fell to Louisville City FC for the second time this season, on Saturday, in front of 25K+ at Nippert.

Image: JES Photography

Hoping to ride the wave of recent successes and momentum, FC Cincinnati looked to avenge their home opening loss and remain on top of the table Saturday night. Nearly 26,500 fans at Nippert stadium would see a familiar foe play the aggressor and spoiler yet again. LCFC out-matched the home side blanking the Orange & Blue 2-0.

From the opening whistle the home squad struggled to find any meaningful possession. This allowed last year’s league champs to press high in our defensive third forcing turnovers and creating chances. LCFC’s tactics paid dividends in the 15th minute when a free kick was awarded just outside FCC’s box. Cameron Lancaster’s free kick penetrated a porous wall and found the net to put the visitors in the lead. The Orange & Blue could not respond to the early deficit. They continued to allow chances while creating few dangerous moments themselves. The score would stand at the close of the first half.

FC Cincinnati came out of the break with slightly better energy as they chased after the equalizing goal. It took 55 minutes but an opportunity did present itself as Danni König earned a foul just outside the box. Emmanuel Ledesma was given the task of leveling the score. His free kick beat the wall but not the post as the ball caromed wide and out of danger.

Alan Koch made a change in the 64th minute and Emery Welshman entered for Danni König in an attempt to spark the offense. That substitution nearly produced in the 67th minute as Corben Bone’s cross into the box found the head of Welshman, but the Canadian could not apply the finishing touch into an open goal. Adding insult to injury and essentially sealing the loss, LCFC would find the net a second time as a savable shot deflected over Evan Newton’s grasp. Game over.

Key Events

15′ – GOAL – LOU – Cameron Lancaster
29′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Paddy Barrett
33′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Richie Ryan
55’ – YELLOW CARD – LOU – Paco Craig
74′ – GOAL – LOU – George Davis IV (assist Oscar Jimenez)
81′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Dekel Keinan
85′ – YELLOW CARD – LOU – Devon Williams

Match Notes

FCC falls a spot with the loss to second place in the Eastern Conference, only one point ahead of third place Charleston Battery, and two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, who have a game in hand.

The team will be without Dekel Keinan when FCC visits New York Red Bulls II June 2nd after he acquired his fifth yellow card. That caution will earn him a one-game suspension. FCC has been shutout only twice this season, both times to Louisville at home. This time around the Orange & Blue weren’t able to secure a shot on target.

Starting XI

König (64′ Welshman) – Ledesma
Albadawi (79′ Laing)
Walker (73′ Lahoud) – Ryan – Bone
Bahner – Barrett – Keinan – Hoyte
Newton

What’s Next?

FC Cincinnati continues league play June 2nd as they travel to face a tough New York Red Bulls II squad at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. Most of the attention of the fans and the front office this week is more likely to be on the event in Cincinnati however. MLS commissioner Don Garber visits Tuesday with an important announcement about the club’s top flight aspirations.

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

FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 Louisville City FC: Deeper Cuts

In our Deeper Cuts segment we dive deeper into the statistics from FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 loss to Louisville City FC in the home opener.

While the fans were able to finally welcome FC Cincinnati home to Nippert Stadium for the all-important first clash against Louisville City, the Orange & Blue dropped a disappointing 1-0 decision to the defending USL champions. FCC dictated pace and play, especially in the second half, owning the numbers game over Lou City. However, the statistics also indicate that FC Cincinnati could not capitalize on the offensive side of the ball.

Let’s dive deeper into the numbers and consider the Orange & Blue’s approach in their next game against LCFC.

Reversing Fortune

Over the first two games of the season, FCC got out to an early lead, then held the defensive line for the final 60 minutes or so. But Lou City managed to do the defending in Saturday’s match. They jumped out to a quick lead by playing the ball deep to the end line and depending on clutter in the box to get the goal.

Lou City did this a few times to start the game, but once the lead was taken, they were content to fall back and dare FCC to beat them offensively. The heat maps and possession numbers (55% to 45%) indicate that FCC won the possession battle by the end of the game. However, the heat maps also show that Louisville owned the ball more in their own box later in the game and kept FCC from penetrating too deeply.

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FCC (left) and LCFC heat maps in the 1st half
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FCC (left) and LCFC heat maps in the 2nd half

With Luke Spencer out of the lineup, Lou City played a 3-4-3 formation. This put early pressure on the FCC defense and allowed the midfielders to pull back in the second half. The clearances showed just how anxious Lou City was to play keep-away, owning a 44-16 advantage in that statistic. Defenseman Paco Craig alone had 13, including the goal line clearance in the first half that kept the 1-0 lead.

Pushing through

For the most part, FCC did a good job in keeping possession of the ball and controlling the stats when it came to duels (52% to 48%) and passing accuracy (83% to 77%). However, one unseen set of numbers was not in FCC’s favor—dribbling.

A successful dribble is defined as one where a player has the ball and is able to beat the defender while retaining possession. FCC managed to dominate that statistic, successful 10 times to Lou City’s 5. However, FCC also lost the dribble 10 times (as shown in the red triangles), while Lou City lost it only once. While FCC was doing well to challenge the defense and get around them, they were only successful half the time.

FCC LOU Dribble

This may be a minor development since FCC was willing to challenge the defenders in the first place. However, a lot of those unsuccessful dribbles were lost and cleared around the Lou City box. No matter how many passes they put together, FCC couldn’t get past the last line of defense.

Finishing the job

In general, while FC Cincinnati enjoyed plenty of runs at the Lou City box, the team could not put the finishing touch past Lou City’s defense and goalkeeper. They hammered 16 shots at goal in the game, but only managed three on target, all in the first half. Much of the rest of the attacks on frame flew astray.

While there was a ton of pressure put on Louisville City late in the game, the crossing passes were not on target. FC Cincinnati launched 37 crosses in the game to Louisville’s 10, but only 6 hit their mark. As the game got closer to the end, FCC resorted to a constant barrage of crosses from Lance Laing and Jimmy McLaughlin on the left, but very few found their mark.

FCC LOU Cross

Perhaps the cross selection got a bit predictable and allowed the Louisville back line to settle in place. Maybe Kenney Walker’s absence forced play too far to the edges. Perhaps the switch to a two-man midfield made the middle approach obsolete. Regardless, Lou City appeared more comfortable parrying the crosses, as FCC’s approaches tended to be late.

Despite all of the unsuccessful crosses and shots, FCC kept the game manageable for the full 90. Louisville showed their cards as a team that will rely heavily on a defensive front, especially when their offense is depleted. However, FCC is in a very similar “defensive-ball” situation. Until the offense leans more on passes within the box and less on deep crosses, you can expect more 1-0 games in the future.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for all of your upcoming FC Cincinnati coverage.

FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 Louisville City FC: Rival Spoils Home Opener

A recap and match notes from FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 loss to Louisville City FC on Saturday, April 7th at Nippert Stadium.

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati dropped its first game of the 2018 season to rival Louisville City FC by a 1-0 scoreline on Saturday. A crowd of 25,667 packed Nippert stadium on a frigid April evening in the Queen City to watch the home opener. The visitors scored the only goal they would require in the 13th minute of the match. Cameron Lancaster fired a close-range shot into goal after George Davis IV battled to win a 50/50 ball in the box. The loose ball trickled to Lancaster who took a touch, then slid it under Dekel Keinan to Newton’s left. The Orange & Blue nearly equalized in the 25th minute but Corben Bone’s goal-bound shot was cleared off the line by a LCFC defender. Louisville City created the better chances in the first half, and focused most of their attack at the left side of the FC Cincinnati defense.

Photo Credit: Ryan Meyer

Alan Koch started the substitutions early, introducing Danni König ten minutes into the second half. He later added both Daniel Haber and Jimmy McLaughlin in an attempt to break down Louisville’s resolute defense. The changes included a shift to a two-forward formation and were effective in creating five good chances. Manu Ledesma had a particularly good chance in the 54th minute but sent the shot over the bar. More chances by Konig, Hoyte, and McLaughlin followed, including one that required a Ranjitsingh save at the 90+5 mark. They couldn’t covert those opportunities though and Louisville held on for a 1-0 victory.

Post-match thoughts from Alan Koch:

Key Events

13′ – GOAL – LOU – Cameron Lancaster (assist George Davis IV)
35′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Emmanuel Ledesma
47′ – YELLOW CARD – LOU – Cameron Lancaster
90+4 – YELLOW CARD – LOU – Ilija Ilić

Match Notes

The result leaves FCC on six points in the Eastern Conference but they drop one place into 6th with other teams advancing. They still have a game in hand on four teams above them in the table.

FC Cincinnati started the exact same eleven players as they did against Indy Eleven the previous week, with one exception. Kenney Walker was replaced by Will Seymore. Walker is still recovering from a concussion he sustained the week prior against Indy Eleven.

Starting XI 
Welshman (76′ McLaughlin)
Laing – Bone – Ledesma
Seymore (55′ König) – Ryan
Smith (70′ Haber) – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte
Newton

FC Cincinnati conceded its first goal of the season in this match after securing clean sheets in their first two contests. Louisville City has yet to concede a goal in 2018.

What’s Next?

The Orange and Blue head to Pennsylvania for a Sunday clash with Bethlehem Steel FC on April 15th. It will be their third road match of the season in only four outings. They dropped two games early last season in the Lehigh Valley and will look to reverse that trend next weekend.

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