Images: Charleston Battery 1 – 2 FC Cincinnati

Images of FC Cincinnati’s victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, February 16th at the Carolina Challenge Cup.

Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s 2-1 victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, February 16th. The win was secured in the first of three preseason tune-up contests in the 2019 Carolina Challenge Cup.

When browsing the gallery below, for any given image, a high-resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.” All images are courtesy of Joe Craven.

Images

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!

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

2018 USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: First Round

O&BP’s prognosticator crunches the numbers again to predict the first round of the USL Eastern Conference playoffs.

Image: Ryan Meyer

Okay, so Vegas didn’t end well last year.

I was this close to predicting the entire Eastern Conference playoffs last year. In the end, Louisville won all the chips after my half-hearted attempt at a hex fell flat. Still, I had no doubts that the Eastern Conference champ would win. While the jury’s still out on which conference has more punch this year, I can give it another go predicting the future in the East.

Last year, all the first-round games took place between teams separated by at least 650 miles. This year, all four games are thick with rivalry, with three games featuring teams separated by less than 300 miles. While the fourth game isn’t so close, it does feature one of two rematches from last year’s USL playoffs. The USL should see some hefty audiences, as the road teams and their supporters should be able to travel well.

So let’s dust off that crystal ball and test the luck again…


First Round Predictions

#1 FC Cincinnati (23-3-8) vs. #8 Nashville SC (12-9-13)

Last playoffs performance:

Cincinnati – Lost 3-0 to Tampa Bay Rowdies in the 2017 Conference First Round.

Nashville – First appearance.

At the end of the 2017 season, it was obvious that FC Cincinnati had a ton to accomplish to convince naysayers. While the signings were massive and the attendances were growing, reality felt heavy. Louisville had little problems getting a star on their logo in their third year. If the Queen City wanted to really outdo the Derby City, they would have to make deep impacts.

34 games have come and gone, and so far FCC have walked the walk and talked the talk. Yes, the team suffered two early home losses to Louisville, but the Orange & Blue kept marching. Despite their aggressive play, the squad stayed relatively healthy and free of red cards. The offense promised in 2017 showed up a year late, but produced crooked numbers on the scoreboard. While Emmanuel Ledesma has been the spark plug (16 goals, 16 assists), his energy feeds the engine—the team led the league in goals (72) and goal differential (+38). Not only does the team have four double-digit scorers, but they also have the drive of Fanendo Adi at their disposal.

And yet, even with all the records being set, there’s still this feeling that the shine’s being stolen. Nashville SC came into the league with the most fanfare, capturing the first MLS expansion slot before Cincinnati, to many people’s surprise. Their pickup of goalkeeper Matt Pickens in the offseason from Tampa Bay was surprising, but immense. The defense allowed the second-lowest amount of goals in the USL (31), and Pickens’ 14 clean sheets would have been a USL record in any other year. Most importantly, Nashville has been a thorn in Cincinnati’s side, capturing a draw in all three games.

Prediction: Cincinnati 2, Nashville 1.

Cincinnati’s inability to put Nashville away makes this match incredibly hard to predict. Nashville’s defense has been stellar when it comes to facing competition on the road. Against the other seven playoff teams, Nashville is 2-2-4 on the road with three clean sheets. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is 4-2-3 at home against the other playoff teams with only two clean sheets.

The Cincinnati offense should still run smoothly, and the defense should remain stout. This means that the X-factor will have to be the Cincinnati goalkeeping. Whether it is Evan Newton or Spencer Richey, the keeper will need to patrol the back line and keep Nashville’s quick attack out of the net. Of course, a few goals past Pickens wouldn’t hurt.


#2 Louisville City FC (19-6-9) vs. #7 Indy Eleven (13-11-10)

Last playoffs performance:

Louisville – Defeated Swope Park Rangers 1-0 in the 2017 USL Championship.

Indy – Lost 0-0 (4-2 PK) to New York Cosmos in the 2016 NASL Championship.

Lou City’s unheralded trend continued in 2018, despite shifts in the Derby City landscape. The departure of coach James O’Connor forced the team to tread water. Now that new coach John Hackworth is solidly in place, the team is riding a six-game winning streak heading into the playoffs.

Much of the success can be attributed to Cameron Lancaster’s record-breaking 25-goal tally. Despite playing only 2,005 minutes over 30 games, Lancaster has pocketed a goal every 80 minutes of play. However, the team’s 71 goals prove Lancaster isn’t the only producer. Injuries to key figures from 2017 threatened the team, but midfielder Ilija Ilic filled the void and was one of three players in the USL with double-digit goals and assists (11 goals, 11 assists).

With the departure of FC Cincinnati for MLS in 2019, Indy Eleven have emerged as Louisville’s biggest rival. While the season started with uncertainty, Indy cobbled together a decent squad under coach Martin Rennie’s leadership. Despite the heavy competition in the East, Owain Fôn Williams become a dependable goalkeeper, compiling 91 saves and 11 clean sheets while playing every minute of the USL season. The scoring load was rather spread out, with 16 players tallying a goal and forward Jack McInerney leading the team with 10.

Prediction: Louisville City 3, Indy 1.

While Louisville was expected to collapse from the midseason departure of O’Connor, the team has only gotten better. Their 37 points in the second half of the season was second only to Cincinnati (43), and their goal differential ballooned from +6 to +33 in the process. Meanwhile, Indy’s 21 points since the season’s midpoint was the worst of all 16 playoff teams.

On paper, Louisville is healthy and loaded for the postseason, while Indy has tired down the stretch. If Oscar Jiménez and Kyle Smith patrol their defensive edges, Louisville should defeat their northern neighbors handily.


#3 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (15-5-14) vs. #6 Bethlehem Steel FC (14-12-8)

Last playoffs performance:

Pittsburgh – Lost 4-2 to New York Red Bulls II in the 2015 Conference First Round.

Bethlehem – Lost 4-0 to Louisville City in the 2017 Conference First Round.

The matchup between the Steel and the Steel Army is the only intrastate clash this year (unless Sacramento and Orange County face off later). With Penn FC on hiatus next year, Pittsburgh and Bethlehem will have to embrace a new type of in-state hate.

The turnaround in Pittsburgh shouldn’t come as a surprise. Under coach Bob Lilley, Rochester had the best record in the USL three times and won the Cup once. Lilley’s move to Pittsburgh and focus on a stifling defense led to an incredible 17 clean sheets and a league-low 26 goals allowed. Highmark Stadium is now one of the strongholds in the East, as opponents could only score 8 goals over 17 games. Had it not been for a head injury (in a game against Bethlehem, no less), goalkeeper Dan Lynd could have had more than his 12 clean sheets this season.

The Steel have managed to improve steadily over the past three seasons, despite the movement between the Union’s USL and MLS squads. Their 56 goals were 5th-most in the East, a major improvement from the 32 scored in 2016. The offense has mostly come from the wings, particularly Santi Moar (6 goals, 8 assists) and youngster Michee Ngalina (6 goals). However, their record could be a mirage. Eleven of the Steel’s 14 wins were against teams that missed the playoffs.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 1, Bethlehem 0.

Even though Pittsburgh beat Bethlehem 4-1 last month, there’s a realistic possibility that this game could end scoreless after 120 minutes. While Pittsburgh is known for its defense, its offense has often taken holidays. Of their 17 clean sheets, the Riverhounds failed to score in seven of them.

If Pittsburgh is to win this game, they’ll need a strong performance from the offense, particularly Neco Brett. The Jamaican striker has been a blessing for the offense, scoring 15 goals (11 at home) this season. This year, when he scores, his team ALWAYS wins. Look it up—Pittsburgh is 10-0-0 this season if Brett tallies at least one goal. Pittsburgh has beaten the Steel twice this year, and if Lilley can keep the team focused on this week, they should only need one goal.


#4 Charleston Battery (14-6-14) vs. #5 New York Red Bulls II (13-8-13)

Last playoffs performance:

Charleston – Lost 4-0 to New York Red Bulls II in the 2017 Conference First Round.

New York – Lost 1-1 (4-3 PK) to Louisville City in the 2017 Conference Finals.

Rematches in the playoffs don’t happen often in the USL. Teams have come and gone, and the playoff format hasn’t been constant. However, the marquee rematch in the East might be the most savage. Despite having the third-best defense in the East last year, Charleston were beaten to a pulp by the younger Baby Bulls, an embarrassing 4-0 loss at home.

New York has been another interesting study in keeping the gas pedal down as long as possible. The Baby Bulls have scored 189 regular-season goals over the past three years, tops in the league. However, that potent offense has been accompanied by a fizzling defense. Their +12 goal differential is 6th in the East, despite the 71 goals put in the net. New York has scored 3 or more goals 11 times this year, but their record in those games is only 7-1-3. Midfielder Andrew Tinari, one of the few holdovers from 2017, leads the East in chances created (102), while winger Jared Stroud has excelled in his first professional year (7 goals, 11 assists).

Meanwhile, Charleston proves to be one of the bedrocks of independent soccer. Coach Mike Anhaeuser celebrated his 13th year as head coach by capturing his 200th win, leading the Battery to its 11th-straight season in the playoffs. While the team lost a lot of its young talent (hello, Forrest Lasso), plenty remained. Charleston placed its stock in its capable #10, Ataullah Guerra, who scored 15 goals for the Battery this year. The forward line was completely retooled, and Joe Kuzminsky won the job as the starting goalkeeper, racking up 12 clean sheets in the process. While the team had an outstanding summer with an 11-game unbeaten streak, the Battery dropped vital points down the stretch. They’ve won only five of their last 14 games, and all were against non-playoff teams.

Prediction: New York 4, Charleston 3.

I don’t want to call this game the definition of madness, but it’s hard not to pick the “upset” here. While the Red Bulls II squad has been sluggish on the road (2-5-10), their last two road games have been wins. In fact, over the past four years, the Battery have beaten New York only once in nine matches. Just this year alone, Charleston has given up nine goals to New York in two games, even though they have scored six of their own.

This game may come down to just how accurate the offenses can be. While Charleston was outshot 21-8 in their last game against New York, all four shots on net went in. However, the Battery could not solve super-sub Tom Barlow, who scored a hat trick in only 27 minutes of play. Charleston is going to try to flood New York’s defense early and often, but a second-straight early exit at the hands of the Baby Bulls could be imminent.


So what are your predictions for this first week of the Eastern Conference playoffs? Let us know!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more on the upcoming USL Playoffs.

Images: FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 Charleston Battery

Images of FC Cincinnati’s victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, August 18th, at Nippert Stadium.

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Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, August 18th. When browsing the gallery below, for any given image, a high-resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.” A watermark identifying the photographer can be found on each photo. All images are courtesy of Ryan Meyer and Joe Schmuck

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

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FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 Charleston Battery: FCC’s Home Fortress Holds Firm Again

Images

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!

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

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FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 Charleston Battery: FCC’s Home Fortress Holds Firm Again

FC Cincinnati faces its strongest competition to date and unleashes its fireworks in a 3-0 victory over the Charleston Battery.

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Design: Connor Paquette / Image: Joe Schmuck

Despite the marquee matchup between two teams with massive undefeated streaks, the beat goes on for FC Cincinnati. The Orange & Blue rolled with two first-half strikes and a hot defense to hold on for a 3-0 victory. The win stretches FCC’s undefeated streak to 13 games. Charleston’s loss is their first since their 2-0 loss to Richmond on June 9th, breaking an 11-game undefeated stretch.

Cincinnati busted the deadlock in the 21st minute. Emmanuel Ledesma dispossessed his opponent outside the Charleston box and fired a floater over goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky that scratched the crossbar on the way. His eleventh goal of the year gives him the team lead in goals and gave the team an early 1-0 lead. Up to that point, Charleston hadn’t trailed in a game for 1,012 minutes.

The Battery had their chances to equalize before halftime. Striker Ataulla Guerra almost added to his team-leading 12 goals, firing a shot at Spencer Richey that clanged off the crossbar. Almost as if sparked by the fortunate bang off the woodwork, FC Cincinnati flipped the field to score again during stoppage time. Nazmi Albadawi’s centering pass skirted by Emery Welshman to fool the defense. Corben Bone picked up the free ball, depositing the shot past Kuzminsky. His 4th goal of the season made the game 2-0 at halftime.

While the team came out with solid possession in the second half, FCC still could not shake the pesky Battery squad. Charleston tried invading from the right of Richey and almost found paydirt in the 67th minute. Patrick Okonkwo found himself alone in front of Richey, only for Forrest Lasso to slide-tackle the attempt out for a corner kick.

FC Cincinnati iced the game with an own-goal in second-half stoppage time. Albadawi’s crossing pass to Fenando Adi didn’t quite get to the big striker, as Skylar Thomas deflected the ball into his own net. With the win all wrapped up, all that was left was the whistle and a big “six-point win” to the boys in Orange & Blue.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 Charleston Battery

Standings Update

FC Cincinnati has two months and 10 games left in the regular season, but a good deal of it is on the road. The win over Charleston, coupled with 0-0 home draws by Pittsburgh and Louisville, puts FCC up by seven points over their closest competitor. Charleston’s loss keeps them in third place, but they are no longer equal with the Riverhounds on points.

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Highlight of the Match

While Bone’s first-half goal was the backbreaker, Ledesma’s beauty from outside the box got FCC on the board in fine fashion.

 

Quote of the Match

Coach Koch came out for the abbreviated press conference to talk about the importance of getting out of the gate with “a good first 45 minutes”:

“I said on TV at halftime that this game is very interesting, because we were very happy with how we played in the first 45 minutes. But if Guerra’s shot goes in with a couple minutes left before halftime, it’s probably 1-1. . . .You’ve got to manage those moments. Thankfully, we didn’t give them that much tonight, and we thoroughly deserve the three points.”  

Stat of the Match

While both teams went into this game with lengthy streaks, FC Cincinnati maintains theirs. The team has not trailed in the past 924 minutes. The last time FCC trailed in a game was back on June 13th, when Bethlehem held the lead for 37 minutes.

Who Started?

Koch opted to start some of the hot hands against Charleston. Paddy Barrett held the captain’s armband on the back line while Dekel Keinan rested a second-straight game, and Spencer Richey started his second-straight game in net. Fatai Alashe got his first start of the season, and Emery Welshman returned from suspension to start for Danni König.

Welshman (Adi 73′)
Ledesma – Albadawi – Bone
Alashe (Lahoud 62′) – Walker
Smith – Lasso – Barrett (c) – Hoyte
Richey

Of note: Ledesma picked up his eighth yellow card of the season, so he likely faces a one-game suspension against Atlanta United II next Wednesday.

What’s Next?

After six games at home, FC Cincinnati finally pound the pavement and play on the road. The Orange & Blue travel to the southeast for a Wednesday tussle against Atlanta United II and a Saturday tilt against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati’s final ten games of the regular season.

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Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Charleston Battery

FC Cincinnati wraps up a six-game home stand Saturday as they host the Charleston Battery in the battle of recent unbeaten streaks.

Design CSDIV / Images (Barrett, Ledesma): Ryan Meyer / Image(Nippert:) Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati concludes a six-game home stretch on Saturday when they host the Charleston Battery at Nippert Stadium. FCC is 1-3-2 all time versus the Battery and have never beaten them at home.

Saturday’s showdown is arguably one of the marquee matches of the entire 2018 Eastern Conference schedule. Conference leaders FC Cincinnati enter the game on a 12-match unbeaten run, tops in franchise history. The Battery, sitting five points behind in third, bring their own 11-game unbeaten streak into the contest. Between the two sides, neither team has lost in over two months. Moreover, Charleston plays tough on the road, having drawn seven of their twelve away matches (3-2-7).

Adding fuel to the fire, Charleston is still stinging from the season opening 0-1 loss to FCC in March. There’s no controversy in saying the Battery out-played FC Cincinnati that day. Thanks to Evan Newton’s remarkable game in goal, he kept the home side off the score sheet. Blake Smith’s goal that evening allowed FCC to beat the Battery for the first time ever.

Likewise, FCC have their own axe to grind. It was CB93 that dealt the Orange & Blue the disappointing home playoff loss that cut their inaugural 2016 season short. Even though the club has turned the roster over quite a bit since then, the significance of Saturday’s match is firmly on both team’s minds. This match has been circled on Charleston’s calendar since March.

Although unbeaten in twelve, the Orange & Blue enter Saturday’s tilt in far from their best form. The new player signees and arrivals have added intrigue and promise for the USL Cup run and MLS future. However, the play on the field has not reciprocated of late. FCC will have their hands full with the front three for the Battery, led by Trinidad & Tobago international Ataulla Guerra. Guerra comes into the match with 12 goals, sitting two behind the current league Golden Boot leader. Expect a heavy dose of high pressure applied to the FCC back line.

Not to be outdone by their attack, the Battery’s strength this season has been their defense. They enter Saturday’s match with five straight clean sheets and have conceded only 19 goals all year (third best in the league). Their defense is led by captain Taylor Mueller and Neveal Hackshaw, each logging over 2,000 minutes played this season.

Alan Koch may elect to change the formation once again and return to a 4-2-3-1 line-up utilizing the team’s depth at central defensive midfield. This should provide cover for the defensive unit and help control possession through the midfield. Koch has stated that everyone minus Richie Ryan (leg injury) should be available for selection. Could this be the match we witness Fanendo Adi’s first start in an Orange & Blue kit?

Fast Facts

Here are five fast facts to get you ready for Saturday’s 7:30pm kickoff.

  • With his game-winning goal Sunday, Emmanuel Ledesma is the first USL player to reach 10 goals and 10 assists this season. Ledesma is only the second USL player ever to record a double-double in a single season. Manu has his eye on breaking the single season USL assist record of 12.
  • Defensive stalwarts – both teams enter the match with double digit clean sheets. The Battery have recorded 12 in total (second best in the USL), FCC enters the match with 10 (tied for fifth best). Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky has conceded only 10 goals with an 81.1% save rate (best in the USL). For the Orange & Blue, Evan Newton has allowed 14 goals with a 76.3% save percentage (fourth best). Both keepers have 17 starts this season.
  • Charleston has two players in the USL top 12 for total passes, Tah Anunga (1,202) and Neveal Hackshaw (1,194). Corben Bone is the only FCC player who has registered over 1,000 passes this season (1,045). All three players currently eclipse the 50 passes per 90 minutes plateau.
  • Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser will be going for his 200th career USL win. “Augie” has been with the club as a player, assistant coach, and head coach for 25 years. Let’s plan on holding off on this career achievement one more week.
  • Danni König’s ten goals this season ties him for the team lead and ninth overall in the league. Of note, Danni leads all double-digit scorers with a 40% conversion rate (goals divided by total shots excluding blocks). In addition, he’s third best among this group in frequency of goals, scoring one in every 128 minutes played.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus Charleston Battery.

* Big thanks to Drew Bartow for the match intel. Drew is a board member for the Battery Supporter’s Group The Regiment and a writer at SoccerNSweetTea.

Charleston Battery 0-1 FC Cincinnati: Deeper Cuts

FC Cincinnati’s bend-not-break defense, stellar goalkeeping, and substitute strategies against Charleston.

Photo credit: Ross Almers Photography

The monkey is finally off of FC Cincinnati’s back as the team started their 2018 campaign with a 1-0 away win over Charleston Battery, obtaining their first win over Charleston in six tries and their first points against the Battery on the road. The Orange & Blue broke through in the first half with a hard-fought Blake Smith goal, then heavily depended on the defense to make that lead last to the end. Here’s what stood out after the first big test of the season.

Bending Without Breaking

At the 35th-minute mark, both teams had taken five shots, with Cincinnati getting better looks at the goal than Charleston. Lance Laing and Emery Welshman had great shots on frame before Blake’s goal, and it took a sprawling save from Odisnel Cooper to deny a beautiful Manu Ledesma free kick outside the box.

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Shots after 35 minutes: FCC (left) vs. CHB (right). Source: USL

The next ten minutes became a sudden undoing, as Charleston completely reversed field, taking five of the next six shots. The second half didn’t reverse much of the momentum either, as Charleston possessed the ball for much of the second half and enjoyed a heavy advantage in shots over the full 90-plus minutes. Charleston’s 24 shots were the second most from a team this weekend (Red Bulls II fired 31 at Toronto FC II), and Cincinnati’s 9 shots were the fewest for a team that won.

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Shots after 90 minutes: FCC (left) vs. CHB (right). Source: USL

The good news is that the defensive line, a concern in the offseason, stepped up to the task. Forrest Lasso and Dekel Keinan snuffed out eight of those shots between them to at least lessen the blow, and the team managed to play clear-out ball for much of the game (33 clearances to Charleston’s 8). Smith’s goal also showed that scoring from the back line could be the key to an improved scoring team.

Newton’s Law

There is no doubt that Evan Newton was the man of the match, filling some enormous gloves in his first minutes as the FCC goalkeeper. While Cooper was challenged early on the Charleston side, the Battery could have won this game comfortably if Newton hadn’t made himself big in goal, making five saves for the clean sheet.

Two of Newton’s saves came as a result of the keeper filling out his form in two different situations. He blocked a low shot from forward Ian Svantesson in the 39th minute that he likely didn’t see from the screens in the box, forced to fill a hole that couldn’t be patched by all the defensemen in the box. Newton then stretched high to deny Svantesson a header in the 66th minute, absorbing a shot from the goalpost as a reward.

However, Newton’s sprawling save in the 40th minute on a shot by Kotaro Higashi might be Save of the Week stuff.

This is just the first game of the season, but it’s definitely a confidence-builder to see Newton displaying the ability that helped Sacramento upset Real Monarchs in the playoffs last season. Newton produced five saves or more three times last year, but did not win any of those games. The question will likely be if Koch opts to play the hot hand or if he gives Spencer Richey a start to see if he can play at the same level.

Subtle Substitutes

For the first thirty minutes, the offense couldn’t have gone better for Cincinnati, but once the Charleston midfield started to control the ball and connect passes, their use of two forwards started to push possession constantly in Cincinnati’s half. Svantesson got plenty more looks in front of goal than FCC’s lone striker, and that pressure forced Cincinnati to dump passes out and deflect shots for corner kicks (10 for Charleston to Cincinnati’s 3).

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Striker heat map comparison between FCC (left) and CHB (right). Source: USL

With the team looking tired, Koch made some interesting moves to change momentum just enough in the second half. Having left Tomi Ameobi off the roster for the first game, Koch replaced Welshman with Danni König, who hadn’t seen any legitimate preseason minutes since the February 27th match against NKU. Koch then opted to later use Will Seymore as a replacement for Corben Bone, while Nazmi Albadawi remained on the bench.

While König and Seymore didn’t produce goals during their minutes, they did halt Charleston’s momentum just enough to keep the score where it was. Seymore won some vital fouls late in the game to reverse the field and almost scored on a heading pass from König. Meanwhile, König managed to get into his defender’s head late in the game, drawing a red card on Quinton Griffith during a foul to deplete Charleston’s arsenal.

Those rolls of the dice worked for Koch this time around, but it also shows that the coach has some initial confidence in spreading the minutes around. Resting the likes of Ameobi and Albadawi in a game that meant a lot for a retooled FC Cincinnati felt like a risky calculation, but three points before an early bye week should give Koch some time to figure out what worked while scouting Indy for their March 31st game.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue press for coverage of FC Cincinnati as they prepare for their next match.

Charleston Battery 0 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Unbeatable Newton Secures Opening Day Win

A recap and match notes from FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, March 17th at MUSC Health Stadium.

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Design Connor Paquette / Image Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati defeated the Charleston Battery by a 1-0 scoreline at MUSC Health Stadium in their season opener on Saturday. Goalkeeper Evan Newton turned in a mind-blowing five-save performance to keep a clean sheet and secure all three points for the Orange and Blue. Newton was the overwhelming Man of the Match (MOTM).

The opening goal of the match, and of FC Cincinnati’s season, came from an unlikely source in the 18th minute. Corben Bone played a delicate through ball to Emery Welshman inside the box. Charleston goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper rushed off his line to smother the opportunity. Welshman beat Cooper to the ball and flicked it at goal. His touch deflected off Cooper and the rebound fell to Cincinnati fullback Blake Smith who slotted it into an empty net to give FCC a 1-0 lead.

The first half was evenly played until the final 10 minutes when the home side really applied the pressure. Newton made his first, and most impressive save of the match, in the 40th minute to deny Charleston midfielder, Kotaro Higashi. He sprawled to his right and denied Higashi’s close-range volley with an iron right hand.

The second half began like the first half ended, with Charleston applying unrelenting pressure to FC Cincinnati’s goal. The Orange and Blue defense bent but did not break. Newton was unbeatable in goal and Lasso and Keinan toiled in defense to clear a barrage of Charleston attacks. Newton’s superb reaction save off of Ian Svantesson’s header in the 66′ kept the Battery off the score sheet. Alan Koch made critical substitutions in the 68th and 72nd minute. He introduced König for Welshman and Seymore for Corben Bone. FCC was able to maintain a better balance of possession after that, and salt away the game. A Charleston red card to fullback Quinton Griffith in second-half stoppage time added insult to injury. Although Charleston controlled possession 55/45 and outshot FC Cincinnati 24 to 9, the final score is what mattered. Charleston 0 – 1 FC Cincinnati.

Key Events

18′ – GOAL – Blake Smith (unassisted)
51′ – YELLOW CARD – Ataulla Guerra (CHS)
63′ – YELLOW CARD – Lance Laing (CIN)
80′ – YELLOW CARD – Jared Van Schaik (CHS)
85′ – YELLOW CARD – Forrest Lasso (CIN)
90+2 – YELLOW CARD – Danni König (CIN)
90+2 – RED CARD – Quinton Griffith (CHS)
90+7 – YELLOW CARD – Richie Ryan (CIN)

Match Notes

There weren’t any major surprises in the starting eleven. The eleven that started are the players that the preseason rosters and training sessions have been pointing to. Some eyebrows were raised when Will Seymore replaced Corben Bone in the 72nd minute, instead of Nazmi Albadawi.

Starting XI 
Welshman (König 68′)
Laing – Bone (Seymore 72′) – Ledesma (Haber 90′)
Walker – Ryan
Smith – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte
Newton

Jimmy McLaughlin missed the 18 altogether due to a shoulder injury he sustained in the match against Sacramento Republic FC.

No injuries were sustained during the match, although Richie Ryan did go down twice for treatment. In the first half he was accidentally kicked in the face by Kotaro Higashi, and in the second half he collided with Guerra and suffered an apparent ankle injury. He continued to play until the final whistle without problems.

What’s Next?

One and done, at least for two weeks. Alan Koch’s men get a fourteen-day respite to assess their opening day victory and regroup before the inaugural I-74 derby between FC Cincinnati and Indy Eleven. Although the early bye is perhaps frustrating for fans, it will be valuable time for this team to continue to gel and recover from a handful of minor injuries in the squad.

Check in tomorrow for our fully digested take on Saturday’s result, and stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.

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Audio: Lasso and Koch on FC Cincinnati’s Season Opener

Alan Koch and Forrest Lasso speak to Orange and Blue Press about the response to the Sacramento defeat, injuries, Lasso’s return to Charleston, and how the back line is coming together.

Orange and Blue Press caught up with Alan Koch and Forrest Lasso ahead of FC Cincinnati’s season opener against the Charleston Battery.

Alan Koch

“We know it’s going to be a tough game obviously. Going to Charleston, it’s a place where we haven’t had that much success as a club. But we feel confident and we’re going to put our best foot forward.”

Alan also told us about the team’s response to the Sacramento loss, and gave us an injury update on Jimmy McLaughlin and others.

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Forrest Lasso

Forrest Lasso spent a few minutes with us to share his state of mind ahead of his return to the Carolinas, and gave us his take on how the back line is shaping up.

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For more details on Saturday’s matchup, check out the Match Program below, and follow along during the game on Twitter, handle @orangebluepress.

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Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Charleston Battery

 

USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: First Round

O&B Press’s stats junkie tries his hand at predicting the winners in the first round of the 2017 USL Eastern Conference Playoffs.

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Credit: Ryan Meyer Photography

It took two more weeks than last year, but the 2017 USL regular season is finally in the books. While only three of the eight qualifying teams in the Western Conference have returned from last year’s playoffs, the Eastern Conference saw quite a bit of parity. Six of last year’s eight teams in the East are back to try again, including New York Red Bulls II, the 2016 USL Cup Champions.

Considering the lack of turnover in the East, familiarity should breed contempt. Louisville City is finally the #1 seed after two years as the bridesmaid and gets to host the Eastern Conference finals if they get that far. However, considering how Charlotte, Charleston, and Tampa Bay also spent time at the top of the table, nothing appears to be a guarantee.

So how will the first-round matchups shake out? Let’s look into the crystal ball…


First Round Predictions

#1 Louisville City FC (18-8-6) vs. #8 Bethlehem Steel FC (12-8-12)

Last playoffs performance:

Louisville – Lost 1-1 (3-4 in penalties) to New York in the 2016 Conference Finals.

Bethlehem – First appearance.

Over the past three years, Louisville City has played superior soccer at Slugger Field, losing only seven times in 48 home matches since their 2015 debut. However, having never been the #1 seed, Lou City has failed to get past the Eastern Conference finals, losing to the champion Red Bulls II squad in penalties last year. Finally the “Big Men on Conference” this year, Lou City has avoided the Baby Bulls in the first round and is the favorite to march to the USL Finals.

The reality is harsh for opponents—Coach James O’Connor’s squad has improved in wins, points, and goal differential since 2015 and, on paper, has the edge in every game from now on. While the team hasn’t had a go-to goal-scorer this year like a Matt Fondy back in 2015, forward Luke Spencer has had a stellar season, leading the team with 10 goals.

Bethlehem Steel FC walks into their first playoffs as one of the most improved squads from the past year, seeing vast improvement in goal production (from 32 to 46) from more consistent pressure. Forwards Seku Conneh and Corey Burke have been given the keys to the souped-up offense, enjoying healthy and complete seasons that made Bethlehem surprising challengers this year. As FC Cincinnati has learned three times this season, the Steel will try to beat you with pressure, but their defense hasn’t seen a big improvement, giving up around the same amount of goals as 2016.

Prediction: Louisville City 2, Bethlehem 1.

Neither of the games played between Lou City and Bethlehem this year had a clean sheet, so Lou City goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh is going to have to return to his 2016 postseason form. Ranjitsingh performed well in a terrific 3-1 win at Bethlehem, but had a shaky game at home in a 2-2 tie. Considering Lou City has had three shutouts in three home playoff games since 2015, Bethlehem getting a goal would be a moral victory, but expect Louisville to press hard and hammer shots on net all night.


#2 Charleston Battery (15-9-8) vs. #7 New York Red Bulls II (13-5-14)

Last playoffs performance:

Charleston – Lost 1-0 to Louisville in the 2016 Conference Semifinals.

New York – Defeated Swope Park Rangers 5-2 in the 2016 USL Championship.

Typically, the defending champion should be a dangerous team to play, but the New York Red Bulls II this year seem to lack the horns that carried them to a record-setting championship last year. Yes, their offense is still high-caliber—even though the 57 goals is surprisingly a drop in production from the 61 they scored last year, the Baby Bulls were still second in scoring in the conference. Forward Stefano Bonomo led the team in goals, scoring 10 goals despite playing only the last 13 games of the season, and forward Florian Valot has kept pace, scoring 8 goals over his past 8 games. However, on the other side of the coin, New York’s rotating goalkeeper position has given up 60 goals this season, the worst in the conference.

Charleston, on the other hand, has proven their mettle in the USL Playoffs ever since their championship run in 2012. The Battery enjoyed the second-highest goal differential in the conference with the balance of solid goalkeeping from mainstay Odisnel Cooper (10 clean sheets) and potent offense from Jamaican striker Romario Williams (15 goals over 22 games) and super-sub forward Heviel Cordovés (8 goals over the past 8 games). Charleston lost a lot of their firepower in midseason when Williams was either on international duty or serving suspensions, but the team has proven to be strong at home, giving up only 11 goals at MUSC Health Stadium and losing only once.

Prediction: New York 3, Charleston 2.

My first draft actually had Charleston taking this game, but there’s something about New York that has me thinking they’re not finished. While New York has not performed well on the road with its only road clean sheet being a midseason win over Richmond, I find a wounded animal to be the most dangerous. It may be a coin flip to some, but if New York’s back duo of Hassan Ndam and Jordan Scarlett can do just enough to counter Charleston’s attack while New York maintains a constant barrage of shots on Cooper, I think an upset is in the making.


#3 Tampa Bay Rowdies (14-11-7) vs. #6 FC Cincinnati (12-10-10)

Last playoffs performance:

Tampa Bay – Won the 2012 NASL Championship over the Minnesota Stars.

Cincinnati – Lost 2-1 to Charleston in the 2016 Conference First Round.

After failing to get to the second round as the #3 seed last year, FC Cincinnati has the chance to come in and defeat their own #3 seed to move on in the 2017 playoffs. Say what you will about the team’s inefficiency away from Nippert Stadium and the seven shutouts suffered on the road—Cincinnati went 4-3-1 in the last eight games of the season, so general momentum is still on their side. Midfielders Kenney Walker and Corben Bone are playing their best soccer of the season down the stretch, and the front line was solid on offense in the finale. The defense has been threadbare though, giving up 48 goals on 152 shots—only the Red Bulls are worse.

Tampa Bay’s first year in the USL has been relatively successful compared to their flat 2016 NASL campaign where they finished 9th out of 12 teams. Over the same number of games, the team’s goal differential improved from -1 to +15, and the squad has given up only 9 goals in 16 home games. The discipline in the defense has led to 12 shutouts this season, while the offense has been led by Georgi Hristov’s 13 goals and Joe Cole‘s solid midfield play. Surprisingly, while the team has led the Eastern Conference in yellow cards (78), Tampa Bay has had only one red card all season.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 2, FC Cincinnati 1.

Random play has diverted the Orange & Blue from having to face Charleston again, but let’s not forget that Tampa Bay also has the experience of eliminating FCC from U.S. Open Cup play in 2016. While Hristov has been the productive scorer and Cole has been the bane of Cincinnati’s existence at Al Lang Stadium, Tampa Bay’s X-factor is likely forward Martin Paterson. The journeyman’s play helped the Rowdies escape their 7-game winless funk at home against FCC the last time the teams met, so they’ll need him to do the same sort of voodoo on Cincinnati’s defense. It’s hard to envision FCC infiltrating Tampa Bay’s home fortress, but do you remember the last time Cincinnati went to Florida?


#4 Rochester Rhinos (14-11-7) vs. #5 Charlotte Independence (13-9-10)

Last playoffs performance:

Rochester – Lost 3-3 (4-5 pen.) to New York in the 2016 Conference Semi-Finals.

Charlotte – Lost 3-1 to Rochester in the 2016 Conference First Round.

It’s practically deja-vu all over again for the Rhinos and Independence, as both teams are near their levels from 2016 and faced each other as the #4 and #5 seed last year. Rochester has turned on their defensive prowess again in 2017, giving up a conference-low 28 goals over the entire season. That’s a far cry from the 15 goals they gave up during their 2015 championship season. But the team’s goaltender Tomas Gomez has continued his lock-down numbers from 2016, collecting 11 clean sheets in 22 appearances, while the defense allowed the fewest shots on goal in the conference (94). However, the team’s offense has only scored 36 goals this year, the fewest of the Eastern Conference playoff teams.

Charlotte has demonstrated some of their worst soccer down the stretch of the season, losing their last five games (albeit all to playoff teams). However, let’s also not ignore the fact they’ve enjoyed the longest undefeated stretch in the Eastern Conference this year (a +18 differential over 12 games) and have a high-impact scoring tandem in forwards Enzo Martinez (16 goals) and Jorge Herrera (12 goals). The duo combined for 17 goals during Charlotte’s unbeaten run, but both have been shut out over the last five games.

Prediction: Rochester 1, Charlotte 0.

Considering Charlotte’s recent woes and Rochester’s season-long stinginess, it’s hard to expect the Independence to break their recent scoring drought, but Rochester also needs to prove they can score as well. While midfielder Wal Fall and forward Jochen Graf have been the muscle for Rochester, they’ll need the resurgence of winger Christiano Francois to get the ball to them. Despite missing half the season due to injury, Francois led the team with six assists, collecting two in the massive 4-0 win over Charlotte at home earlier this season. It may go to penalties in this expected low-scoring affair, but Rochester likely dooms Charlotte again in the playoffs.


So what are your predictions for this first week of the Eastern Conference playoffs? Let us know!

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

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Match Photos: FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Charleston Battery

Images courtesy of Ryan Meyer of FC Cincinnati’s 2-2 draw with the Charleston Battery at Nippert on June 17th.

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Here are 32 images courtesy of Ryan Meyer of Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Charleston Battery. When browsing the gallery below for any given image, a high resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.”

Also read the match report: FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Charleston Battery: Wiedeman Golazo Rescues Draw

 

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati. Up next is a match against Saint Louis FC at Nippert Stadium on June 24th.

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