Images: FC Cincinnati 2-0 Charlotte Independence

Images of FC Cincinnati’s victory over the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday July 18th at Nippert Stadium.


Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s 2-0 victory over the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday, July 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 image. All images are courtesy of Ryan Meyer and Joe Craven.

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

Charlotte 7.18_Match Recap
FC Cincinnati 2 – 0 Charlotte Independence: Cincy’s Set-Piece Work Succeeds


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.



FC Cincinnati 2 – 0 Charlotte Independence: Cincy’s Set-Piece Work Succeeds

FC Cincinnati’s clean-sheet run stretches to four games with a 2-0 dusting of the Charlotte Independence.

Charlotte 7.18_Match Recap

FC Cincinnati extended its unbeaten streak to nine games and exterminated some ghosts in the process. The Orange & Blue got some vengeance for their only road loss earlier in the season by defeating Charlotte 2-0. While the Independence claim this year’s Queen Cities Cup on a 4-3 aggregate, FCC now has four straight shutouts and six in their last eight games.

FCC marched out a similar lineup from Saturday and got out to a flying start. In the 7th minute, Emmanuel Ledesma fired a corner kick that found Forrest Lasso’s forehead, only for the ball to clang off the crossbar. However, Dekel Keinan swept up the crumbs to push the ball into the net for his first goal of the season.

In the 20th minute, FCC finally got their first set piece of the season into the goal. Lasso bent down for a Kenny Walker cross in the box to beat goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra. The defender’s first goal of the season gave Cincy the 2-0 lead that lasted the rest of the game.

While the second half was without offensive sparks, there was still plenty of opportunities. Charlotte’s best chance came in the 60th minute—a free kick from Jay Voser almost skirted past both teams, but Evan Newton dove to his left to pad the ball aside. Ledesma almost gave FCC a three-goal lead in the 78th minute with a stellar Olympico from the corner, only for the goal to be blown dead from a foul. FCC wasted away the remaining time to collect all three points.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 2-0 Charlotte Independence

Standings Update

FC Cincinnati still sits atop the table, extending their lead to seven points over idle Pittsburgh. The Riverhounds face third-place Charleston on Saturday, giving FCC a chance to extend their edge over at least one of these teams. Charlotte remains in eighth place.

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Highlight of the Match

Both goals were the result of beautiful set pieces, but Lasso’s goal at least gave the big kid a chance to dance.

Quote of the Match

Coach Alan Koch addressed what the team had taken from the 4-1 loss in Charlotte and applied to tonight’s game:

“(The Independence) are a team that is very, very good at finding space. You could see that tonight. When they did find space, they looked dangerous, so we took the space away from them, and we nullified all of their strengths. That’s what we learned from the last game.”

Who Started?

Koch provided two changes to the team that started against Tampa Bay last Saturday. The formation was also more of a 4-2-3-1 setup, with Jimmy McLaughlin replacing Nazmi Albadawi and Emery Welshman on for Danni König.

Ledesma (Albadawi 89′) – Bone – McLaughlin (Cicerone 76′)
Walker – Lahoud
Smith –  Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte

Of note, Ledesma and Welshman both picked up yellow cards in the game. Ledesma’s card is his 7th of the season, putting him at risk of getting a two-game suspension with his next card.

What’s Next?

Ain’t no rest for the weary—the Orange & Blue suit up for the third time in eight days on Saturday against New York Red Bulls II. New York has won three straight after a 2-1 victory over Bethlehem Wednesday night. FC Cincinnati has beaten the Baby Bulls in their last two games, the most recent being a 2-1 win on the road in June.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.
Tampa Bay 7.14_Match Recap

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Charlotte Independence

Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program supplies the information and fast facts you need for FC Cincinnati’s league meeting with the Charlotte Independence.


Design: CSDIV / Images:Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati returns to Nippert Stadium on Wednesday to face the Charlotte Independence, four days after their convincing 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Orange & Blue will be looking for a measure of revenge against Charlotte after suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of “the Jacks” earlier this season. Alan Koch’s team is currently perched at the top of the Eastern Conference, a position they’ve held consistently for the past 6 weeks.

FCC is 2-2-1 all-time against Wednesday’s opponent, and Charlotte has never won a match in Cincinnati. The Orange & Blue drew with them 1-1 at Nippert last season, and in 2016 they beat the Independence 2-1 in the inaugural home opener.

Charlotte is in average form recently. They’ve drawn two and lost two of their last five matches. However, in the most recent of those five, they picked up a nice 1-0 win at home against Nashville SC. That win came despite being outshot 15-9 and out-possessed 60% to 40%. Wednesday’s opponent has been on top of their game at home, where they are unbeaten in six. However, they aren’t the same on the road, and have only won two matches out of nine this season.

The Independence consistently produce goals though, scoring in each of their past 12 matches. Midfield standout Jorge Herrera is central to their attack. The 37-year-old Colombian is tied with Emmanuel Ledesma and Danni König with 9 goals this season. That tally is just one off the high-water mark for goals in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte forward Caleb Calvert picked up a straight red card for violent conduct in the game against Nashville, and will be suspended for the match at Nippert.

Wednesday’s match is the USL Game of the Week and was originally scheduled to be broadcast on ESPNews, but has been moved up to feature on ESPN2.

Fast Facts

Here are some fast facts to get you ready for Wednesday’s 8pm kickoff at Nippert Stadium.

  • FCC has twice as many clean sheets as the Independence this season, 8 to 4.
  • FC Cincinnati and Charlotte are tied for first place in the USL in conversion percentage (goals/shots) at 19%. Both make the most of their shooting opportunities. However, because FCC shoots 35% more than Charlotte, they’ve scored 9 more goals than the Independence this season.
  • Charlotte has the third highest red card total in the league with 5 so far this season. FCC has yet to see red in 2018. The Orange & Blue, however, have been cautioned 11 more times than their opponent.
  • Emmanuel Ledesma hasn’t tallied an assist in the past three games, but is still tied for the USL lead with 8. The only other player to match Ledesma’s total this season is former FCC player Antoine Hoppenot, who currently plays for Reno 1868 FC.
  • Expect prolific passing on Wednesday. Charlotte has the second highest passing accuracy in the USL at 81%. Compare that to FCC whose passing accuracy is 78%, tied for 9th in the league.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus the Charlotte Independence.

Charlotte Independence 4 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Deeper Cuts

We take a closer look at trends in attacking and disciplinary actions that should concern FCC fans after the latest 4-1 loss to Charlotte.

20180331-JRC-FCC at Indy-24-2
Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati’s 4-1 head-scratcher of a loss against Charlotte suddenly brings the team’s momentum to a screeching halt. The 10 goals during the three-game winning streak cloaked the fact that the only clean sheet during that stretch came against a struggling Ottawa team. The poor performance comes at a bad time, as Detroit City FC fans will likely be flaunting that score before the second-round U.S. Open Cup tangle on Wednesday.

Here are some items that stand out after the first leg of the Queen Cities Cup.

Difference in Attacks

Four goals given up against a team that hadn’t scored in over 400 minutes could be considered an anomaly, but the trend doesn’t look so good. While winning is ultimately the main goal, opponents have been able to fire shots at FCC.

  • April 28 at Ottawa: 14 shots for, 10 against.
  • May 2 at Indy: 16 shots for, 17 against.
  • May 5 vs. Atlanta 2: 13 shots for, 14 against.
  • May 12 at Charlotte: 9 shots for, 15 against.
FCC CLT shots 05122018
Shot chart for FCC (green) and CLT.

All four goals against Spencer Richey came from atop the 18 directly in front of the goal. However, the line of attack and general spray of the shots came from all angles. Charlotte succeeded in targeting the defense’s inability to keep the ball out of the middle and Richey’s difficulty with the corners of the net.

On the other hand, while FCC managed to crack Charlotte’s defense once, their attack might have been considered predictable. The 4-4-2 diamond formation has been good for ball control, but that has led to one-sided heat maps and average formations. Danni König and Manu Ledesma have been productive, but both have tended to gravitate to one side, leaving the far side relatively unexplored. Even substituting Jimmy McLaughlin on as a third attacker did not lead to a balanced attack.

FCC CLT avg 05122018
The average field positions for the FCC and CLT Starting XI.

Note that Charlotte (black) managed a relatively symmetric attack on FCC’s defensive half, while FCC’s offense was heavily featured to the left of goalkeeper Brandon Miller. If teams do not have to worry about attacks from one side, something needs to be adjusted.

Accumulation Warnings

Perhaps one of the surprising changes from 2016 to 2017—other than the obvious managerial change—was the sudden up-tick in bookings. The Orange & Blue picked up 48 yellow cards and only one red in 2016, but those numbers increased to 64 yellows and nine reds in 2017. That lack of luck and control during some of these games were major concerns in the offseason.

FCC Fouls YC 05132018
Total number of fouls conceded (left) and yellow cards in the Eastern Conference.

In general, fouls conceded by FCC are slightly down from last year, but still at a concerning clip. The team has won 86 fouls so far, but they have given up 128, a little over 14 per game. Only Charleston has given up more fouls in the Eastern Conference.

FCC has done well to avoid the red cards that plagued them early in the 2017 season. However, the team is accumulating yellow cards at a rate much faster than the previous two years. Consider the numbers over the first nine games of the season and how they are trending against FCC:

  • 2016: 10 yellow cards to FCC, 18 to opponents.
  • 2017: 14 yellow cards to FCC, 19 to opponents.
  • 2018: 21 yellow cards to FCC, 14 to opponents.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with a physical presence on the field, but the quick accumulation of cards is starting to lead to suspensions. Forrest Lasso will already sit out a game on Saturday against NCFC for picking up his fifth. For comparison’s sake, the first suspension for yellow-card accumulation in 2016 was on July 30th (Harrison Delbridge). The first in 2017 was on August 5th (Aodhan Quinn).

Yellow card suspensions probably were not the biggest concern for this team, as squad depth was ready to be tested. However, nagging injuries and early roster departures have suddenly made certain players indispensable. Let’s hope that this team can right the ship for big USL games against Lou City, Red Bulls II, and NCFC.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of this week’s U.S. Open Cup match against Detroit City FC and FCC’s first match against North Carolina FC.

20180331-JRC-FCC at Indy-24-2

Charlotte Independence 4 – 1 FC Cincinnati: FCC’s Road Rampage Comes to an End

FC Cincinnati suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of the Charlotte Independence to end their unbeaten streak on the road.

Charlotte 5.12_Match Recap.png
Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: JES Photography

FC Cincinnati had a frustrating night on Saturday, losing 4-1 on the road to the Charlotte Independence. After a cautious start to the game by both teams, Charlotte claimed the lead in the 38th minute from the foot of midfielder Cordell Cato. They then doubled it in first half stoppage-time when Yann Ekra’s long range effort found its way through traffic and into the bottom left corner of Spencer Richey’s goal.

Alan Koch changed the formation at halftime and also introduced Jimmy McLaughlin for Blake Smith. The move paid early dividends. Danni König scored the lone goal for the Orange & Blue in the 51st minute to bring the score to 2-1.

Charlotte then took the reigns for the remainder of the match. Six minutes after König’s strike, Kay Vosser scored a third for the Independence, assisted by a deft backheel from midfielder Jorge Herrera. FC Cincinnati forward Manu Ledesma went down with an apparent rib injury in the second half. He was substituted from the game in the 71st minute as a result. The Independence then added weight to the scoreline in the 87th minute when Eamon Zayed produced a fourth Charlotte goal.  Final score: Charlotte 4, FC Cincinnati 1.

Key Events

38′ – GOAL – CLT – Cordell Cato (assist Jorge Herrera)
45’+2 – GOAL – CLT – Yann Ekra – (assist Alex Martinez)
45′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Emmanuel Ledesma
51′ – GOAL – CIN – Danni König (assist Emmanuel Ledesma)
57′ – GOAL – CLT – Kay Vosser (assist Jorge Herrera)
68′ – YELLOW CARD – Alex Martinez
71′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Richie Ryan
75′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Forrest Lasso
85′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Dekel Keinan
87′ – GOAL – CLT – Eamon Zayed (assist Kay Vosser)

Match Notes

Despite the loss, FCC is still tied for first place in the Eastern Conference. They are currently level with the Charleston Battery on 17 points. However, rival Louisville City is only one point behind with two games in hand.

The team will be without Forrest Lasso against North Carolina FC one week from today after he acquired his fifth yellow card. That caution will earn him a one-game suspension.

Starting XI
Ledesma (71’ Welshman) – König (98’ Ameobi)
Lahoud – Walker
Smith (45’ McLaughlin) – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte

Alan Koch switched to a 3-4-3 formation and introduced Jimmy McLaughlin for Blake Smith at the start of the second half.

Nazmi Albadawi missed the match with a minor injury and Evan Newton made his return to the 18 but did not play.

As of tonight, Forrest Lasso is the lone player that has played every single minute of the 2018 FC Cincinnati campaign.

What’s Next?

FC Cincinnati won’t have much time to dwell on the defeat. They return home to play against Detroit City FC at Gettler Stadium on Wednesday, May 16th in the US Open Cup. That match is followed by a league clash with North Carolina FC the following Saturday.

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

Charlotte 5.12_Match Recap

Audio: “Unselfish” Partnerships a Key to Recent Success

Corben Bone shares his thoughts on FC Cincinnati’s recent offensive success and Alan Koch talks US Open Cup, recent success, and making mistakes.

Image: JES Photography

Orange and Blue Press checked in with Corben Bone and Alan Koch at FC Cincinnati’s training session on Thursday. It was their third session of the week following last Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Atlanta United 2. FCC travels to Charlotte today ahead of a league clash with the Charlotte Independence on Saturday.

Corben Bone

Plano, Texas native Corben Bone has been a constant in Alan Koch’s plans so far this season. Bone has started all eight games, played the most minutes of any midfielder, and has three goals and an assist in his past three outings.

In the audio below, hear Corben’s thoughts on his role in FCC’s prolific offense, the challenges of travel with a little one at home, and how he is approaching this year’s U.S. Open Cup (2:55).

Alan Koch

FC Cincinnati’s head coach emphasized that he is focused first on their USL fixture against Charlotte this weekend. With that said, he was kind enough to also share his thoughts on how they are approaching this year’s U.S. Open Cup.

“Last year we really focused on the cup. . . It was a mechanism that could put our club on the national landscape, and help grow people’s awareness of what FCC is about. This year we’re going to try to focus on both competitions. We’re going to take the USL very seriously, but we’re going to take the cup seriously too. We want to win every single game.”

He also preached focus ahead of the Detroit City match, and highlighted the dangers of looking beyond it to opponents from higher leagues.

“Let’s not think about last year. Let’s not think about playing MLS teams. Let’s think about Detroit City next week. Anytime you overlook something, you put yourself in a precarious position . . . Next week will be a very difficult game. As we’ve proven last year, anything can happen in one game, in a cup game.”

Coach Koch also discussed how he will build on the team’s recent success and the importance of creating an environment where the players feel comfortable making mistakes (1:41).

For all the particulars of tomorrow’s match in North Carolina, be sure to check out our Match Program preview.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Charlotte Independence

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


Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Charlotte Independence

FC Cincinnati looks to win their fourth in a row, traveling to North Carolina to face the struggling Charlotte Independence.


Design: CSDIV / Images: JES Photography

Following the most successful week in FC Cincinnati’s USL history—3 wins, 9 points, 10 goals, and first place in the Eastern Conference—the squad is back on the road again to visit the other Queen City on Saturday. The Orange & Blue take their unbeaten 4-0-1 away record to face the Charlotte Independence at the Sportsplex at Matthews.

Charlotte started the season red-hot, winning their first two games at home against the Canadian sides. Since then, they have only garnered two points in their last five matches. The Jacks, as their loyal fan base affectionately refers to them, come into the match in 12th place. Their record stands at 2-3-2.

While the ageless Colombian, Jorge Herrera, leads them in attack with four of their eight tallies this season, the team will be without some help. Defender Henry Kalungi is suspended following his yellow-card brace at Charleston last weekend. Equally concerning for Charlotte’s defense, captain Bilal Duckett was subbed off with a hamstring injury in the 50th minute. Expect to see recent signee, MLS veteran and Jamaican international Je-Vaughn Watson, play a predominant defending role vs FCC.

As highlighted following last Saturday’s victory, FCC is starting to flex their depth and finishing prowess. What will be fascinating to watch going forward, is when and where Alan Koch will deploy the various tactical line-ups. This is becoming a nightmare for opposing teams and coaches to game-plan against. Which line-up and formation will the Orange & Blue open-up with on Saturday?

Fast Facts

Here are five fast facts that you can revel in while preparing for Saturday’s showdown.

  • FC Cincinnati is tied for second in the league with fifteen goals. Interestingly, none of those tallies have come from set pieces (corner or free kicks). Kenney Walker converted the lone penalty kick opportunity in Indy.
  • FCC will be going for a club record fourth consecutive USL regular-season win on Saturday. With a victory, they will have accumulated sixteen points away from home this season. That’s the same as their away point total for the entire 2017 season.
  • The Orange & Blue lead the “Queen City Cup” series over the Independence 2-1-1 and have won the rivalry in both 2016 and 2017.
  • The Jacks have just four official shots on target and zero goals over their previous four matches. They last scored at home on March 31st, six weeks ago.
  • Charlotte, through their affiliation agreement with the Colorado Rapids, have four players on loan from the MLS side—goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, midfielder Ricardo Perez, forward Caleb Calvert, and defender Sam Vines.

Shout out to Ben Goshorn of Soccer ‘n’ Sweet Tea and the Talkin’ Jacks podcast for his valuable insight and time this week. Thank you. Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s match away to the Charlotte Independence.

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.

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.


Charlotte Independence 0 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Four Numbers That Mattered

Mitch Hildebrandt’s clutch PK save in stoppage time rescues all 3 points for FC Cincinnati.

Charlotte Independence 0 - 1 FC Cincinnati
Credit: Charlotte Independence

Remember that miracle at Nippert Stadium when Mitch Hildebrandt said no three times in penalties against Chicago this year? Apparently, the FC Cincinnati keeper still has the wizardly ability to summon that magic. He turned away a stoppage-time penalty kick to secure a 1-0 win at Charlotte that provided three crucial points and a claim to this year’s Queen Cities Cup for the Orange & Blue.

Playing the second of four games on the road to close the season, FCC had to get out of the gate early against a stacked Charlotte offense. The Independence have two of the top seven most prolific scorers in the USL in midfielder Enzo Martinez (16 goals) and forward Jorge Herrera (12). FCC trotted out their own stacked 3-4-3 pattern, putting Djiby, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Danni König in the front line.

Much like their recent performances on the road, FC Cincinnati did not have much success in the first half. The team failed to record a shot—let alone any on frame—by the time the first-half whistle sounded. Meanwhile, Charlotte managed to control the ball for much of the first half, but could only muster one late shot on frame. Martinez skirted around Hildebrandt in the 21st minute for a free shot on goal, only for his momentum to send the ball wide.

The second half began much the same way it ended—while Cincinnati played from their heels and conceded corner kicks, Charlotte was putting more shots on goal. However, while the front line found difficulty in receiving passes from the midfield, the back tandem of Austin Berry and Harrison Delbridge kept the Charlotte offense off-balance and off the scoring sheet.

FC Cincinnati found their offensive hero in an unlikely form when Kevin Schindler came on for König in the 74th minute. Not only did the big German quickly have FCC’s first shot on frame, but he put in the game’s only goal. Djiby directed a header on target from a Kenney Walker corner kick, only for Schindler to deflect the shot into goal in the 75th minute.

Like their last two away games, FCC’s flare for the dramatic took center stage. Walker was sent off in the 89th minute for a second yellow card, giving Charlotte multiple chances on net. After Herrera skied a wide-open shot inside the box, it appeared that Charlotte had gotten a well-deserved point after Corben Bone fouled Martinez in the penalty area. However, Herrera’s penalty kick with seconds left in stoppage time was blocked by Hildebrandt sprawling to the right, rescuing the win for FC Cincinnati.

With the Queen City Cup in hand, FC Cincinnati (11-9-10, 43 points) now heads to Canada for their final two games. They stay in 6th place but are now five points ahead of the playoff line. Wins over both Ottawa and Toronto will assure them a spot in the postseason and possibly a home playoff match, but Cincy will have to develop a sharper offensive game if they intend to go far.

Four Numbers That Mattered

3 – The number of penalty kicks that Mitch Hildebrandt has saved in USL play this year. While FCC has given up a whopping 10 penalty kicks this season, Mitch has managed to say no three times, the third being perhaps the biggest save of his USL career. Mitch has 88 saves this year, putting him second in the USL (which is not necessarily a good thing if there are a lot of shots to save).

18 – The number of interceptions by FC Cincinnati. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but while FCC had a disadvantage in possession (48% to 52%), shots (6 to 20), and passing accuracy (78% to 82%), they managed to intercept and stop the flow of attack better than Charlotte (18 interceptions to 8). Of course, much of the momentum was also stopped by fortunate misses, but that’s another stat for another time.

9 – Kenney Walker’s red card in the 89th minute marked the 9th that FCC has received this season, compared to 2 all last season. The big difference this time around was that this was the first game that FC Cincinnati managed to get a win in a game they also received a red card. This means that Kenney will miss the big away game in Ottawa next weekend.

59 – The number of days between clean sheets for FC Cincinnati. While people have bragged about Cincinnati’s long scoreless run in the US Open Cup this year, the last time Cincinnati managed a shutout was back on August 2nd (1-0 over Miami FC). Their last USL clean sheet was their 3-0 home win over Harrisburg on July 22nd. If the team wants to excel, they’ll need their defense to bend and not break like it did in this game.

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


Cheat Sheet: FC Cincinnati at Charlotte Independence

Photo courtesy JES Photography

FC Cincinnati travels to the Tar Heel State this Friday to face off with the Charlotte Independence in a match with major playoff implications. This contest will also decide the winner of the Queen City Cup. Like Cincinnati, Charlotte also carries the moniker of “Queen City”, and this two-legged competition decides which Queen City had the better of this year’s league meetings.

The Orange and Blue scraped out an important road point last Saturday against Saint Louis FC. Danni König converted a stoppage-time penalty kick to rescue a draw after Alan Koch’s men went behind by two goals. That draw maintained FC Cincinnati’s position above the Eastern Conference playoff line, where they currently occupy sixth place.

Charlotte is enjoying a strong regular season campaign that has them in second place in the East after 29 games. The Independence are led by the USL’s second-leading goalscorer Enzo Martinez, who has 16 strikes in 2017.

These teams last met in Cincinnati in early June and played to a 1-1 draw at Nippert Stadium. Justin Hoyte provided a late first-half equalizer to level the score after an early Alex Martinez goal.

This is the only Friday match on FC Cincinnati’s 2017 calendar and kicks off at 7 pm Eastern Time.

Four Fast Facts

Here are four fast facts to serve as a backdrop for this late-season USL fixture.

  • Despite their lofty spot in the standings, the Independence aren’t in their best form. They’ve lost 3 of their last 5 including a home loss to last-place Toronto FC II. Charlotte has taken just 4 points from the last 15 on offer.
  • Charlotte is one of the best passing teams in USL. They have almost 2,000 more passes than FC Cincinnati over 29 games and have the second highest passing accuracy in the league at 81%.
  • FC Cincinnati has netted 8 goals in their past four matches. Interestingly, 7 different players have scored those 8 goals.
  • Corben Bone leads FC Cincinnati in passing accuracy at 85.6% and has scored in each of the last two matches.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of Friday’s contest.