FC Cincinnati Roster Building: Preparing for the MLS Expansion Draft

Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati made another major roster announcement Monday, officially signing center back Forrest Lasso. Props to the club for now cleverly announcing #19 Corben Bone on the 19th of November and #3 Lasso on the 3rd of December. This brings the current Senior Roster to 5 players, one week away from the MLS Expansion Draft.

Five additional roster spots are up for grabs during the Expansion Draft December 11th at 2pm. Assuming no additional roster announcements are made prior, it’s logical to think that one-half (10 of 20) Senior Roster spots will be spoken for by this time next week.

We recently asked via our Discussion Thread series what strategy the team may make during the Expansion Draft. To better understand how best to answer this question, let’s review the following roster graphic.

FC Cincinnati Senior Roster Matrix

The above table illustrates a realistic approach to how FCC may fill out their inaugural 2019 MLS Senior Roster over the next few weeks. Green highlights a higher proposed target opportunity, yellow a mid-level and red a lower probability.

Players Signed (5 players)

The first handful of FC Cincinnati MLS signees represent a great foundation of talent, consisting of:

  • Fanendo Adi, Designated Player – a proven MLS forward with 50 goals in 120 appearances for the Portland Timbers
  • Emmanuel Ledesma, International – the reigning USL Most Valuable Player
  • Forrest Lasso – the reigning USL Defender of the Year
  • Fatai Alashe – a central defensive midfielder with recent MLS experience in San Jose
  • Corben Bone – a fan favorite and FCC original with MLS credibility

Expansion Draft (5 players)

The club has the unique opportunity given to expansion sides to make a significant impact in shaping their roster next Tuesday. As the list of available players will not be released by the MLS until the day before, it’s nearly impossible to predict the best talent available. Additionally, teams will protect their top 11 players, specifically in high impact positions, such as central defenders, center midfielders and forwards.

Therefore, we’ve taken a theoretical approach to what may be available. We highlight below the higher probability positions and a few players that may just be sitting there for the taking on the 11th.

Goalkeepers

Although it’s not likely that a first team keeper will be on the board, there will be several former starters and back-ups available, such as:

  • David Ousted, DC United – the 33-year-old, 6’ 4” Danish keeper has 159 MLS starts (42 shutouts) for DC United (2018) and Vancouver Whitecaps (2013-2017). Yes, Ousted provides the Vancouver connection we’ve witnessed Alan Koch dip into frequently. The return of club legend Bill Hamid to DC United last summer makes Ousted (Oh-sted) expendable and available. Achievable for right around $500k.
  • Brad Stuver, NYCFC – former Dayton Dutch Lion and Columbus Crew SC, 27-year-old greater Cleveland native. With only 4 MLS starts, Stuver could be a possible back-up if the team feels they have a bona-fide starter in Spencer Richey or Evan Newton.

Central Defenders

High quality center backs are in high demand and pivotal for an expansion side. Look for FCC to seek an experienced MLS veteran to shore up a young and MLS inexperienced duo of Lasso and Paddy Barrett (yes, I went there).

  • Tim Parker, RBNY – my O&B Press colleagues will not be surprised with this one. As a self-professed Tim Parker fan, this would be a gigantic pick-up by FCC. Not only is he another former Whitecaps player (2015-2017), he was also Spencer Richey’s first roommate on the road with the Whitecaps FC 2 USL franchise in 2015. Additionally, the 26-year old Parker, and former 2011 High School Gatorade Player of the Year, has two USMNT caps and 105 MLS appearances in 4 seasons. He is out of contract with the Red Bulls and just might be available in the Expansion Draft.
  • Kofi Opare, out of contract with DC United – the Ghanaian born, U.S./Canadian duel national played collegiately at University of Michigan. He has over 6,500 MLS minutes between stops with LA Galaxy and DC United. A recent foot injury may be a concern but will also keep his salary demands in budget.

Outside Fullbacks

This is a position that is a high target need for the Orange & Blue to fill in the upcoming few weeks.

  • Ronald Matarrita, NYCFC – the 24-year-old, Costa Rican international Matarrita should be left unprotected next week. He is the current back up to former Crew and Dayton Dutch Lion Ben Sweat in NY. Matarrita has played over 4,000 MLS minutes with NYCFC the last 3 seasons. He has 23 caps for the Ticos and is versatile as a left winger as well. He would likely require TAM to buy down his salary to fit within the individual player max budget charge. Matarrita would be dynamic in Orange & Blue.
  • Greg Garza, Atlanta United – the 27-year-old former Liga MX player is signed to a multi-year deal for the MLS Cup bound Five Stripes. However, if he is left unprotected by Atlanta, FCC need to jump on the versatile left back/midfielder. He has 10 USMNT caps and would be a great fit for FC Cincinnati.
  • Jordan Harvey, out of contract with LAFC – the 34-year old, eleven-year MLS journeyman would bring tons of experience at left back for a reasonable price. You guessed it, he’s another player with Vancouver connections having played for the Whitecaps from 2011-2017. Harvey could be a low risk, inexpensive roster filler. He certainly knows what to expect on a new expansion side.

Wingers

Alan Koch has shown a desire to have a stable of wingers that burn pass opponents on the flank. Having a true #9 like Adi in the line-up will also predicate the need for outside midfielders/wingers to get service into his path.

  • Juan Agudelo, out of contract with NE Revolution – although I’ve not been a huge Agudelo fan over the years, he has re-invented himself as a winger of late. Only 26-years-old, the upside here is potentially grabbing a savvy player with 175 MLS appearances. For the right price, Aqudelo may be worth a look.
  • Zoltan Stieber, DC United – the 30-year-old Hungarian has bounced around the top European leagues including stops at Aston Villa, Mainz 05, Hamburger SV and FC Kaiserslautern. He has made 35 appearances for DC United the past two seasons scoring 6 goals. Stieber has UEFA Europa League experience and 22 caps for the Magyars.

Keep in mind, FCC can only take one player from each of the 18 available unprotected team rosters. Toronto FC, Columbus Crew SC, Sporting Kansas City, Seattle Sounders, and the San Jose Earthquakes are all exempt from the Expansion Draft as LAFC chose players from their rosters in the last Expansion Draft.

The positional tactics above appear to align with some of the incoming but unsubstantiated rumors of possible FCC open market transfer targets.

Transfer Rumors

  • Alfredo Morales, recent media reports state that both FCC and NYCFC are interested in the 28-year-old former USMNT center midfielder. Morales currently plays in the Bundesliga for Fortuna Düsseldorf. His club placed a $1M transfer fee price tag on any potential transfer.
  • Ozvaldo Alonso, the Seattle Sounders announced two weeks ago that they would not re-sign their 33-year-old veteran defensive midfielder. The storied Cuban national and former Charleston Battery player will be a hot commodity in the MLS free agent market. His age and recent injuries raise a few doubts, but the “Honey Badger’s” experience and clever play could be a much-needed asset for an expansion side.
  • Matias Campos López, MLS Transfer News reported this week that FCC are targeting the 27-year-old Chilean striker. He has scored 13 goals in 26 appearances this season for Palestino of the Chilean Primera Division.

Who do you see FC Cincinnati targeting, position, and player-wise, in the upcoming Expansion Draft?

Following the completion of the Expansion Draft, FC Cincinnati needs to fill the remaining half of their Senior Roster from a combination of the following: MLS Free Agency, the Waiver Draft, the Re-Entry Draft, the SuperDraft, the international transfer market and from their former USL roster.

Stay tuned to the Orange & Blue Press for your continued off-season coverage and Transfer News.

FC Cincinnati’s Top 10 USL Moments

In honor of the FC Cincinnati’s time spent in the USL, we’ve decided to share our favorite 10 moments.

MLS is on the horizon for FC Cincinnati. We all, together, made this happen. However, it wasn’t always this way. Only three years ago, in 2015, an ownership group led by Cincinnati magnate Carl Lindner III announced the USL expansion club. Since then, the United Soccer League has served as the humble home for America’s latest (and greatest) soccer story.

In honor of the club’s time spent in the former Division 3 league (upgraded to Division 2 in 2017), we’ve decided to gather our favorite moments. Since we’re focusing purely on FC Cincinnati’s time in the USL, we’ve omitted all moments relating to MLS, U.S. Open Cup, and International Friendlies. Those are the rules. Let’s get started!

10. Stevenson’s Playoff Rocket

Underrated, especially in terms of context, Eric Stevenson’s top-right rocket took the breath away from the 30,000+ in attendance for FC Cincinnati’s first-ever playoff match. This bullet was a fantastic way to kick off the club’s postseason history. Unfortunately, the team eventually fell 1-2 against the Charleston Battery, dropping this moment to the bottom of the list.

9. Greeting the New Neighbor

Image: JES Photography

For those who are unaware, just last year there was another Division 2 soccer league in the United States, the NASL. The Indy Eleven, less than two hours from Cincinnati, played in that league making it impossiible for the two teams to cross. That changed when Indy joined the USL in 2018. They hosted FC Cincinnati for their first-ever home game in not only the USL, but the Colts home, Lucas Oil Stadium. Thousands of FCC supporters flooded into the heart of Indiana to greet them. Big crowds have traveled to other away matches, but nothing quite reaches the level of Orange & Blue that traveled to Indy that day.

8. Origin Goal

https://twitter.com/ConnorWPaquette/status/1054214569638481920

Surely, there’s a metaphor here. When FC Cincinnati first began to sign players, the names Corben Bone, Kenney Walker, and Jimmy McLaughlin were among the few. Three years later, the city has fallen in love with these guys. It’s extremely fulfilling to see men who joined FCC as foundation pieces for their journey in the USL also become the definitive factors for their final USL goal.

7. Djiby’s Spectacular Debut

Djiby Fall was a strange man in all the right ways. His 2017 season was an enigma. It almost doesn’t feel real looking back. He showed up out of nowhere, dominated, and then disappeared into the abyss. It might have been an odd year, but it kicked off with a four-goal epic by the man himself. Thanks, Djiby.

6. Okoli’s Scissor Kick

The first FC Cincinnati home game. The club’s first goal at Nippert Stadium. One of the greatest goals that a man in Orange & Blue has produced. How does this not make the list?

5. 14,658

FC Cincinnati set the USL attendance record a record number of times. But we’ve heard of those accomplishments before. Yet it would be a disservice to ignore the literal game-changing support from Cincinnati and its effect on soccer in America as a whole. Thus, I’ve decided to honor the first ever home game attendance for FCC. It was this moment where a record wasn’t yet broken, but everyone seemed to stop and ponder for a moment, “hey, this could be something special.” The rest is history.

4. Goal-to-Goal Bomber

I’m biased. I don’t care. This landed at #1 on SportsCenters Top 10 plays for good reason. This is the 2018 USL goal of the year. This is the single greatest goal in FC Cincinnati history. The crowd was quiet, the game was frustrating, and then Kenney Walker breaks down our door, drinks our beer, and steals our significant other. The ball doesn’t hit the ground.

3. Undefeated Playoff Finale

It lasted five months and it took the USL by storm. 24 games undefeated will headline FC Cincinnati’s USL Book of Records. And such a historic streak culminated in Cincinnati supporters’ worst nightmare, the first round of the playoffs. For the third time in three years FCC qualified, this time up against fellow future MLS entrant, Nashville SC. Having never conquered their new rival, it took FC Cincinnati a goal in extra time, a moment that also made this list, just to make it to PKs. Ten successful PKs later, Nashville finally popped a shot over the top that let Kenney Walker blast in the winner on the next kick. Cincinnati won a playoff game. How ‘bout that?

2. The Announcement

I debated putting this at #1. Cincinnati has always been a smaller city; a two-sport city is how many described it. But it wasn’t, yet the people had been convinced of that for years. Soccer, hockey, and basketball are all sports that never quite took off in the city like football and baseball. Why would FC Cincinnati be any different? I really don’t know.

Perhaps it was better operations, a more interesting identity, or just quality soccer? Maybe all three? No matter, this is in the past. But this moment is still absolutely crucial for any other moment on this list to happen. FC Cincinnati has only played three seasons, and I’m convinced that without these three years in Divisions 2 & 3 that there would be no talk about MLS here today. FC Cincinnati needed USL. And we learned later on, the USL, to be where it is now, needed FCC. Something like this will not happen again.

1. Regular Season Champions

Image: JES Photography

Shocking, right? If there’s one thing even bigger than announcing your team, it’s winning the most prestigious prize – a Cup/Shield. There are so many teams playing right now that have been around for decades and haven’t won anything. This is what it’s all about. So, for FCC to not only earn the shield, but to do it in the most Cincinnati way – record-setting fashion – we’re reassured of the greatness to come based on what they’ve been through. We’re also reminded that time flies, so worry not about the small things, enjoy what you’ve got. Cincinnati has a lot to enjoy. Thanks USL.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs New York Red Bulls II

Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program supplies the information and fast facts you need for FC Cincinnati’s playoff meeting with New York Red Bulls II.

Design: CSDIV / Image: Ryan Meyer

One down, three to go. FC Cincinnati continues their quest for the USL Cup this Saturday against perennial Eastern Conference contender New York Red Bulls II. It’s another high-stakes, winner-takes-all matinee at Nippert Stadium. The Orange & Blue advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals after a grueling 1-1 draw with Nashville SC that was settled by penalty kicks. Kenny Walker delivered the decisive spot kick to win the shootout 6-5 after Nashville SC’s Justin Davis put his attempt over the crossbar. It’s the first time FCC has advanced to the conference semifinal in their three-year history.

New York Red Bulls II punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference semis by beating the Charleston Battery 1-0 on the road. A 21st-minute Tom Barlow strike and some tidy defending were enough to seal the victory. For more details on these teams’ recent head-to-head-history and predictions for both semifinals in the East, check out Orange & Blue Press’ article by Geoff Tebbetts.


2018 USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: Conference Semi-Finals

Alan Koch’s squad finished 25 points ahead of a talented but inconsistent Red Bulls II squad during the regular season. The Orange & Blue, of course, are still carrying a USL-record unbeaten streak heading into this playoff match. That streak currently stands at 24 games (17-0-7). The Baby Bulls are the #5 seed and are in sizzling form. They come into the contest on a 7-game unbeaten run that includes four straight wins.

There are no major injuries for FC Cincinnati ahead of Saturday’s contest. However, the squad may still be without striker Danni König. The Danish forward and double-digit goalscorer returned home last week citing personal reasons. The FCC jerseys worn last Saturday against Nashville donned a small 11 on the sleeve to recognize his absence.

Fast Facts

Here’s a heavy dose of fast facts to get you ready for this Eastern Conference semifinal showdown.

  • This contest features two of the best offenses in the USL. FC Cincinnati has 73 goals so far in 2018 and New York Red Bulls II is right behind with 72. Those are the third and fourth highest totals in the league. FC Cincinnati finished the regular season with the highest goal total, but Orange County FC (74) and Louisville City FC (75) leapfrogged them last week with high-scoring playoff matches.
  • Red Bulls II has one of the worst defenses in the league and conceded 24 more goals than FCC during the regular season (59). Only 7 teams allowed more goals than New York, and none of them made the playoffs. John Wolyniec’s squad only kept 5 clean sheets compared to FCC’s 15. However, they’ve been stingy recently, conceding only 2 goals in their last 3 matches.
  • New York likes to do their damage from close range. Of their 72 goals, only 6 have been scored from outside the 18-yard box (8%). In comparison, FCC has scored 22% of their goals from outside the box in 2018.
  • Red Bulls II have created three times as many penalties kick opportunities as FCC (12 to 4). They have only converted 66% of those spot-kicks though, and FCC has converted all 4 of their attempts.
  • NYRBII’s Jared Stroud and Tom Barlow are players to watch as they account for 5 of the team’s last 7 goals. Barlow has 3 and Stroud has 2 over their last 4 matches.
  • Corben Bone is red-hot in Orange & Blue with three goals in the last 2 games. If you include last weekend’s playoff strike, he now has the second most goals of any FCC player in 2018. Bone also joined Eric Stevenson as only one of two FCC players to score a playoff goal.
  • Spencer Richey is coming off of his third five-save match of 2018 against Nashville SC, and FCC is 11-1-3 this season when he’s between the sticks. Jack Stern’s goalkeeping squad needs to be at their best again on Saturday to stop a potent Red Bulls II attack.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s playoff match versus New York Red Bulls 2.

Deeper Cuts: One Down, Three to Go for FC Cincinnati

Photo by Ryan Meyer

The City of Cincinnati was able to witness a long overdue home playoff celebration at Nippert Saturday. Nervy moments over a tense evening were overcome by an exciting and jubilant 6-5 penalty kick victory by FC Cincinnati. The Orange & Blue now move onto the Eastern Conference semifinals next Saturday with a 24-game unbeaten streak in tow.

Even with the best record in the league this season, we knew the path to the 2018 USL Cup would be difficult. The single-match elimination format of the USL playoffs allows any team on a given day to be victorious. FCC’s fate could just have as easily been reversed Saturday evening. Let’s review the stellar work, the challenges, and what’s next in the playoffs for the Orange & Blue.

Stellar Goalkeeping

The Man of the Match was certainly Spencer Richey. His five saves were critical to the outcome of the match, and all were worthy of a highlight reel. Possibly a surprise to some, Richey got the starting nod over USL 2018 Golden Glove winner Evan Newton. Richey’s recent fine form proved Alan Koch’s selection was well made.

One of the strengths of this side’s strong season has certainly been its goalkeeping depth. Goalkeeper coach Jack Stern has brought an innovative and healthy competitive approach to the team’s three keepers (Newton, Richey, and Mark Village). The result has seen a remarkable improvement in the team’s goals against average (GAA) from 1.55 in 2017 down to 1.00 in 2018. In addition to Newton’s Golden Glove award, FCC’s keepers are ranked 6th in the league with 14 clean sheets and 4th best with just 35 goals conceded. We can have confidence with whichever keeper starts for the Orange & Blue.

Let’s relive one of Spencer Richey’s point blank saves from the 48th minute that kept the Orange & Blue in line to advance deeper into the playoffs.

Shooting Challenges

Uncharacteristically, especially of late, was the shooting woes the Orange & Blue incurred in the match. FC Cincinnati led the league in conversion rate this season. In Saturday’s match they scored 1 goal over 17 shots not blocked, a 5.9% conversion rate that was significantly below their season average of 21%.

In addition, one of the only statistical categories that Nashville SC were better on during the match was shooting accuracy. The visitors in yellow placed 6 shots on target, out of 16 total, for a 37.5% accuracy. Thankfully, as noted above, Richey was up to the task to save five of their six shots on target. However, FCC was only able to place 5 of 22 shots on target for an anemic 22.7% accuracy.

The following shot chart illustrates the difficulty FCC had in finding clear lanes and delivering accurate shots on the Nashville goal. The red circles and rays represent the twelve shots off target (and not blocked). The blue circle around the number 19 outside the box was Corben Bone’s clever side-step laser that beat Matt Pickens in the first stanza of extra time.

FC Cincinnati Shot Chart

Fortunately, when it really mattered during the penalty kicks, all six FC Cincinnati players converted their spot kicks with style and accuracy.

Updated USL Playoff Brackets

In the East, two of the four games went to sudden-death penalty kicks. In addition to FC Cincinnati’s 6-5 penalty kick edge over Nashville, Bethlehem Steel beat host Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 8-7 in PKs. The Steel will go on to meet Louisville City, who dispatched USL newcomers Indy Eleven without difficulty, 4-1.

For the second year in a row, the New York Red Bulls II went to Charleston and upset the higher-seeded Battery in the first round. An early goal by Tom Barlow was enough to see the Baby Bulls through to the conference semifinals. New York will visit Nippert for the second time this season to take on the Orange & Blue.

Below is an updated Eastern Conference playoff bracket.

Graphic by Connor Paquette

Across the nation in the Western Conference, a real shocker occurred late into the night when the 7th seed Swope Park Rangers knocked out a surging Sacramento Republic FC 2-1. Many had predicted Sacramento to make a deep run in the playoffs. SPR will now visit Phoenix Rising in the conference semifinals, who handled Portland Timbers 2 easily 3-0 Friday night.

The other conference semifinal will send Reno 1868 FC to Orange County SC. Reno was able to find a 92-minute stoppage time winner to beat the slumping Real Monarchs in Salt Lake City. Orange County’s high powered offense benefited from a hat trick by Michael Seaton as they clobbered a 10-man (21st minute red card) Saint Louis FC 4-0.

Here is the updated Western Conference playoff bracket.

Graphic by Connor Paquette

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 USL Cup playoff run and Saturday’s match versus New York Red Bulls II.

FC Cincinnati 1-1 (6-5 PKs) Nashville SC: Karma Finally Blows Cincinnati’s Way

FC Cincinnati was eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, falling to Minnesota United FC on penalty kicks.

Nashville 10.20_Match Recap
Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

After the preseason, the teams were tied. After three regular-season games, the teams were tied. After 120 minutes of stalemate soccer, the teams were tied 1-1. Finally, FC Cincinnati overcame karma and past playoff misery to beat Nashville SC in penalty kicks, 6-5. The boys in Orange & Blue solved Nashville’s pesky come-back offense and move onto the next round.

A sun-swept weather pattern led to a blustery game, as the wind appeared to control the tempo. FC Cincinnati had much of the possession (68% to 32%) in the first half. However, no real results came from their six shots, thanks to a compressing Nashville back line. Fanendo Adi got the brunt of looks at the goal, particularly when Matt Pickens managed to swat away a deflection in the 17th minute. Emmanuel Ledesma also got a decent look in the 42nd minute, but his fall-away shot in the box laced wide of the frame.

Nashville’s best look came in the 24th minute when Spencer Richey padded away a light header by Ropapa Mensah in the box. Richey started for FCC instead of USL Golden Glove recipient Evan Newton, but the goalkeeper had flashes of brilliance with point-blank saves.

While both teams had better shots the second half, neither could capitalize. Nashville took more possession and exuded more confidence, moving possession past the defense. Nashville’s best chance came from a Mensah shot in the 74th minute that beat Richey, but nailed the framework. A chip-shot by Alan Winn in the 48th minute and a header by Mensah in the 81st were both snuffed by Richey. Kenney Walker gave a last-second gasp in stoppage time, only for Pickens to palm it away with a dive.

Extra time finally gave FC Cincinnati the lead. Jimmy McLaughlin and Walker fed Corben Bone who drilled a right-footed bullet past Pickens from the top of the box in the 95th minute. FCC managed to milk the clock for the rest of the first half of extra time, avoiding a header on target by Brandon Allen in the 105th minute.

However, Nashville changed the pace in the second half of extra time. Bradley Bourgeois found space atop the box in the 115th minute to fire a high deflection that dropped over Richey. After 120 minutes, both sides were still knotted, this time at 1-1.

The wind made the upcoming penalty kicks an adventure. Many of the shots were paused after the ball was blown off the spot. Both sides traded five successful scores, but the sixth take from Justin Davis popped high into the stands. A false alarm victory dance by FCC followed, but Walker then stepped up, fired past Pickens, and sent FCC to the second round.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 1-1 (6-5 PKs) Nashville SC

Highlight of the Match

While the penalty kicks decided fate, the goal by Corben Bone in the 95th minute was a combination play by Bone, Walker, and McLaughlin. It was great to see the three combine for one of the biggest goals in FC Cincinnati folklore.

Quote of the Match

Kenney Walker discussed with the press how he lined up his penalty kick, particularly after the team had jumped the gun and rushed over to Richey when Nashville missed their penalty kick.

“I knew we didn’t win the game, but I was hoping that I was maybe thinking wrong. . . . There was a little added pressure, but at the same time, you just got to go out there and score. You either pick your spot, put it there, and he saves it, or you beat him to your spot. That’s as simple as you can put it, but there’s still pressure on it.”

Key Events

95′ – GOAL – CIN – Corben Bone (assisted by Kenney Walker)
104′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Blake Smith (foul)
110′ – YELLOW CARD – NSH – Justin Davis (foul)
111′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Emmanuel Ledesma (foul)
115′ – GOAL – NSH – Bradley Bourgeois (assisted by Kris Tyrpak)
116′ – YELLOW CARD – NSH – Bradley Bourgeois (celebration)

PENALTY KICKS

Liam Doyle – NSH – good
Fanendo Adi – CIN – good
Brandon Allen – NSH – good
Jimmy McLaughlin – CIN – good
Alan Winn – NSH – good
Blake Smith – CIN – good
Matt LaGrassa – NSH – good
Justin Hoyte – CIN – good
Kris Tyrpak – NSH – good
Forrest Lasso – CIN – good
Justin Davis – NSH – miss
Kenney Walker – CIN – good

Match Notes

FC Cincinnati outshot Nashville 22-16, but Nashville had more on frame (6-5). While FCC owned the possession numbers in the first half (67% – 33%), Nashville played better in the second half and extra time to make the overall possession slightly tighter (60% – 40%). Although this match is a draw in the books, FC Cincinnati has now gone 24 games unbeaten.

Starting XI

Adi
Bone – Albadawi (85′ McLaughlin) – Ledesma (120+1′ Welshman)
Gibson (100′ Ryan) – Alashe (68′ Walker)
Smith – Lasso – Barrett – Hoyte
Richey

The Starting XI from last week’s match against Nashville was relatively unchanged, except for Alashe taking Michael Lahoud’s position. Danni König was not available for personal reasons, and Emery Welshman returned from international duty with Guyana.

What’s Next?

The run for the USL Cup continues with another Saturday afternoon matinee. The New York Red Bulls II dispatched the Charleston Battery 1-0 and will come to Nippert for the 4pm match on Saturday, October 27th.

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

Nashville 10.20_Match Recap

2018 USL Cup Run: Orange & Blue Press Staff Predictions

The O&BP staff try their hand at predicting the thoroughbreds and dark horses for the 2018 USL Cup playoffs.

FCCvINDY-173
Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati’s much anticipated 2018 opening-round playoff match has finally arrived. Having secured the most points in USL history to earn a playoff passage for the third time in three seasons, will the Orange & Blue right past inequities and grab their first-ever postseason victory?  Will FCC finally overcome Nashville and extend their unbeaten streak to 24 games?  Will we see a second-round match come October 27th?

As a lead-up to Saturday’s game, we invited the Orange & Blue Press staff to opine on several USL playoff questions and possibilities. Here are the results…

1. Which team is most likely to knock off FCC in the East?

Graphics by Connor Paquette

Michael Walker (Founder/Managing Editor):  Louisville City FC

As unpopular as it is for Cincinnatians to accept, Louisville City is still the next best team in the East, and now that John Hackworth has some games under his belt, they’re on a winning streak and banging in the goals.

Geoff Tebbetts (Writer/Editor):  Louisville City FC

Louisville City figured FCC out early and often this year, and that hurricane at Slugger really doesn’t count for much in my opinion. I still think FCC can get to Louisville keeper Greg Ranjitsingh a few times, but Lou City’s offense just looks harder to hold back now that Luke Spencer is healthy again. 

Stephen Buckeridge (Writer/Editor):  Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

The Riverhounds match up well against Eastern rivals Louisville City and FC Cincinnati. They are compact and stingy on defense, their keeper Daniel Lynd is healthy again, and they know how to effectively apply high pressure on the opposing backlines. Their secret weapon though may be their coach, Bob Lilley. He’s a USL playoff veteran and won the USL Cup with with the Rochester Rhinos in 2015.

Connor Paquette (Contributor/Graphics):  Nashville SC

FC Cincinnati earning the 2018 USL Regular Season Title was almost laughably easy. But FCC is not exempt from the Queen City “first-round-and-out” curse that has been plaguing local major league teams for more than two decades. Beyond our playoff curse, FCC failed to produce a win against Nashville all season. If the trend continues and another draw is the finale to this rivalry’s USL chapter, I fear facing Matt Pickens in penalty kicks to decide the match.

Joe Craven (Photographer):  New York Red Bulls II

New York Red Bulls II have a recent USL Cup title of their own. With a consistent finish to the regular season, I predict they will pose a hefty challenge for the Orange & Blue.

2. Which team from the Western Conference will FCC play in the USL Championship Game?

Graphics by Connor Paquette

Connor:  Sacramento Republic FC

One month ago, I would’ve said Phoenix Rising FC. However, though they were once on pace to finish the season as the West’s #1 seed, they dropped their final two games – usually a sign of a burnt-out squad. That in mind, I consider Sacramento Republic FC, who are undefeated in their final eight regular season matches, to be the team to beat in the West. They’re peaking heading into the most important part of the season.

JoeSacramento Republic FC

Sacramento Republic FC has a solid defense and a reputation for performing well during the playoffs, winning the USL Cup in their first season in 2014 under Preki. First-year head coach, Simon Elliott, will lead the Republic side back to the Cup Final.

StephenOrange County SC

Going against the OB&P grain it appears, I see Orange County muscling through the gauntlet in the West. They have a difficult path, even as a #1 seed. OCSC boasts a prolific attack led by Thomas Enevoldsen (20 goals, 9 assists) and former FCC player Aodhan Quinn (11 goals, 14 assists, and a league high 103 chances created). Not to be outdone by their offense, they have a more than adequate defense that is ranked in the top tier statistically. Hosting each game at home, where they are 10-3-4 this season, may be the clinching factor.

Geoff:  Sacramento Republic FC

I am hesitant to stick with my mid-season pick of Orange County SC, so I’ll go with the hotter team, Sacramento Republic. The team has gone undefeated in their last eight games, and Cameron Iwasa has scored 10 goals in his last 15 matches. Sacramento has also managed to beat Orange County twice this year, which helps if they go on the road against them in the conference final. Besides, don’t you want a Sacramento-Cincinnati rematch?!

Michael:  Sacramento Republic FC

The West is wild, and the #1 seed has gotten knocked out early the past two seasons, so don’t expect to see OCSC there necessarily. Sacramento Republic hasn’t grabbed headlines lately, but they are the two seed, have a great home field advantage, and their half of the bracket might be more manageable.

3. Who are your dark horse picks for the East and West?

Michael:

East: New York Red Bulls II. The Red Bulls always produce a steady stream of high-quality talent and have been to the Eastern Conference finals the last two seasons. They won the whole thing in 2016. They’re inconsistent, but when they’re clicking they can beat anyone in the USL.

West: Reno 1868 FC. They’re undefeated in their last 7 including 5 wins. But in truth, whatever Geoff Tebbetts says … he knows that conference better than I do. Can I cheat off of his paper? 

Geoff:

East: New York Red Bulls II. In the East, I still think Red Bulls II is a scary team. It’s hard to ignore what they pulled off last year in the playoffs, and coach John Wolyniec continues to stockpile high-octane pieces on offense.

West: Phoenix Rising FC. Well, I had Reno as my dark horse, but it appears there’s not enough room on this bandwagon. Phoenix, despite their last two games of the season, have a talented offense spearheaded by winger Solomon Asante. If Chris Cortez (17 goals) can remain hotter than the Sonoran Desert, I think they could give Didier Drogba a retirement present.

Joe:

East: Bethlehem Steel FC. I believe Bethlehem Steel FC may surprise people. Their path to an Eastern Conference title won’t be easy for them though.

West: Reno 1868 FC. Reno 1868 FC closed out their season well. Real Monarchs and Reno 1868 FC will be a good match-up in the Conference Quarter-finals.

Connor:

East: Louisville City FC. I’ve already discussed Nashville and the difficult first round playoff hump, so I’m gonna cheat a little and go with the #2 seed. Louisville experienced growing pains after losing Head Coach James O’Connor. However, they seem to be stabilized again after finishing the regular season with six straight wins. Oh, and their last loss? That would be against FC Cincinnati in the rain. Revenge in the eye of the defending champions vs. the 2018 Regular Season Champs in the Eastern Conference title match? Now that’s a finale worthy of the Dirty River Derby.

West: Reno 1868 FC. Reno is only a year off of setting the single season scoring record. Along with this, I’m sticking to my fear of teams who are hitting their stride heading into the playoffs. Reno is undefeated in their last seven games. They also capped off their season by thumping the #1 seed in the West, Orange County SC, 3-1. Ye be warned.

4. Who will be the FC Cincinnati MVP in the 2018 USL playoffs? 

Connor:  Forrest Lasso

Though FCC’s entire team has seen plenty of rotation in 2018, our stalwart central defender has remained the anchor securing Cincinnati’s elite defense. At 25 years of age, this is a perfect time for the young defender to hone his leadership skills and cement the defensive wall – just like he did against FC Cincinnati as a member of the Charleston Battery in the 2016 USL Playoffs. If Lasso struggles, you’ll notice. But he hasn’t and that’s a big part of why FC Cincinnati has the best goal differential in the entire USL.

Stephen:  Emmanuel Ledesma

Hard to not go with the most influential player on the team and the odds-on league MVP. Success in the playoffs is neither guaranteed nor straight-forward. A clever touch, a timely assist against the run of play, an “Olimpico” or a free kick golazo may be the elixir that sees a Cincinnati sports team win in the playoffs. Manu was the catalyst for this team all season; let’s continue that winning formula to the 2018 USL Cup.

Joe:  Forrest Lasso

Keen awareness, hardworking, and willing to sacrifice. Enough said. 

Geoff:  Corben Bone

Assuming that FCC can go far in the playoffs, I think you ride the Cinderella story that is Corben Bone. Team defenses are going to focus on Emmanuel Ledesma and Fanendo Adi so much that Bone will likely have runs at the goal like he had against Nashville in the final game of the season. It would be the perfect postscript to the season.

MichaelForrest Lasso

It’s cliché but defense wins championships. A lot of FCC’s recent success has required them to absorb shots and pressure but not concede goals. Remember that header he cleared off the line against Penn FC? Manu and Adi will provide FCC’s goals, but we’ll need heroic defending and Lasso’s aerial dominance to lift the cup.


Have your own thought on how the 2018 USL Playoffs will unfold? Share your opinions with us as you get ready for the “Blue Out” at Nippert Saturday at 4pm.

* Special thanks to all our Orange & Blue Press colleagues and friends for an enjoyable and fun season covering this team. In addition, thank you Connor Paquette for spurring us on to co-author this glimpse into the Orange & Blue staff’s USP playoff predictions.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for all of your FC Cincinnati coverage during their 2018 USL Cup playoff run.

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Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Nashville SC

FC Cincinnati are the favorites but Nashville SC has been a thorn in their side this season, can the Orange & Blue progress to round two?


Design: CSDIV

The USL Playoffs are here and FC Cincinnati begins their campaign for the 2018 USL Cup against Nashville SC in a 4pm matinee this Saturday at Nippert Stadium. The Orange & Blue, of course, are the USL regular season champions. That means they hold the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and also have the benefit of home-field advantage throughout the single-elimination postseason tournament.

Their first-round opponent is a familiar foe indeed. FCC and Nashville played to a 3-3 draw last Saturday in Tennessee. Nashville conceded a lot of possession but created more chances in the first half, and took a 1-0 lead into the break. FC Cincinnati stormed back in the second half scoring three goals, but conceding two, including a last minute equalizer to Bolu Akinyode. The match ended at 3-3, and the result ultimately translated into a first round postseason rematch in the Queen City.

FC Cincinnati has played Nashville SC three times this season, and each match has ended in a draw. Even the preseason encounter at Gettler Stadium in March ended in a 2-2 stalemate. There’s been nothing to separate them so far in 2018, but something has to give this weekend.

Alan Koch’s side finished 28 points ahead of a talented but inconsistent Nashville SC squad during the regular season. The Orange & Blue carry a USL-record 23 game unbeaten streak into this first playoff match. They’re in impressive but slightly less-sizzling form of late. After a USL-record ten game win streak, they finished the season with two draws against Pittsburgh and Nashville.

Nashville, the #8 seed, clinched their playoff berth last Saturday, when Ottawa Fury lost and mathematically guaranteed Nashville a playoff spot. They are unbeaten in their last six but only have two wins during that stretch and both were against non-playoff teams.

The FC Cincinnati squad is in good health, and even saw long-time absentee Richie Ryan return to action last weekend. Emery Welshman should also be available after missing last weekend’s match while on international duty. He started in an impressive international call-up for Guyana, where he bagged a hat trick in the CONCACAF Nations League.

Nashville SC can’t report the same good bill of health. The Tennessee outfit is likely to be without South African midfield-star Lebo Meloto, who left a match against the Charleston Battery injured on September 22nd, and hasn’t played a minute since. Moloto leads the team in shots, shots on target, and is tied for the team lead in assists (5). He’s also tied for second on Nashville’s squad in goals (7) and chances created (51).

Interested in Eastern Conference playoff predictions for all of this weekend’s matches? Be sure to check out Geoff Tebbetts article that looks at ALL the matchups, and gives his take on the most likely outcomes.


2018 USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: First Round

Fast Facts

Here are four fast facts to get you ready for FC Cincinnati’s second-ever playoff match at Nippert Stadium.

  • FC Cincinnati has a clear offensive advantage in this contest. They scored 30 more goals than Nashville SC during the 2018 regular season, 72 to 42. They earned that advantage by taking only 13 more shots, 431 to 418.
  • Nashville is instead known for their defensive prowess, led by standout goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Their 31 goals against is tied for second fewest, and their 15 clean sheets is tied for third most. FCC, however, plays close to their high standard. By comparison, the Orange & Blue only allowed 34 goals against and had 14 clean sheets in 2018. 
  • Nashville SC only has 4 wins on the road this season. FC Cincinnati has 12 wins at home this season. On paper, that appears to be a hefty home field advantage for the Orange & Blue. Anything can happen in a single-elimination playoff match though.
  • The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. The Reds haven’t won a playoff series since 1995. It goes without saying that a win in this playoff match would mean a great deal to Cincinnati sports fans.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s playoff match versus Nashville SC.

Nashville SC 3 – 3 FC Cincinnati: 23 Unbeaten Sets a New USL Standard

FC Cincinnati set two new USL records and finished their regular season while playing Nashville SC to a 3-3 stalemate at First Tennessee Park.

Nashville 10.13_Match Recap
Graphic: Connor Paquette

FC Cincinnati finished a dominant 2018 regular season campaign by topping another USL record. Alan Koch’s squad secured a draw to extend their unbeaten streak to 23 matches in a row, breaking the 22-game record set by the Richmond Kickers in 2013, despite a late comeback by Nashville SC.

The Orange & Blue were sluggish out of the gates, and the home team capitalized on a crisp fall evening at First Tennessee Park. Tucker “Big Bird” Hume headed an Alan Winn cross into goal from close range in the fifth minute to give the home team the lead. FCC grew into the match as the first half progressed, but couldn’t create quality chances from their 70% possession advantage. The teams went into the halftime break with Nashville SC leading by a single goal.

Fireworks went off in a five-goal second half. Seven minutes in, Corben Bone equalized for the Orange & Blue on a beautiful feed from Manu Ledesma. FCC built on that goal, and eleven minutes later, Nazmi Albadawi scored with his head from a corner kick. Ledesma’s olimpico was swatted away from goal by Nashville net-minder Matt Pickens. His weak effort fell squarely to Albadawi who easily nodded the ball into goal from close range to make it 2-1, FC Cincinnati.

The two teams traded goals right around the 80th-minute mark. Nashville equalized through substitute and leading goalscorer Brandon Allen. One minute later, FCC regained the lead when Corben Bone claimed his second goal of the evening. A lovely piece of build-up play on the left saw just-back-from-injury Richie Ryan provide an assist for a curler that beat Matt Pickens for a third time.

FCC seemed to have earned all three points, but Nashville SC didn’t quit on the contest. Their efforts to equalize paid dividends in the 90th minute when Nigerian midfielder Bolu Akinyode fired a rocket into goal from the top of the 18, just after Forrest Lasso had blocked a shot from another Nashville attacker.

The game ended in a 3-3 stalemate. Despite a second consecutive draw, FCC finishes the regular season by cruising comfortably to a USL regular season championship, and setting records for both winning streaks (10 games) and unbeaten streaks (23 games).

Final Score: Nashville SC 3 – 3 FC Cincinnati

Standings Update

FC Cincinnati finishes the season 11 points clear of the next best team in either the Eastern or Western Conference. The top four spots in the Eastern Conference were locked in as of last Wednesday. However, two games are on the docket tomorrow that have implications for the final Eastern Conference playoff seeding in spots 5 through 8. Bethlehem faces the Tampa Bay Rowdies at home (3pm), and New York Red Bulls II will host the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (5pm). Those results will determine FCC’s first round playoff opponent. That team will be one of New York Red Bulls II, Nashville SC, Bethlehem Steel FC, or North Carolina FC.

Screenshot 2018-10-13 23.32.40

Highlight of the Match

Corben Bone’s first goal of the match was his 10th of 2018. With that goal, FC Cincinnati set another USL record by being the first team to have four double-digit goalscorers in a single season. He joins Emmanuel Ledesma, Danni König, and Nazmi Albadawi with 10+ goals this year.

Stat of the Match

FC Cincinnati, with 576 passes, had almost twice as many passes as Nashville SC with 289 on the night. They also completed their passes at an accuracy of 84.4%, over 13% higher than Nashville SC’s passing accuracy. Possession only goes so far though. Nashville made the most of their chances and found a last-gasp equalizer to earn the draw. The home team can boast a 27% conversion rate on the night (3 goals on 11 unblocked shots) which topped FCC’s lower than usual (but still decent) 17% conversion rate on Saturday.

Who Started?

Alan Koch made three changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Pittsburgh last Saturday. Fanendo Adi, Tyler Gibson, and Nazmi Albadawi all returned to the starting eleven for the final regular season match of 2018. Richie Ryan also made his first FCC appearance (as a substitute) since June 30th, when he sustained a lower leg injury against Ottawa Fury FC.

Adi (74′ König)
Bone – Albadawi (76′ McLaughlin) – Ledesma
Lahoud (74′ Ryan) – Gibson
Smith – Lasso – Barrett (C) – Hoyte
Richey

What’s Next?

The first round of the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs is up next at Nippert Stadium, October 20th. FC Cincinnati’s opponent is still yet to be determined and is dependent on Sunday’s Eastern Conference results. Follow us on Twitter and we’ll keep you informed on who the Orange & Blue will face next Saturday at 4pm at Nippert Stadium.

Nashville 10.13_Match Recap

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Nashville SC

The USL Regular Season comes to a successful close with a momentous match between FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC.

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Design: CSDIV / Image: Ryan Meyer

At the end of its third and final USL regular season, FC Cincinnati has captured an elusive mark. With the regular-season title and the highest seed in the Eastern Conference locked up, the Orange & Blue have an opportunity to head into the playoffs with rested players and a historic record. The only obstacle standing in their way is Nashville SC, who are desperate for a point for a playoff appearance. The two teams clash in the regular-season finale at First Tennessee Park on Saturday.

FC Cincinnati’s 22nd straight game undefeated was no easy task in Pittsburgh. The team needed every bit of their 90 minutes to end the game with the Riverhounds in a 0-0 draw. While Pittsburgh put heavy pressure on the squad, outshooting their opponent 18-4, FCC rode a solid defending line and Spencer Richey’s fifth clean sheet to take home a point. While this broke FCC’s 10-game winning streak, the draw helped FC Cincinnati match the undefeated run set by Richmond in 2013.

FC Cincinnati may have a record in sight, but Nashville SC still has to work to do. Despite early goals by Matt LaGrassa and Brandon Allen, Nashville gave up two goals to Toronto FC II in the final 15 minutes for a 2-2 draw on Tuesday. This leaves the Music City club in 7th place with one game left and at risk of missing the playoffs. If Ottawa or Bethlehem lose this weekend, Nashville is in. However, if Ottawa wins and Bethlehem gets at least a point, Nashville must avoid a loss.

Despite being two bricks in FC Cincinnati’s wall, Nashville has not lost to the Orange & Blue this season. Both teams played to a scoreless draw back in July at Nissan Stadium, while they drew 1-1 at Nippert in August. In that game, Danni König scored in the first minute, but Nashville equalized on an 85th-minute strike from Tucker Hume. Since that draw, FC Cincinnati has gone 10-0-1, while Nashville has been a flat 4-3-5.

While Alan Koch hasn’t shown all his cards, the team will be without one player, but will welcome back two. Forward Emery Welshman will be off on international duty to play for Guyana in a CONCACAF Nations League qualifier. However, König should return from a yellow-card suspension, while midfielder Richie Ryan is likely to play for the first time since suffering a stress fracture in June. In fact, the entire team should be healthy before Saturday’s match.

Fast Facts

Here are five facts for FC Cincinnati’s final regular-season match in the USL.

  • If Corben Bone plays on Saturday, it will be his 100th game for the Orange & Blue over all competitions. In 2018 alone, he has scored more goals in the USL (9) than his previous four seasons (3). If Bone can score his 10th on Saturday, FC Cincinnati writes another record. It will be the first time in the USL’s short eight-year history that one team has produced four 10+ goal scorers.
  • Goalkeeper Matt Pickens has arguably been Nashville’s best signing. Despite facing 109 shots over 30 games (3rd in the East), he has allowed only 25 goals. That’s an astounding 77.1% success rate. The only goalkeeper in the East to play in at least 20 games and have a higher success rate? That would be Cincinnati’s Evan Newton (56 saves, 16 goals, 77.8% success rate).
  • Because of Pickens and his magic hands, Nashville barely allows any goals at home. Manager Gary Smith’s squad has conceded only 11 home goals (2nd in the East) and has 9 clean sheets at home. However, their 24 home goals are 5th-worst in the East. That +13 goal differential at home is decent, but Cincinnati has a +16 goal differential on the road from 31 goals scored.
  • Ever since his late equalizer against FC Cincinnati, forward Tucker Hume has experienced a second life with Nashville. Hume started only one match the first 20 games, but since then he has started 11 of the last 13 matches and scored 6 goals. Perhaps the “Big Bird” nickname has wings?
  • How does Cincinnati’s 22-game unbeaten streak stack up against Richmond’s? FC Cincinnati has more wins in the same period (17-13) and has scored more goals (49-42). Then again, Richmond’s schedule in 2013 was more strenuous—they had an 8-game road trip during their streak that took them from Orlando to Vancouver over the span of a month. Richmond also had three pairs of games that were played on back-to-back days.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of the regular-season finale in Nashville.

Penn FC 1 – 2 FC Cincinnati: Second-Half “Magic” Clinches Eastern Conference

Late goals from an elite duo secure a win for FC Cincinnati against Penn FC in Harrisburg. The victory also comes with the USL’s regular season Eastern Conference title.

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Graphic: Conner Paquette / Image: JES Photography

FC Cincinnati extended their winning streak to eight in a row and are now 19 games unbeaten after a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory over Penn FC on Saturday. More importantly, the win secures the top spot in the Eastern Conference and secures home field advantage through the Eastern Conference finals.

An unattractive first half on an unattractive FNB field saw the former City Islanders claim the lead after 33 minutes. Emmanuel Ledesma conceded a foul to Penn FC 30 yards outside of the box on the right. The subsequent free kick bounced in the penalty area and was headed back across goal by Penn FC’s Harri Hawkins. Brazilian midfielder Paúlo Junior was first to react and thumped the ball easily past Spencer Richey to make it 1-0 to Penn FC. Both teams struggled to produce many more clear chances as the first 45 minutes expired. The Orange & Blue went into the break a goal down, only managing to generate one shot in the first half.

The second half didn’t start much better for FCC. The Pennsylvania side created more chances and held an 11-4 shot advantage after 57 minutes of play. Alan Koch decided to change things up at that point with a wave of substitutes. In the 61st minute he introduced Emery Welshman for Danni König, who had picked up an early yellow card. Six minutes later he modified the midfield by introducing Nazmi Albadawi and Kenney Walker.

Just after the third substitute was made, FC Cincinnati broke on a dangerous counter-attack. Emmanuel Ledesma dribbled at goal then laid the ball off to Emery Welshman who shot from inside the box but wide left. Penn FC goalkeeper, Sean Lewis, who had been excellent to that point, parried the ball away. The rebound fell right into the path of Ledesma, who struck it first-time into goal from close range. 1-1.

Sixteen minutes later, “Magic” Corben Bone produced an Eastern Conference-clinching goal. Albadawi stripped Penn FC’s Aaron Dennis just outside of the home team’s penalty area. The ball fell to Corben Bone who took one touch then launched a delicate diagonal strike from outside the box into the right side-netting to make it 2-1, FC Cincinnati.

Penn FC was shocked and down, but kept swinging. Forrest Lasso used every inch of his 6’4” frame to jump and clear a Richard Menjívar curler off the line in stoppage time. In a game that looked headed for a disappointing FCC result, the Orange & Blue’s difference-making talent found a way . . . for the 19th straight time.

Final Score: Penn FC 1 – 2 FC Cincinnati

Standings Update

FC Cincinnati clinched the Eastern Conference on Saturday with four matches remaining in the regular season. Even though second-place Pittsburgh won on Saturday as well, FCC’s victory brings them to 69 points on the season. That’s higher than the total of 68 points that the Riverhounds can reach if they win the rest of their remaining matches. Alan Koch’s side now can turn their attention to the USL regular-season title, which is within very close reach.

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Highlight of the Match

The high press from Naz to win the ball, the immediate, inch-perfect strike from Corben Bone–this is a goal worthy of clinching a conference title.

Quote of the Match

Alan Koch talked about the historic win, but as always, kept a measured approach to what this accomplishment means.

“It’s step one, there’s a lot of people going crazy in the change room right now – as they should be – I’m smiling, I’m happy, we’ve all worked our backsides off to get where we are, but we’re hungry for more. You can hear the players inside, they’re congratulating each other, but we’re getting ready for Wednesday, we want to win the regular season title for both conferences.”

Stat of the Match

18% – FC Cincinnati didn’t dominate many statistical categories in this match. One thing they did do, as they have all season, is convert the chances they created at a better rate than their opponent. FC Cincinnati, who leads the USL in conversion rate, scored two goals from 11 shots (excluding blocks) – for an 18% conversion rate. Penn FC had 1 goal from 14 shots, for a conversion rate of 7%.

FC Cincinnati’s shots on goal. They scored 2 goals from 11 unblocked shots for an 18% conversion rate.

Who Started?

Alan Koch made five changes from the side that beat Toronto FC II 4-3 last Saturday. Jimmy McLaughlin, Danni König, Tyler Gibson, Dekel Keinan, and Matt Bahner all joined the starting eleven. Fatai Alashe and Richie Ryan missed the match through injury. Fanendo Adi was not in the 18 for this match.

König (61′ Welshman)
Ledesma – Bone – McLaughlin (68′ Albadawi)
Lahoud (68′ Walker) – Gibson
Smith – Lasso – Keinan (C) – Bahner
Richey

What’s Next?

FC Cincinnati has a short turnaround following this conference-claiming match. That shouldn’t matter much though because they have a deep squad and a chance to clinch the USL regular season title on Wednesday. They’ll travel to Virginia for a midweek contest against the Richmond Kickers. It’s one that FCC should win on paper. The Kickers have just 6 wins and have been eliminated from playoff contention already. Can FCC get it done against one of the longest-tenured teams in the U.S. second division, and one with a historic unbeaten streak of their own?

Tune into Orange & Blue Press on Wednesday to find out.

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