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.

#MLS2Cincy Hall of Fame – The Players Who Got Us Here

In an enthusiastic take on Cincinnati’s top flight ambitions, Connor Paquette takes a look at the FC Cincinnati players who earned the privilege of being recognized for epitomizing #MLS2Cincy.

It’s over. It’s going to be announced. Cincinnati will host a Major League Soccer team. While the massive effort by the front office and supporters has taken center stage, it’s still incredibly important to remember the local legends that have risen to the occasion for our city. Certain players have been the catalysts that sparked the unrivaled juggernaut that is Queen City soccer.

With that in mind, come with me as I take a look at the most intrinsic players behind one of the Midwest’s worst kept secrets: the blossoming powerhouse known as Cincinnati soccer.

Due to my focus on listing the “Hall of Fame” players who contributed the most, ensuring Cincinnati’s rise to Major League Soccer (and for the sake of avoiding petty drama), this list will only feature players who have played for the team during the 2016 and/or 2017 season(s), as new signings simply haven’t played long enough to really make a sincere impact.

And now! Without further ado . . . my list for the FC Cincinnati players who have earned the privilege of being recognized for epitomizing #MLS2Cincy for all eternity.

Honorable Mentions

Give a humble thank you to these men who’ve joined us to lift this incredible city even higher. We are grateful for every ounce of effort contributed.

  • Matt Bahner (D), 2017 – Present
  • Austin Berry (D), 2016 – 17
  • Omar Cummings (M), 2016 – 17
  • Josu (D), 2017 – 18
  • Danni König (F), 2017 – Present
  • Justin Hoyte (D), 2017 – Present
  • Paul Nicholson (D), 2016 – 17
  • Tyler Polak (D), 2016 – 17
  • Eric Stevenson (M) 2016 – 17
  • Andrew Wiedeman (F), 2016 – 17

5. Jimmy McLaughlin (M), 2016 – Present

Mr. McLaughlin is a peculiar case because he’s not consistently in the starting eleven, let alone a stats machine earning Player of the Year honors. However, he does have one attribute that has simply taken the Queen City by storm. What Jimmy has that sets him apart, something that can’t be taught, is an absolute ruthless love for the game of soccer and all who adore it.

I hear it whenever I’m in the stands at a game “We want Jimmy! We want Jimmy!” This is always followed by a standing ovation when he enters the field (or even when he’s subbed off). No matter what insanely amazing move, goal, save, etc. a new member of the 2018 season accomplishes, they will simply never get the cheers that “Pennsylvania Messi” does.

To not be the best scorer, not have the highest stats, and sometimes not even play, but still be one of the biggest draws for the game is mind boggling. I can’t wrap my head around it – until I’m reminded why. Whenever there’s a run to a deep corner in the opposition’s territory, running as though his life depended on it, Jimmy is tracking the ball down and juking an opponent into oblivion.

In an instance of casual keep-away, Jimmy creates game changing chances that take the audience’s breath away. When he’s on the field the game becomes an intense drama. His lively fervor is naturally contagious and raises the spectators in a unanimous symphony of roaring support. When a goal is scored you can bet your house there’ll be a ridiculously silly dance he’d been practicing in the mirror for a week. Perhaps his natural quirks are what make him so relatable: so human. He’s a performer on the stage, but a hero in our hearts. There has simply been no one else like him.

The first real FC Cincinnati soccer star, Jimmy McLaughlin was surely one of the most important pieces required when attracting supporters. We’ve fallen in love with the kid, and his commitment to us is showing off.

4. Harrison Delbridge (D), 2016 – 2017

I think for many reading this, you’ll agree with me when I say that, arguably, Harrison Delbridge is the best pure soccer talent to have donned the Orange & Blue. Starting nearly every game that he’s been on FC Cincinnati’s roster next to captain Berry in central defense, it was Harrison who always anchored the back line with incredible tackling precision and rugged but thoughtful challenges.

While many (including myself) were extremely disappointed to see him sign with Melbourne City FC after the 2017 season, this was a good thing. Let me explain. There is never a finish line when it comes to sports. The game is always changing and evolving. When one legend dies, another is born. Harrison Delbridge, just like any other player when it comes to the sport, is another spoke on the wheel.

But Harrison’s journey didn’t end when he left FCC, he began a new chapter. Harrison’s aspirations were to represent his home of Australia on the national stage, and he made strides in his journey by joining a top team there. This only proves to soccer analysts, that when players join FC Cincinnati, they grow.

Whether it be due to the supporters aggressively asking for just a little more from the team, our coach’s ability to guide each player to be the best they can be, or just top talent demanding a player rise to the occasion every day, FC Cincinnati is a hub for evolving soccer talent to its next level.

This is absolutely essential to be considered one of the top teams in the country. The best soccer players sign here because Cincinnati is a breeding ground for unlocked potential. So as soon as we rise to division one, players will think twice when signing elsewhere. Harrison Delbridge’s success is a reminder of that, and we continue to wish him the best on his journey.

3. Djiby Fall (F), 2017 | Sean Okoli (F), 2016

Be honest, do you remember who Sean Okoli is? If you were one of the original seven thousand or so season ticket holders, I’m sure you do. The Golden Boot winner with 16 goals in FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season, Okoli was voted the league’s MVP. He scored the team’s first home goal in breathtaking fashion when he scissor-kicked a pass out of nowhere into the back of the net. His dominance in the game helped FCC finish in third place in 2016. He was so good that many supporters called for the team to go after him in 2018 to help bolster the attack after a lackluster 2017 season. But similar to Harrison Delbridge, Cincinnati lifted him higher and Sean has enjoyed plenty of professional success ever since – he signed with MLS’s New York City FC in 2017.

Djiby Fall, while similar in success, was quite different as a person. Very quiet in his day-to-day life, his actions were loud on the field in comparison. While some moments were controversial, Djiby’s intoxicatingly odd field presence caught the attention of every FCC supporter. He set a franchise record in a single game by breaking the 2017 home schedule open with a four goal performance. But his most important contribution came in the earth shattering 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run.

Djiby set records on his way to being named one of the tournament’s top players. He scored four game winning goals in total, most of which came against a variety of top opponents including: 2017 USL Champions Louisville City FC, 2017 NASL Conference finalist Miami FC, and 2017 MLS Conference Finalist Columbus Crew. All of his efforts culminated into one of the most incredible tifos I have ever witnessed, unveiled by The Bailey in the Open Cup semifinals against MLS’s New York Red Bulls.

Image: JES Photography

As I’ve mentioned, the success of this team is without a doubt one of the most compelling reasons to attend one of their matches. Without Djiby and Sean Okoli, you have to wonder where this team stands and whether they might have missed the playoffs otherwise. What if the U.S. Open Cup run ended in the 120 minute marathon against NPSL side AFC Cleveland? America and the rest of the soccer world took notice of FCC directly because of the impact these two players made. For that, I recognize them in the Top 5 most important players that contributed in making Cincinnati a division one soccer city.

2. Kenney Walker (M), 2016 – Present | Corben Bone (M), 2016 – Present 


The crucial field presence like Okoli and Djiby; the conductors catapulting the team to new heights like captain Berry; the irrational and insane dedication to the game they love like Jimmy; arguably the best this team has to offer like Delbridge; all of this while only dedicating the spotlight to their teammates and supporters, Corben Bone and Kenney Walker are two of the greatest minds to ever take the field for the Orange & Blue.

I have little to say about these two originals because you simply need to watch their games to fully grasp how much FC Cincinnati became because of them. Frustrating me at times, it’s only because they’ve eclipsed all my expectations, causing me to raise them further game after game. Yet, they continue to surprise me. I genuinely believe these two men are among the three individuals essential in creating the FC Cincinnati of Major League Soccer quality that we know and love today. However, there is still another who went above and beyond even them…

1. Mitch Hildebrandt (G), 2016 – 2017

Hot take: Cincinnati would’ve failed our endeavor for this round’s expansion bid if Mitch Hildebrandt never stepped on Cincinnati soil. The 2016 USL Goalkeeper of the Year had one very distinct moment that shouted defiantly into the ears of all neigh-sayers that “CINCINNATI IS A MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER CITY!” It came over the course of about 10 minutes on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, broadcasted live to the entire nation on ESPN’s flagship channel.

Never in my life have I nearly suffocated due to my own stubbornness of refusing to take a breath. I couldn’t; I wouldn’t allow myself. Mitch needed all the support he could get. I had to keep yelling; I had to be loud. Or so, that’s what I thought when we went to penalty kicks against the Chicago Fire in the Round of 16 of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup.

We missed our first penalty kick. I thought it was over. We weren’t supposed to win, and I had even convinced myself long before of it being just fine if we didn’t. Having the opportunity for our humble little team to go against top soccer squads in the state locale was enough. But then we made it to overtime. And then we made it to penalty kicks. And then, well, see for yourself…

Here’s the bottom line. Of all the FC Cincinnati players to take the pitch at Nippert, Mitch Hildebrandt is far and away the most important of them all. After all, what hasn’t Mitch accomplished in the city of Cincinnati? “Mitch says no!” Will go down in history as the most iconic dialogue of all the lore in the Orange & Blue bible. Simply put, without Mitch Hildebrandt’s life changing contributions in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup, I don’t believe Cincinnati would, at the very least, be considered so early for an MLS expansion team. His titanic performances destroyed the floodgates revealing Cincinnati’s enormous love for the game to all in the nation. For all he has done, he’s earned my #1 spot atop the #MLS2Cincy Hall of Fame.

Mitch-02

Toronto FC II 3 – 4 FC Cincinnati: Four Numbers That Mattered

FC Cincinnati rides a solid second-half output over Toronto FC II to enter the playoffs on a positive note.

RD4_6424
Credit: Ryan Meyer Photography

Although their playoff ticket had already been punched on Thursday, FC Cincinnati squared against Toronto FC II at the Ontario Soccer Center with an opportunity to claim a higher seed. Considering that Toronto II had a surprising home record before the game (4W-5T-6L) with wins over Louisville, Charleston, and Orlando B, FCC had a rough game on their hands, but escaped Toronto with a come-from-behind 4-3 win.

The start appeared to be more of the same from the Cincinnati defense, going down 2-0 in the first 30 minutes. Forward Ben Spencer managed to get his head on a cross in the 10th minute that Mitch Hildebrandt couldn’t collect, setting up a right-footed goal from forward Tsubasa Endoh. In the 31st minute, Endoh collected his brace from a similar slot, slotting home a shot Austin Berry couldn’t deflect. In both cases, the defense appeared hesitant, allowing Spencer and Endoh to infiltrate the box on crosses.

For the rest of the first half, FCC appeared to find their footing, while Toronto II pulled their attack back and allowed Cincinnati to gain control. Momentum finally swung FCC’s way after Danni König skied high for a header off a Kenney Walker free kick in the 41st minute. His 11th goal of the year made it 2-1 at halftime.

The momentum continued to roll after the first goal, as FC Cincinnati started to hammer shots at goalkeeper Mark Pais, twice finding the woodwork. In the 49th minute, Walker used a give-and-go with Corben Bone to skid a shot from outside the box past the keeper’s left, his second goal of the season making the score 2-2.

The momentum was then halted abruptly in the 53rd minute. Forward Shaan Hundal managed to collect a long pass beyond the back line, looping a soft shot over Hildebrandt when the keeper came off his line for a risky challenge to give Toronto II the lead again.

However, for the last thirty minutes of the game, it appeared that Coach Koch had unleashed the wings on both sides of the field to get the equalizer. Jimmy McLaughlin had been challenging the left side of the defense all game, and his left-footed cross in the 66th minute found Djiby right in front of the goal. The striker’s 12th USL goal of the season knotted things at 3-3.

Kadeem Dacres then came on in the 68th minute, and that substitution caused chaos on the other side of the pitch to set up the final goal. Walker looped a pass in the 86th minute to the front of the goal with Bone and Justin Hoyte charging from the right. Hoyte flicked the pass past the keeper to deposit his second goal of the season, giving FCC the hard-earned three points.

With the win in hand, FC Cincinnati finishes the regular season with a 12-10-10 record, putting them in 6th place. If Bethlehem Steel doesn’t win against Saint Louis FC in their home finale, FCC will travel to Tampa Bay to face the Rowdies in the first round. However, a Bethlehem win would push them back to 7th and an away match against Charleston Battery, the same team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year.

Four Numbers That Mattered

12 – The win was the 12th time this season FC Cincinnati has come from behind to capture points. While their play may not have been consistent, FCC has been showing this year that they can pull themselves out of a hole (if it’s not too deep). The team has salvaged a total 16 points (2W-10T) after falling behind this year. Of course, goals given up early from now on won’t be as easy to recover.

19 – The number of shots taken by FC Cincinnati in the second half alone. Arguably, no numbers displayed more desperation in the FCC game than the attacking statistics. While the playoffs had been assured, the team still played with an aggression in the second half that belonged to a team outside the Top 8. Of the six first-half shots, only two were within the 18-yard box, but nine of the 19 in the second half were within the box, including the game-winner.

#6 – The jersey number of the day’s MVP, Kenney Walker. While Walker put up solid passing numbers (83% accuracy, 10 successful long passes) with his one goal and two assists, it may be his synergy with teammates that makes the team better—FCC’s worst games were arguably when Walker was serving card suspensions against New York Red Bulls II and Ottawa, and Corben Bone had one of his more productive games this season with 94% passing accuracy in the Toronto II half.

-16 – FC Cincinnati’s goal differential on the road. The wins on the road versus Toronto II and Charlotte have shown the team can compete, but if FCC wants to write another Cinderella script for the USL playoffs, they need to stop the goals from pouring in. The team has given up 1.93 goals per game (31 total) on the road this year, compared to a paltry 0.93 gpg (14 total) last year.

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

RD4_6424

Harrisburg City Islanders 1-1 FC Cincinnati: Four Numbers That Mattered

After 90-plus minutes of futility, a late goal from Jimmy McLaughlin rescues FC Cincinnati at the whistle.

IMG_0102
Credit: Harrisburg City Islanders

FC Cincinnati walked into FNB Field with a slight bit of momentum on their side from two positive home results and ten days of rest, but the ghosts of past away games still haunt them, needing a near-death goal from Jimmy McLaughlin in the 97th minute to escape from Harrisburg with a 1-1 tie.

Coach Alan Koch ran out a different-looking group than expected, resting up defensemen Matt Bahner and Austin Berry, while Corben Bone stayed in Cincinnati for the expected birth of his first child. The team welcomed the return of Aodhan Quinn and Kadeem Dacres to the Starting XI, sporting a 4-4-1-1 formation to shake the team’s poor away form.

The heavier defensive set worked well to keep Harrisburg off the board in the first half, but that focus on defense left the team threadbare in the front attack. The City Islanders managed to control the ball with 54% possession in the first 45 minutes, firing two shots on net, while Cincy could only manage corner kicks but no shots on net. The team also lost Tyler Polak again early in the game, as a hard tackle appeared to reaggravate an ankle injury in the 13th minute. Polak would be subbed off for Josu soon after.

Harrisburg came out of the locker room on fire after halftime, challenging Mitch Hildebrandt twice before the third chance—a left-footed strike by Jonathan Mendoza in the 52nd minute—beat the keeper’s left side for a 1-0 lead.

However, once given the lead, Harrisburg opted to take their foot off the gas. Djiby and Andrew Wiedeman were subbed onto the pitch in the second half, and both appeared to revitalize the team, helping get five shots off before Harrisburg showed any signs of fight. Harrisburg goalkeeper Brandon Miller was on point though and kept FCC off the board.

It appeared that Harrisburg had enough gasoline in the tank, but fouls and delays stretched the four minutes of stoppage time into six. Just before the whistle blew, Djiby deflected a long pass from Sem de Wit into the path of Jimmy McLaughlin, who managed to split the defense and pop the ball past a sprawling Miller, rescuing FC Cincinnati at the last possible minute.

The tie gives FC Cincinnati a round 9-9-9 record (36 points) and puts them in 7th place, while Harrisburg (7-7-14, 28 points) remains in 13th place, still barely in the hunt for the playoffs. Cincinnati returns this Saturday for their final home game of the season against a New York Red Bulls II squad before heading on the road for the last four.

Four Numbers That Mattered

3 – Number of goals that Jimmy McLaughlin has scored against his former USL squad. No wonder they call him “Pennsylvania Messi”—Jimmy Mac loves to score against teams from the Keystone State. Half of his 10 goals with FCC have come against Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, and Harrisburg over the past two years, and all three against the City Islanders have been clutch, coming at the 81st minute or later.

63’ – The minute that Djiby was substituted into the game. For much of the first half, Danni König was bottled up and frustrated by the Harrisburg back line, only managing a total of 15 touches in 63 minutes, but after his substitution was completed, Djiby managed to get 21 touches in only 34 minutes on the pitch, adding muscle and height to the front attack before deflecting a pass to McLaughlin for the tying score.

7 – The number of formations that Coach Alan Koch has used this season. The 4-4-1-1 formation was the first formation with a 4-man back line since June, and the lack of offensive spark in the first half showed that the team was not used to the new pattern. If Koch is going to get his team deep into the playoffs, he must figure out how this team operates best with an optimal Starting XI while resting up Berry, Bahner, and now Polak for a playoff run.

292 minutes – FC Cincinnati’s goalless streak on the road in the USL before their last-minute goal. While fans and pundits will remember FCC for their shutout streak during the 2017 U.S. Open Cup, their scoreless streak on the road is best forgotten. During their goalless streak over the past three-plus games, FCC gave up eleven consecutive away goals. While a 62-goal season is far out of reach, FCC must use their last four away games of the season to learn how to win again on the road, something they have only done twice all season.

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

IMG_0102

Cheat Sheet: FC Cincinnati at Louisville City FC

An information graphic provides the vital details for Saturday’s match between FC Cincinnati and Louisville City FC. Plus, four fast facts.

RD4_3313
Photo for header and information graphic courtesy Ryan Meyer Photography

FC Cincinnati pays a visit to rival Louisville City FC on Saturday for their third and final league meeting of the USL season. These teams last met less than a month ago on July 15th in Kentucky. The Orange and Blue left Slugger Field with 3-2 victory in that match, in front of over 1,000 traveling supporters. Danni König’s 77th minute strike proved to be the game winner.

These sides also met for a 1-1 stalemate at Nippert back in April. Former Louisville City captain Aodhan Quinn scored a second half goal to rescue a draw for Alan Koch’s side.

Louisville City currently sits in fourth place on 35 points after 19 matches played. FC Cincinnati slots in two places behind them in sixth, but Alan Koch’s side has played three more games than their Southern foe. Louisville is recovering from a bad defeat in North Carolina. They were toppled 3-1 by the impressive Charlotte Independence at Mecklenburg County Sportsplex.

FC Cincinnati’s lineup will likely be influenced by next Tuesday’s US Open Cup semifinal matchup against the New York Red Bulls. Djiby Fall should feature at forward on Saturday given the fact that he is suspended for next week’s cup semifinal. Aodhan Quinn will miss the match against his old club. He is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

Louisville-MatchUp-3

Here are four fast facts to serve as a backdrop for Saturday’s contest.

  • Local boy and former FC Cincinnati striker Luke Spencer is now Louisville City’s joint top scorer after netting two goals in the past three matches.
  • FC Cincinnati undoubtedly has two bona fide goal-scorers. Danni König now has 8 goals on the season, and while König doesn’t generate as many shots as Djiby, his conversion rate (goals/shots) of 42% is almost 20% higher than Djiby’s. He’s scored 8 goals on just 19 total shots.
  • If you ignore FC Cincinnati’s recent goal-fest at Slugger Field, Louisville City has only conceded 3 total goals in their other 7 home games this season, which is a 0.43 Goals Against Average (GAA). It makes FC Cincinnati’s July victory look even more impressive.
  • Louisville City and FC Cincinnati both take a lot of shots. At 291 and 273 respectively, they rank third and fourth in the Eastern Conference in total shots. They both have the same middling conversion rate of 14% however, which means it takes them both a lot of shots to generate a goal.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of Saturday’s Dirty River Derby.

RD4_3313

FC Cincinnati 1 – 0 Miami FC: Four Magical Numbers That Mattered

Four numbers that mattered from FC Cincinnati’s thrilling 1-0 win over Miami FC in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.

vs.Cinn-4477
Photo Courtesy Miami FC

 

It was only appropriate that FC Cincinnati’s magic in the 107th U.S. Open Cup continued with a win in the Magic City.

Three weeks after they were scheduled to tangle with Miami FC in the USOC quarterfinals, FC Cincinnati returned to Miami to resume their match, this time under rain-free conditions. The Cinderella run for FCC has yet to strike midnight, as the squad managed to tame another offensive juggernaut with stingy defense and a timely goal from Djiby for a 1-0 win.

With their numbers restored from rest and reinforcements, FCC started the first half with a starter-heavy starting XI—both Djiby and Danni König were set at the front of the familiar 3-5-2 formation with Sem de Wit and Kevin Schindler getting their first starts of the year. Miami FC countered with a solid front three of Enzo Rennella, Kwadwo Poku, and Stefano Pinho, a trio who had combined for seven of the 11 Miami FC goals in their Cup run.

The first 45’ was dominated by neither side—while Miami had the slight edge in possession and control, Cincinnati was getting more opportunities at the net. Double-coverage on Djiby often left König room to work, while the midfield was allowed some space to pressure the offensive third. Both teams seemed unable to take advantage of lapses in judgment, but in general the flow of the game was favoring FCC and their vocal traveling support.

The second half certainly indicated that coach Alessandro Nesta had made the right call to conserve energy in the first half. Miami came out with more pressure in their attack, forcing the FC Cincinnati defense to foul and concede corner kicks to keep the pace under control. A streaking Pinho in the 59th minute could have easily produced the first goal of the game, but Mitch Hildebrandt came off his line to smother the opportunity and keep his historic goalless run intact.

The lead finally went FCC’s way in the 68th minute. Justin Hoyte managed to isolate defender Hunter Freeman on the left side of the box, beating him with a right-footed dribble. Hoyte then skirted the back line with a left-footed cross that found Djiby at the near goalpost, who tapped the pass through goalkeeper Daniel Vega’s legs for the 1-0 advantage.

For the rest of the game, the Cincinnati defensive line withstood the remaining attacks by plugging passing lanes and clearing opportunities. Miami’s equalizer appeared to be in reach in the 89th when Poku danced and dribbled around defenders, only for his shot to glance off Hildebrandt’s leg and just miss Rennella’s forehead. The midfield managed to handle the ball for most of stoppage time, and the final whistle produced overjoyed chaos on the Cincinnati sideline and in bars all over Cincinnati.

The victory gives FC Cincinnati another wild matchup against an MLS side for the opportunity to possibly host the U.S. Open Cup final. A few days before their match with the New York Red Bulls’ “2” squad, our Boys in Orange & Blue will host their parent team on Tuesday, August 15th at Nippert Stadium. A win versus the Papa Bulls will produce the first non-MLS U.S. Open Cup finalist since Charleston Battery in 2008.

Four Numbers That Mattered

21 – The number of days since the date of the originally-scheduled match between FC Cincinnati and Miami FC. The extra three weeks of rest turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the spent FC Cincinnati side—Justin Hoyte, Austin Berry, and Harrison Delbridge were all left off the original lineup on July 12th, but all three were in the Starting XI when the actual game was played, and all three made a big difference. Mother Nature must be a Queen City fan!

4 – The number of goals Djiby has scored in this year’s U.S. Open Cup. While this number is a bit deceptive (as Cincinnati has scored only four goals in five games), the Senegalese striker has been opportunistic—Djiby is the first player in the Modern Era to score four game-winning goals in the same U.S. Open Cup tournament.

+5 – The advantage in interceptions held by FC Cincinnati (13) over Miami FC (8). While Miami enjoyed a 57/43 advantage in possession, FCC once again employed a sturdy 3-5-2 defensive pattern that allowed the backline of Berry, de Wit, and Delbridge to clog the middle and take away challenges. Pinho (4 goals) and Poku (2) had been part of a solid Miami offense that enjoyed a +22 goal differential over 16 games to start the NASL season, but were primarily neutralized until their chances late in the game.

469 – The number of consecutive shutout minutes Mitch Hildebrandt has gone in US Open Cup competitions. Starting from the 11th minute of the loss to Tampa Bay in 2016, Hildebrandt has not let in a single goal, leaving him 4 minutes shy of the modern-day record (Jon Conway had 473 consecutive minutes for San Jose in 2000 and 2001). In fact, string this with Dallas Jaye’s 120 minutes of clean-sheet play vs. AFC Cleveland, and FC Cincy hasn’t allowed a goal in 589 minutes of Open Cup play, also a Modern-Era record.

Bonus Number!

2008 – While a USL team has not made the USOC semifinals since 2011, a USL squad has not hosted a semifinal draw since 2008, back when Charleston hosted and beat the then-USL Seattle Sounders. If Cincinnati can defeat the Red Bulls, it will be the first time that an MLS squad lost to a non-MLS squad in the semifinals since the Rochester Raging Rhinos beat the Columbus Crew in 1999.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s cup run and the 2017 season.

vs.Cinn-4477

FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 Harrisburg City Islanders: Four Numbers That Mattered

FC Cincinnati returned to muggy Nippert Stadium and survived lengthy lightning delays for a solid 3-0 win over Harrisburg.

IMG_0110
Photo Courtesy JES Photography / Joe Schmuck

With the Queen City baking from the July heat, FC Cincinnati was tested by a spark plug Harrisburg team that had managed a solid run at home and had snuck into the playoff discussion. After two lengthy lightning delays that saw almost no rainfall, the boys in Orange and Blue sank the City Islanders with a 3-0 victory in front of 18,334 at Nippert Stadium.

While Harrisburg was coming into the game with the shorter week—having tied red-hot Charlotte 1-1 earlier in the week—the first 25 minutes were dictated by the away squad. The FCC defensive line was forced onto their heels with an early attempt in the 7th minute from a trailing John Grosh, only for Mitch Hildebrandt to smother it.

Lightning played a major part in this game, as both teams had to endure two lengthy breaks from threatening weather. After the first 67-minute break, FCC proved to be ready and refreshed. In the 32nd minute, Djiby pounced on a poor back-pass by the Harrisburg defense, switching feet on his defender and burying a left-footed shot for his 11th goal of the season.

In the second half, Cincinnati took advantage of Harrisburg’s offensive push to sneak behind the enemy lines again. After absorbing a midfield pass in the 70th minute, Djiby caught the D-line’s attention and fed a streaking Danni König, who fired a 5-hole under goalkeeper Brandon Miller’s legs for his 6th goal of the year.

After a second, shorter 35-minute lightning warning, FCC again capitalized from the break. In the 85th minute, Jimmy McLaughlin grabbed a feed from Kenney Walker to weave past his defender and peg his 2nd goal of the season, a right-footed strike past Miller, to completely shut the door on the City Islanders.

FC Cincinnati lifts their record to 8-6-6 and to 5th in the Eastern Conference table, while Harrisburg falls to 9th (6-5-9). After FCC welcomes Valencia CF, one of the cornerstones to the Spanish La Liga soccer league, to Nippert for a friendly on Monday, they will host the Rochester Rhinos for league play on Saturday.

Four Numbers That Mattered

102 minutes – The total amount of time taken up by the two lightning breaks. Normally, 90-degree temperatures with heat indexes in the triple digits would incur hydration breaks and pauses for cramping, but if anything, FC Cincinnati got progressively better from the weather delays. Two of the 3 FCC goals came within 5 minutes of the restarts, indicating that whatever took place in the locker rooms did its job for Alan Koch’s men. Could we have some of these breaks more often, Mother Nature?

+9 – While Harrisburg held a possession advantage (46/54), Cincinnati held the advantage in intercepted takeaways (18-9). Case in point—the heatmap below shows that Harrisburg preferred attacking on their right side, with forward Ropapa Mensah and midfielder Jake Bond controlling most of the possession.

FCC HAR Heat 072217
Heat Map via USL Match Center

However, compare that map with the map that displays interceptions. Whenever Mensah or Bond challenged the right, Cincinnati took possession back. Harrison Delbridge alone had 9 interceptions to reverse the flow of play.

FCC HAR Inter 072217
Graphic via USL Match Center

While possession may be a key to winning, FCC has shown that the ability to disrupt possession is just as important.

30’ – The time for the final shot on target for Harrisburg. Afterwards, Cincinnati dominated the shots-on-target stat, hammering 8 at goalkeeper Brandon Miller over the final 60’ of the game and getting 3 by him. Overall, FCC led Harrisburg in shots 15-11, taking advantage of Harrisburg’s defense-heavy 4-1-4-1 formation.

+11 – The goal differential for FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium in 11 USL home games (6W-4D-1L). So far, the stout defensive line has only conceded 8 goals at home all year and has not allowed a goal in the past 4 games (including the US Open Cup win vs. Chicago). The offense has picked up lately, but 19 goals at home means that the team has only scored 7 goals on the road over 8 games. If FCC wishes to hold and prove home dominance in the postseason, they’re going to have to show they can also score more on the road.

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

IMG_0110

Louisville City FC 2 – 3 FC Cincinnati: Four Numbers That Mattered

Four numbers that mattered in FC Cincinnati’s remarkable derby day victory over rival Louisville City FC on Saturday July 15th.

IMG_5654-4
Photo Courtesy JES Photography / Joe Schmuck

FC Cincinnati defeated rival Louisville City FC by a 3-2 scoreline at Slugger Field in Kentucky on Saturday. The teams traded early goals in the first half of play. Referee Marcos de Oliveira awarded a penalty kick to Louisville City shortly after the opening whistle for a handball infringement by Harrison Delbridge. Louisville’s Ilija Ilić converted the penalty kick to give the home side an early advantage.

The Orange and Blue responded immediately via their talismanic striker. Djiby equalized when Louisville City keeper Greg Ranjitsingh spilled a right-sided cross from Jimmy McLaughlin. The loose ball fell to the Senegalese forward. He lobbed it into the bottom right corner of goal and the score was quickly leveled at 1-1.

Standout defender Tyler Polak left the game with an ankle injury in the 30th minute after a card-worthy tackle from behind by Louisville’s Kyle Smith. Josu picked up right where Polak left off though and immediately impacted the game. Possession was roughly equal at the end of the first half, but Louisville City boasted an 8-2 shot advantage that included several quality chances to score.

The Orange and Blue took the lead 10 minutes after the break. Harrison Delbridge thumped a near posted header in from close range from a corner kick delivered by Josu Currais.

Substitute Danni König gave FC Cincinnati an insurance goal they needed in the 77th minute, just seconds after entering the match. Josu played a gorgeous cross-field ball to Andrew Wiedeman. He corralled the pass and quickly shot on target from a tight angle. Ranjitsingh stopped the initial shot but the rebound fell to König, who easily slotted it home.

Louisville City got one back in stoppage time but it was too late to mount a credible comeback. The goal was awarded as an own goal against Andrew Wiedeman.

The derby triumph was FC Cincinnati’s first ever win on Kentucky soil, and only their second away victory of the 2017 season. The win maintains FC Cincinnati’s sixth place position in the table, but the extra points bring them within one point of fourth place. The coveted top four spots in the Conference are guaranteed at least one home playoff game at seasons’ end. Charleston still leads the East with 35 points.

Four Numbers That Mattered

8 – The number of minutes between the first Louisville City goal and FC Cincinnati’s equalizer. All the momentum swung in Louisville City’s direction early in the match after Ilić’s penalty kick conversion. FC Cincinnati wasn’t creating chances and didn’t have a shot on goal at that point. They got some luck when Louisville keeper Ranjitsingh spilled McLaughlin’s cross. One should not underestimate the efficiency of body movement and awareness required for Djiby to quickly turn and slot that ball into goal first time. The immediate response by FC Cincinnati was vital to the game’s outcome. That’s ten USL goals for Djiby and 13 in all competitions.

99 – The jersey number of wingback Josu Currais, who delivered a man of the match performance. Tyler Polak’s first-half injury was concerning indeed, and we’ll need him to recover quickly given the jam-packed schedule ahead. However, Josu replaced Polak and delivered an inspired performance. He cleared Brian Ownby’s 33rd minute shot off the line in dramatic fashion. He provided the delivery on the corner kick for Harrison Delbridge’s 55th minute goal AND provided a key cross field pass to create Wiedeman’s shot on the third goal. His defensive work also helped to shut down Louisville City’s right handed attack in the second half.

83 – The percentage of FC Cincinnati’s shots that were on target. Louisville City’s defense limited FCC’s attack to only six total shots in this match, but five of the six were on target. In recent away matches, FC Cincinnati has produced shots, but many of them have been speculative efforts from distance. What’s more important than the number of shots is the quality of chances a team creates. Those six chances were of high quality and they converted three of them against a very good Louisville City defense.

105 – The number of days since FC Cincinnati’s last victory away from home. The Orange and Blue’s road form has been dire in 2017. Before this match, they had a 1-5-2 record away from Nippert and hadn’t won a road match since April 1st. A three goal derby win is just what they needed to cure their traveling ailments, and put them in a great position with 13 USL league games remaining.

How about that traveling support? I don’t have an accurate number of how many made the trip but it was a big number and they made their presence felt. Big kudos to all who made it down to Louisville to support the Orange and Blue for a historic derby victory.

FC Cincinnati will benefit from a week of rest before a home game against the Harrisburg City Islanders on July 22nd. That game will be quickly followed by a Monday night international friendly against Valencia CF of Spain’s La Liga. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati.

IMG_5654-4

FC Cincinnati 2 – 0 Richmond Kickers: Four Numbers that Mattered

Four numbers that mattered in FC Cincinnati’s league victory over the Richmond Kickers at Nippert Stadium on Sunday, July 9th.

Richmond
Photo courtesy of Ryan Meyer Photography

FC Cincinnati dispatched the Richmond Kickers by a 2-0 scoreline at Nippert Stadium on Sunday. Djiby scored the game winning goal for the Orange and Blue, his ninth in USL league play and twelfth in all competitions. The Senegalese striker gave the home side an advantage less than three minutes into the match. Kenny Walker served up a tasty long ball from midfield that split Richmond’s defenders. Djiby ran through one-on-one with the goalkeeper and struck with his first touch, finishing low to the keepers left.

Most of the match was played with FC Cincinnati controlling play and nurturing a one goal advantage. They created a litany of quality scoring opportunities and maintained over sixty percent possession for most of the contest. They found a second goal elusive nevertheless.

Richmond came to life with twenty minutes remaining and pressed hard for an equalizer. They pinned FC Cincinnati back for an eight minute stretch earning a series of dangerous free kicks and corner kicks. Alan Koch’s side held firm under the pressure though, and FC Cincinnati found an insurance goal at the end of regulation.

Danni König broke free on goal down the right side of the field. He dribbled into the box and shot on target, but Richmond keeper Matt Turner parried the ball away. The parried strike made contact with defender Brandon Troyer’s arm, and the referee awarded a penalty kick to FC Cincinnati.

A bleached-blond Aodhan Quinn stepped up and slammed the spot kick down the middle for a second goal. Frustrations continued though, because the referee disallowed that goal, and ordered the penalty kick to be retaken. Quinn finished twice under the pressure though, this time low and to the keepers left.

The converted penalty kick iced the game, and FC Cincinnati went on to win their sixth league match of the season. Five of those six wins have come at Nippert Stadium. FC Cincinnati moves up to sixth place in the Eastern Conference with the win.

Four Numbers that Mattered

90%+ – The passing accuracy of Corben Bone and Kenney Walker. The midfield duo controlled the middle of the park, combining for 193 touches and 157 passes. They each did so at over a 90% passing accuracy and were a big reason why FC Cincinnati dominated large spells of play during this contest.

76% – The percentage of FC Cincinnati’s shots that came from inside the box. In recent matches, the Orange and Blue have been held at arms length, with the majority of their shots on goal from coming outside the box. In this match they created quality chances at close range. If they would have been more clinical in front of goal, this match would have been settled early. Credit also goes to Richmond goalkeeper Matt Turner, who had seven saves on the night.

32 – The jersey number of Justin Hoyte. Hoyte is a veteran defender but one of the club’s newest signings. He stepped into the back three on Sunday in place of an injured Harrison Delbridge, who missed his second consecutive match. Hoyte was a key part of the clean sheet effort. He had 74 passes (3rd highest on the team) with a 92% passing accuracy. He won 4 duels, lost none, and made 2 clearances. Hoyte was in the back three against the Chicago Fire in the last match of the US Open Cup. It will be interesting to see if he gets more time in this role (as opposed to fullback/wingback) as the season progresses.

8 – The number of teams left in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, including FC Cincinnati. After earning a critical USL victory with a full-strength eleven on Sunday, the Orange and Blue now turn their attention to Miami FC in the Open Cup. Koch played a changed lineup against the Chicago Fire in the last round, then substituted on regulars like Walker, Bone, and Wiedeman later in the match. Will we see more of the same on Wednesday in Florida? In his post-match press conference, Alan Koch said the following.

This game is the worst possible preparation for Wednesday’s game, because it’s another game…we’ll have to rotate in some respect. We’ll have to make smart decisions on who is physically fit…the health of our players is paramount though.”

Match Photos via Ryan Meyer

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


 
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for coverage of Wednesday’s US Open Cup match and more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati.

Richmond

Orlando City B 1 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Djiby Returns for Florida Stalemate

Early goals were traded but neither team could find a winner when FC Cincinnati and Orlando City B met in Florida on Saturday.

Orlando-Report-Header
Photo credit Mark Thor / Orlando City B
FC Cincinnati played Orlando City B to a 1-1 stalemate at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday evening. Djiby provided the equalizer for the Orange and Blue in the 17th minute in response to a strike by OCB’s Jordan Schweitzer in the opening minutes of the match.

The goal for Alan Koch’s team originated when Corben Bone intercepted the ball deep in FC Cincinnati’s own half. He played it forward to Djiby, who quickly laid it off to the nearby Jimmy McLaughlin. The Pennsylvania native played a long diagonal ball to Andrew Wiedeman who was streaking down the right side. Wiedeman outpaced the left back and rolled the ball into the center for DJiby, who tapped it home.

FC Cincinnati had opportunities to take the lead after the 17th minute, creating many more chances than Orlando City B, but could not convert.

Orlando City B ended the game with ten men. Pierra Da Silva was sent to the lockers for violent conduct after kicking-out in a tackle against substitute Kadeem Dacres. There was little time for Alan Koch’s side to take advantage though, and the teams shared the points.

Talking Points

Djiby Recovers Quickly

The Senegalese forward sustained an ankle injury last Saturday in the 2-0 win against Saint Louis FC. That injury saw him miss Wednesday’s US Open Cup triumph against the Chicago Fire. Fortunately, his injury was short in duration and he went right back into action against Orlando City B, playing 73 minutes.

Djiby led the team in shots (5) and shot on target (3), and scored FCC’s only goal of the match with a simple tap in. That’s his eighth USL goal of the season and 11th overall. He will rue a missed first half opportunity to score the game winner. An errant pass by OCB goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. was put right into his path, but an bad touch saw the opportunity come and go.

Weakened Lions

Two of OCB’s leading goalscorers, Hadji Barry and Richie Laryea, were with the senior Orlando City MLS team on Friday for their game against Real Salt Lake. They therefore did not suit up against FC Cincinnati on Saturday. Barry and Laryea have each netted three times for the Anthony Pulis’ side this season.

Held at Arm’s Length

FC Cincinnati produced far more shots than Orlando City B in this match. They had a 14-2 shot advantage, excluding blocked shots. Many of those efforts were from long range though. In fact, the only on-target shot that FC Cincinnati took from inside the box was Djiby’s goal. The rest of their on-frame efforts were from distance. FC Cincinnati has not scored a goal from outside the 18-yard box this season.

Graphic from USL’s Match Center showing FC Cincinnati’s on-target shots, excluding the goal.

Screenshot 2017-07-02 08.20.42

Away Woes

This result in isolation is not a bad one. A point on the road against a team that beat FC Cincinnati 2-0 at Nippert is decent. However, when you look at the team’s form away from home in the first half of the season, you might be concerned. FC Cincinnati has only one win in seven matches away from Nippert in 2017, collecting five of 21 possible points.

At the halfway point of the 2016 season, they had three wins and 11 total road points. They’ll look to quickly improve on their season totals when they visit the Tampa Bay Rowdies this Thursday.

Halftime on FC Cincinnati’s Season

With 16 matches played, Saturday’s result brings FC Cincinnati to the halfway point of their 2017 USL season. They are 5-5-6 with 21 points and sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. At the halfway point of the 2016 season, FC Cincinnati had a 9-2-4 record with 31 total points (last year’s season was 30 games rather than 32).

Alan Koch’s side is positioned right in the middle of a log jam of teams with fairly average results. Only five points separates Tampa Bay in third place from Pittsburgh in eleventh. The good news for FC Cincinnati is that a lot will be decided in the second half of the season. The first half of this season has been about figuring out how to configure a deep roster with a lot of new faces into a system that fits their talent.

Many fans are optimistic about the team’s form after recent changes to the formation. That form has provided monumental victories in the US Open Cup and a trip to the quarterfinals of that tournament. They’ll need to translate that cup form into league results in the second half of the season to ensure playoff qualification and a decent seed.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati. Next up is another road match in Florida against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Thursday, July 6th.

Orlando-Report-Header