Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program provides and infographic and the fast facts you need to ready for FC Cincinnati versus Sporking KC this Sunday.
After a sunny start to the season, reality delivered a damper to FC Cincinnati last week. The 2-0 loss to Philadelphia left the Orange & Blue in 5th place in the East with a depleted lineup and a potentially dangerous opponent on Sunday.
The first of three straight Western Conference opponents, Sporting Kansas City come to Cincinnati with momentum in league play. SKC feasted on the Montreal Impact last Saturday, 7-1. SKC are also the only MLS club remaining in the current edition of the CONCACAF Champions League. However, Peter Vermes and company suffered a demoralizing 5-0 defeat to Monterrey in Mexico on Thursday and come into Sunday’s match wounded and looking to rebound.
Both teams come into the match with some injury concerns. FCC will definitely be without Fanendo Adi (ankle/suspension) and could also be without forward Kekuta Manneh and midfielder Emmanuel Ledesma (hamstring). SKC will be without right back Jaylen Lindsey (knee), while Dániel Sallói (ankle) is questionable.
Here are five facts for FC Cincinnati’s first match against the team once called the “Kansas City Wiz”.
Although much of their offense came last week, Sporting Kansas City’s attack has been bolstered by Krisztián Németh’s resurgence. Over all competitions, the Hungarian forward has scored eight goals in seven matches.
FC Cincinnati have had to tap into their roster depth early. 19 players have received starts over the first five matches. Only Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls have started more in the Eastern Conference, as both have played 20 players. Two additional FCC players, Caleb Stanko and Frankie Amaya, have made appearances coming off the bench as substitutes.
SKC manager Peter Vermes is currently the longest-tenured head coach in Major League Soccer (314 games). He is the all-time leader in games coached with one club in league history and is fourth in all-time wins as a coach (133). Additionally, Vermes has won four major trophies as a manager—three US Open Cups and one MLS Cup—the second most of all active coaches in MLS.
With FCC potentially missing three attackers (Adi, Ledesma, Manneh), it’s likely that midfielder Kenny Saief sees his second start of the season. Even though he has only been on the pitch for 125 minutes, Saief leads the team in combined points with one goal and two assists.
SKC demolished Montreal Impact 7-1 at home last week, matching the biggest win in their 23-plus-year history. However, history has shown that the next game is not a guaranteed win. In April 2018, SKC defeated Vancouver 6-0 at home, only to lose at New England the next week 1-0. Also, in June 1999, back when they were known as the Kansas City Wizards, the team beat the New York Metrostars 6-0, only to lose 3-0 to D.C. United the following week.
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press as FC Cincinnati tries to weather another storm at Nippert Stadium this weekend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The O&BP staff try their hand at predicting the thoroughbreds and dark horses for the 2018 USL Cup playoffs.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Joe: Sacramento 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.
Stephen: Orange 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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Michael: Forrest 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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%.
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
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.
FC Cincinnati ride Corben Bone’s brace and survive a torrid Toronto offense to extend their unbeaten run to 18 games.
In a matchup of the top and bottom teams on the table, FC Cincinnati needed all 90 minutes and more to scratch out a 4-3 win over Toronto FC II. While TFC II has never beaten Cincinnati, their recent upset of Louisville City on the road and their 3-3 draw against FCC earlier this season indicated that this would be harder than it appeared. All 27,275 in attendance at Nippert Stadium would have to agree with that statement.
While FCC began the game with solid ownership of the ball, it was Toronto that took the early lead. Midfielder Tsubasa Endoh took hold of a free pass in the 24th minute and fired a deep volley that beat goalkeeper Spencer Richey to his left. This tended to be a common theme, as Endoh enjoyed miles of space in front of the 18-yard-box all afternoon.
However, Endoh wasn’t the only one with a hot foot. Emmanuel Ledesma set a new USL assists record (and then some) in the 31st minute, lacing a free kick into the box for a Forrest Lasso header. The big man’s third goal of the year made it 1-1.
The teams traded goals right before halftime. Fenando Adi flicked a pass over his defender’s head deep in first-half stoppage time to toe-poke a shot past goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell to claim the lead. However, Endoh evaded coverage a minute later to graze a shot past a diving Richey and knot it 2-2 at halftime.
The second half was almost a carbon-copy of the first. While FCC owned possession again, their efforts were being halted by the Toronto D line pulling them offside. Endoh then potted his hat-trick by firing a shot from distance atop the box past Richey’s left. His eighth goal in six games made the score 3-2 in the 73rd minute.
Coach Alan Koch then appeared to make the right call by switching his wingers. Jimmy McLaughlin, subbed in the 62nd minute, moved to the right side of the pitch, while Ledesma switched to the left. In the 78th minute, McLaughlin chipped a give-and-go to Corben Bone. The birthday boy flicked a right-footed shot past Patterson-Sewell to tie it at 3-3.
Ledesma made his own connection to Bone to win the game late. His cross and league-leading 15th assist in the 88th minute went unclaimed until Bone read the bounce and headed it home. Bone’s eighth of the season gave FCC the 4-3 win in the end. Not a bad way to celebrate your 30th birthday, Corben!
Final Score: FC Cincinnati 4 – 3 Toronto FC II
The win over Toronto and draw between Pittsburgh and Louisville on Saturday puts FC Cincinnati 16 points ahead of the pack. This means that FC Cincinnati cannot finish any lower than second place. With a win over Penn FC Saturday or a Riverhounds draw or loss against Indy, the Eastern Conference crown will belong to Cincinnati. Toronto FC II’s loss keeps them in last place.
Highlight of the Match
While he lost points for the dismount, Adi’s goal was a perfect ten.
The best view you’re gonna get of @fanendo’s goal. 👀
While FCC fought hard to capture all three points, Alan Koch wasn’t too happy about the team’s overall performance. The coach did not mince his words when asked about treating this game as a learning experience and Toronto’s overall game plan.
“No disrespect to Toronto, I thought they came in and they played very well. They had a good game plan—they almost executed it—but we gave a quality player way too much space, first off. And we didn’t play the way we needed to play. Thankfully, we have enough individual and collective class to go out and get a positive result, and at the end of the day that’s the most important thing.”
Stat of the Match
9 – FCC only managed 12 shots to Toronto’s 10, but nine of Cincinnati’s shots (and all four goals) were from inside the box. While Toronto had less shots inside the box, the space left for Endoh gave the team an incredible 50% accuracy from beyond the box.
Much of the starting XI from last week’s match against Lou City started, with Adi and Lahoud replacing Emery Welshman and Fatai Alashe. Matt Bahner returned to the 18 after a few weeks out with a leg injury, but did not see the pitch. The team also did not see a yellow card issued, so there should be no suspensions for their next game.
Adi (75′ König)
Bone – Albadawi (60′ McLaughlin) – Ledesma
Lahoud (70′ Gibson) – Walker
Smith – Lasso – Barrett (c) – Hoyte
FC Cincinnati takes a two-game detour away from Nippert before their last regular-season home game. The Orange & Blue face Penn FC on Saturday at FNB Field with the opportunity to clinch the regular-season title. Penn FC is still fighting for their playoff lives after losing to North Carolina FC 1-0.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.
FC Cincinnati managed to batten down the hatches in Tampa Bay for three points. Here’s some insight on how they weathered the storm.
FC Cincinnati is starting to make a habit of busting the ghosts of their short history. After collecting their first win against Tampa Bay earlier this year, the team finally earned their first goal, point, and win in St. Pete’s. The 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay puts FCC in first by 11 points and almost guarantees post-season play. However, it also reverses a disturbing trend when it comes to the summer.
In the 2016 and 2017 seasons, FC Cincinnati wilted in the summer heat, particularly in August. Under both John Harkes and Alan Koch, the team averaged only 1.0 point per game, but the trend has changed in 2018.
Considering that this year’s August journey took FCC through the heart of the South, escaping the month unscathed with a vital win against Tampa Bay was no easy task. The boys in Orange & Blue had to overcome Mother Nature and a motivated Rowdies squad for these three points.
Absorbing the Impact
As if the weather wasn’t making the game hard enough, FCC had to withstand an onslaught from the Rowdies’ offense. Tampa Bay controlled possession (56%-44%) and passing accuracy (79%-76%) in a game where the pouring rain suggested that control would be a necessity. The heat map alone shows that the Rowdies occupied tons of real estate in the FCC 18-yard-box, whereas FCC barely made a mark in the Rowdies box.
With so much possession in the Cincinnati box, Tampa Bay managed 31 total shots, tied for the most in one game this year. Forward Junior Flemmings alone outshot the entire FCC offense (11 to 7). Tampa Bay even blanked Cincinnati on corner kicks, getting 13 of their own. However, FCC’s ability to clog the box and Evan Newton’s solid goalkeeping kept the damage to a minimum. Tampa Bay only managed 6 shots on target, putting their shot accuracy (19%) well below their season average (40%).
Much of the pressure in the first half came from Flemmings’ ability to penetrate, getting off 8 shots inside the 18-yard-box. However, FCC managed to neutralize Flemmings with Forrest Lasso’s physical frame. The big center back was responsible for 10 of Cincinnati’s 18 clearances in the first half. Considering Flemmings and Lasso tussled a bit in the home game against Tampa Bay, this matchup was highly anticipated.
In the second half, Tampa Bay altered their approach to encourage more attacks on Newton’s right. Cincinnati did a much better job at blocking shots (blue in the image) from that angle, as Paddy Barrett had three of Cincinnati’s 8 second-half blocks. Part of the defense was good fortune and solid blocking. However, the fact that Tampa Bay’s only two shots on goal (green) came from outside the box in the second half suggests that Cincinnati’s ability to pack the box, even after Blake Smith’s red card, succeeded.
Countering the Barrage
It’s clear that Tampa Bay had heavy advantages in offensive numbers. Even without the strong defensive performance, FC Cincinnati quite possibly could and should have lost this game. However, in these cases, it matters how well you can take advantage of the opponent’s momentary lapses and frustration.
For the most part, Tampa Bay had Cincinnati well-covered. Few of the areas in the heat map do not overlap between the two squads. However, all of that coverage led to the first goal. Tampa Bay was well-aware of the danger Emmanuel Ledesma presented, but his first touch drew the entire Tampa Bay back-line up to the top of their own box. With Nazmi Albadawi skirting to Ledesma’s right, the line left Jimmy McLaughlin wide open. Contact in the box, penalty, shot on goal, 1-0.
That first foul on Tampa Bay was the likeliest indication that referee Kevin Broadley wasn’t going to allow play to get too physical. While the Rowdies held a firm advantage in possession, they committed almost twice as many fouls as FCC (23-12). This allowed FCC to squeeze yellow cards out of their opponent to slow the game down in their favor when necessary.
Even when the eventual hammer came down on Blake Smith for time-wasting, Alan Koch managed to settle his club and make a strategic substitution. Pulling Fenando Adi out for Pa Konate, Koch opted for a 4-4-1 formation that stacked the defense. While this did allow the tying goal by Poku at the time, the frustration to score was still producing more yellow cards in Tampa Bay’s disadvantage (8-4).
And that’s where the eventual game-winning play came about. Tampa Bay pulled back in the 80th minute to reset after their goal, only for the defense to lapse at the right side of Daniel Vega again. With both Konate and Jimmy McLaughlin fresher and without cards, their give-and-go allowed Konate to approach the box with less to lose. The eventual foul reduced Tampa Bay’s squad to ten and allowed the winning penalty kick.
Overall, it’s easy to say that this was a mess of a game. The rain did not help anyone. Tampa Bay proved that a stronger team with nothing more to lose could challenge Cincinnati. Had the weather been more cooperative, this could have easily been a statement Rowdies victory.
However, FCC proved to be a team that could read the environment, play with a calmer demeanor, and use the whistle to their advantage. Part of the good fortune, in the end, may have also been the short week—Stefano Bonomo, who had played well since his purchase from New York, was left off the 18-man roster. Still, sometimes you need a little luck to weather a storm.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati’s upcoming clash with Pittsburgh and the rest of the 2018 season.
FC Cincinnati produced their eighth road win of the season on Saturday, in a messy water-logged match at Al Lang Stadium.
FC Cincinnati produced their eighth road win of the season on Saturday in a messy water-logged match at Al Lang Stadium. There they dispatched the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1, courtesy of two Emmanuel Ledesma penalty kick conversions. Before this match, FC Cincinnati had never scored a goal or earned a point against the Rowdies in Florida.
The Orange & Blue were on the scoresheet just two minutes into the contest. Emmanuel Ledesma controlled a long ball from Evan Newton just outside of the box. He feathered a diagonal pass through to Jimmy McLaughlin who was streaking down the left. Afrim Taku clipped McLaughlin’s legs in the box. He went down, and referee Kevin Broadley pointed to the penalty spot. Ledesma converted to the keeper’s left using his customary stutter-step penalty kick technique.
Tampa took control of the match shortly thereafter and created most of the chances in the first half. Evan Newton was up to the task though, and his four first-half saves helped to keep Tampa goalless at the break.
The match dynamics changed in the 62nd minute when FCC fullback Blake Smith was controversially shown a second yellow for time-wasting. Tampa Bay pressed for the equalizer and capitalized on their man advantage 13 minutes later. Kwadwo Poku dribbled across the top of the penalty area and fired a low pulled-back shot through traffic that beat Evan Newton. The score was then 1-1.
The rain-soaked drama didn’t end there. Substitute Pa Konate, a defender who replaced Fanendo Adi after FCC was reduced to 10 men, impacted the match in the 85th minute. He played a give-and-go with Jimmy McLaughlin on the left side and broke free into the box. Rowdies defender Pape Diakite intervened just as Pa reached a ball-stopping puddle in the penalty area. Diakite made contact with the ball, but Konate tumbled over him and looked to the referee. Kevin Broadley awarded a penalty kick, and Ledesma converted his second of the night to give the visitors a late lead.
FC Cincinnati survived nearly nine minutes of stoppage time to escape Tampa with all three points. Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov had a golden chance to equalize before time expired, but chipped the ball over the crossbar.
Final Score: Tampa Bay Rowdies 1 – 2 FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati continues to set the pace in the Eastern Conference and the USL with 57 points. They’ve won 7 of their last 8 and extend their unbeaten streak to 15 games. Louisville City FC is now in second place after a 6-0 victory over the Richmond Kickers. The Orange & Blue are now 11 points clear at the top of the East. Both Louisville and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds have two games in hand.
Highlight of the Match
Emmanuel Ledesma displayed great composure by converting two penalty kicks, but Evan Newton made several key stops to limit Tampa to just one goal. Those saves included this fine play to thwart Junior Flemmings in first half stoppage time.
Alan Koch had the following to say about his team’s gritty victory.
“Tampa were fired up to play, we could tell that they were fighting for their lives, but we’re fighting for our lives too. We’re in a slightly more favorable position right now, but every game is important. . .Tonight’s performance in terms of how we played was not good, in terms of the character, (but) it was very good to get that result.”
Stat of the Match
This match was littered with sloppy tackles, yellow cards, and player ejections. Twelve total cautions were issued on the night including a questionable second yellow to Blake Smith for time-wasting. A second yellow was also issued to Tampa defender Pape Diakite for the tackle that led to Emmanuel Ledesma’s second penalty kick. In fact, all of the USL seemed card-happy on Saturday, as six total red cards were handed out in all competitions.
Fanendo Adi made his first start for FC Cincinnati on Saturday. He was sacrificed in the 67th minute after Blake Smith received his second yellow card. The midfield was anchored by Mike Lahoud and Fatai Alashe. Newton, Smith, Ledesma, and Barrett all returned in to the the starting eleven.
Adi (67′ Konate)
McLaughlin – Albadawi (78′ König) – Ledesma
Alashe (55′ Walker) – Lahoud
Smith – Lasso – Barrett – Hoyte
After three games in eight days, the Orange & Blue get a week’s respite before returning to league play. They will lick some wounds and recover from a physically demanding match in Florida. Eight games remain in the USL regular season, and the next one is a high stakes affair. The Orange & Blue play the third-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Nippert Stadium on Labor Day weekend. Due to their yellow cards, Paddy Barrett and Blake Smith will both miss that game.
Trivia: Orange & Blue Press’ first article covered the 2016 U.S. Open Cup match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang. Here’s how things looked on our site then.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.
FC Cincinnati continues their Southeast road trip as they take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies in St. Petersburg on Saturday. These sides faced each other six weeks ago when FCC secured a convincing 2-0 victory at Nippert. The result was the Orange & Blue’s first victory over the Rowdies, improving to 1-2-1 all time.
FCC will be looking to extend their unbeaten streak to 15 and turn the corner at Al Lang stadium. In their previous two contests they lost 0-2 and 0-3 (2017 playoffs). Fortunately, the road has been a safe place for the Orange & Blue in 2018. Entering Saturday’s match, they are 7-1-3 away from home. In these 11 games, they have earned five clean sheets and posted a plus 10 goal differential.
Tampa Bay were included in most pre-season polls to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With only ten games remaining in their regular season, they are on the outside looking in. The Rowdies currently sit in twelfth place and have only earned six points in the last six games. Following Saturday’s match, they conclude the regular season by playing six of nine on the road.
Since coming over from the Red Bulls in early July, forward Stefano Bonomo has added a spark. In five matches donning the Rowdies kit, the former U.S. Men’s U-18 player has scored three times. He is now tied for the team lead with six goals. However, Tampa Bay has struggled to replace two key creative forces in the midfield. In June, current team assist leader and thorn in FCC’s side, Marcel Schäfer, returned to Germany as the Sporting Director for the Bundesliga club Vfl Wolfsburg. In addition, 2017 NASL Young Player of the Year Jack Blake was loaned to Real Monarchs SLC for the remainder of the 2018 season.
On a short-week, both sides are traveling into Tampa on Thursday (the Rowdies had a come-from-behind draw in Pittsburgh Wednesday evening) and will likely make changes to their game rosters. FCC certainly didn’t need any extra lift while flying, after their emphatic 5-1 thrashing of Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday.
Alan Koch will continue to rotate his squad to keep legs fresh and fine-tune the lineup for the upcoming playoff run. USL MVP-candidate Emmanuel Ledesma is set to return following his one match yellow card accumulation suspension. Fanendo Adi was given the night off in Atlanta and is likely chomping at the bit in anticipation of playing on the manicured Florida grass. Will the Orange & Blue extend their unbeaten streak to 15 games?
Here are five fast facts to get you ready for Saturday’s 7:30 pm away kickoff.
What’s a fast fact section without mentioning Emmanuel Ledesma? Not only is he leading the team with 11 goals and 10 assists, the timing of these achievements have been significant. Ledesma has 4 game-winning tallies and 4 game-winning assists. That’s a ton of potential one-point results that he’s helped secure the full three points.
Interchangeable backline – FC Cincinnati has kept eight clean sheets during their fourteen match unbeaten run (0.57 goals against overall). Of note, the club utilized four different center back and keeper combinations in these eight shutouts, with Justin Hoyte and Blake Smith anchoring the outside fullback spots.
Statistically, these two sides vary greatly. On offense, the Orange & Blue have scored 19 more goals (51 to 32) and created 12 more assists (33 to 21). Additionally, FCC have converted their strike opportunities at a significantly better rate, 20% to 13%. From a defensive angle, FCC has conceded 10 less goals (24 to 34) and has kept six more clean sheets (11 to 5).
Tampa Bay has started 31 different players this season, with only two players exceeding 1,500 total minutes. In contrast, FCC has started 24 different players with eight logging more than 1,500 minutes. Corben “Ironman” Bone leads the team in starts (23), games played (all 25) and minutes (2,018).
The Orange & Blue’s five goals in Atlanta set a new club record for goals in a match. With his brace, Nazmi Albadawi raises his season tally to nine. This places three FCC players (Ledesma, König and Albadawi) in the top 25 for goals scored this season (best in the USL).
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
FC Cincinnati wraps up a six-game home stand Saturday as they host the Charleston Battery in the battle of recent unbeaten streaks.
FC Cincinnati concludes a six-game home stretch on Saturday when they host the Charleston Battery at Nippert Stadium. FCC is 1-3-2 all time versus the Battery and have never beaten them at home.
Saturday’s showdown is arguably one of the marquee matches of the entire 2018 Eastern Conference schedule. Conference leaders FC Cincinnati enter the game on a 12-match unbeaten run, tops in franchise history. The Battery, sitting five points behind in third, bring their own 11-game unbeaten streak into the contest. Between the two sides, neither team has lost in over two months. Moreover, Charleston plays tough on the road, having drawn seven of their twelve away matches (3-2-7).
Adding fuel to the fire, Charleston is still stinging from the season opening 0-1 loss to FCC in March. There’s no controversy in saying the Battery out-played FC Cincinnati that day. Thanks to Evan Newton’s remarkable game in goal, he kept the home side off the score sheet. Blake Smith’s goal that evening allowed FCC to beat the Battery for the first time ever.
Likewise, FCC have their own axe to grind. It was CB93 that dealt the Orange & Blue the disappointing home playoff loss that cut their inaugural 2016 season short. Even though the club has turned the roster over quite a bit since then, the significance of Saturday’s match is firmly on both team’s minds. This match has been circled on Charleston’s calendar since March.
Although unbeaten in twelve, the Orange & Blue enter Saturday’s tilt in far from their best form. The new player signees and arrivals have added intrigue and promise for the USL Cup run and MLS future. However, the play on the field has not reciprocated of late. FCC will have their hands full with the front three for the Battery, led by Trinidad & Tobago international Ataulla Guerra. Guerra comes into the match with 12 goals, sitting two behind the current league Golden Boot leader. Expect a heavy dose of high pressure applied to the FCC back line.
Not to be outdone by their attack, the Battery’s strength this season has been their defense. They enter Saturday’s match with five straight clean sheets and have conceded only 19 goals all year (third best in the league). Their defense is led by captain Taylor Mueller and Neveal Hackshaw, each logging over 2,000 minutes played this season.
Alan Koch may elect to change the formation once again and return to a 4-2-3-1 line-up utilizing the team’s depth at central defensive midfield. This should provide cover for the defensive unit and help control possession through the midfield. Koch has stated that everyone minus Richie Ryan (leg injury) should be available for selection. Could this be the match we witness Fanendo Adi’s first start in an Orange & Blue kit?
Here are five fast facts to get you ready for Saturday’s 7:30pm kickoff.
With his game-winning goal Sunday, Emmanuel Ledesma is the first USL player to reach 10 goals and 10 assists this season. Ledesma is only the second USL player ever to record a double-double in a single season. Manu has his eye on breaking the single season USL assist record of 12.
Defensive stalwarts – both teams enter the match with double digit clean sheets. The Battery have recorded 12 in total (second best in the USL), FCC enters the match with 10 (tied for fifth best). Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky has conceded only 10 goals with an 81.1% save rate (best in the USL). For the Orange & Blue, Evan Newton has allowed 14 goals with a 76.3% save percentage (fourth best). Both keepers have 17 starts this season.
Charleston has two players in the USL top 12 for total passes, Tah Anunga (1,202) and Neveal Hackshaw (1,194). Corben Bone is the only FCC player who has registered over 1,000 passes this season (1,045). All three players currently eclipse the 50 passes per 90 minutes plateau.
Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser will be going for his 200th career USL win. “Augie” has been with the club as a player, assistant coach, and head coach for 25 years. Let’s plan on holding off on this career achievement one more week.
Danni König’s ten goals this season ties him for the team lead and ninth overall in the league. Of note, Danni leads all double-digit scorers with a 40% conversion rate (goals divided by total shots excluding blocks). In addition, he’s third best among this group in frequency of goals, scoring one in every 128 minutes played.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus Charleston Battery.