The Impact of Five Signings on the Senior Roster and Expansion Draft

After the announcement of five player signings from the 2018 USL roster, FC Cincinnati’s positional needs in the Expansion Draft become more clear.

Yesterday FC Cincinnati posted the following “Home for the Holidays” message across their social media platforms.

Today the meaning of these “Good tidings” was made clear to all. FC Cincinnati officially announced the MLS signings of the following five returning ULS players.

The timing of these roster moves was certainly strategic. They occurred a day after the league blackout period and the day before the Expansion Draft. The curious and highly debated direction of the team as they head into their inaugural MLS campaign is now clear.

So where does this leave FCC’s roster going into tomorrow’s draft? Below is an updated Senior Roster showing that 11 of the possible 20 spots are filled by returning players.

FC Cincinnati Senior Roster Matrix

Our recent roster building and preparing for the Expansion Draft article highlights positional needs. The updated matrix above shows obvious player gaps in the goalkeeper, central defender, fullback, central defensive midfield and winger positions. This chart may foretell the direction FC Cincinnati takes on Tuesday in New York.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as we highlight eligible Expansion Draft players that may fit these needs. 

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.

FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 Indy Eleven: USL Attendance Record, Fan Appreciation Night, and Silverware Celebration

FC Cincinnati closed out their USL regular season with a new attendance record and a 21-game unbeaten streak.

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

What a night at Nippert! On Fan Appreciation Night and for the regular season home finale, FC Cincinnati surpassed their previous USL regular-season attendance record in front of 31,478 exuberant fans. The Orange & Blue extended their league record winning-streak to 10 in a row and are now 21 games unbeaten, one game from tying the USL record set by Richmond during the 2013 season. FCC has now gone 126 days without a loss.

The FCC fans came ready to party in anticipation of the USL regular-season championship hardware celebration, and the squad didn’t disappoint them, earning an emphatic regular season clean-sweep over their I-74 rivals, Indy Eleven.

Both teams started the match in a probing and lively fashion. Following several excellent saves by Evan Newton in the first twenty-five minutes, FCC found their offensive groove. The breakthrough occurred in the 34th minute. Following some wonderful combination play by Michael Lahoud, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Pa Konate, Jimmy played a square ball to a wide-open Fanendo Adi.  Adi turned, took a dribble, and struck a bullet from the top of the box. The shot deflected off of a defender, then off Owain Fôn Williams’ outstretched hands and into the back of the net. FC Cincinnati took the one-nil advantage into the half.

The Orange & Blue controlled the second half and wore the Eleven starters down. In the 65th minute, a timely Tyler Gibson block quickly turned into a counter attack for FCC. Jimmy played a beautiful long ball over the top of the Indy back line. Danni König out-legged the Indy defense and out-smarted Fôn Williams for his 11th goal of the season, and a second assist of the night for McLaughlin.

FC Cincinnati padded their cushion and put the match away in the 74th minute. Russell Cicerone blasted a shot that grazed off of Indy defender Carlyle Mitchell’s boot and past Fôn Williams. Evan Newton and the back-line were able to record the team’s 13th clean sheet of the season.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 Indy Eleven

Standings Update:

Another match, another three points. Although the Orange & Blue have already secured the regular-season championship and will host each playoff match, there is still reason to keep an eye on the Eastern Conference standings. Pay attention to the teams that are currently positioned in the 6th to 10th spots. FC Cincinnati will host the 8th place team in the first round of the playoffs October 20th.

Highlight of the Match

There were many highlights to choose from this evening between 3 quality goals and 5 deserving saves by Newton. But the highlight of the match came after the match when the team and coaching staff were able to lift the USL 2018 Regular-Season Champions Silverware.

Image: Ryan Meyer

Quote of the Match

Alan Koch had the following to say at the conclusion of tonight’s match.

Fun game tonight. I don’t think it would be as enjoyable celebrating a regular-season championship if we didn’t go out and get a positive result against a very good team tonight. . . I said to the guys, ‘Go out and enjoy it tonight.’ We obviously enjoyed it Wednesday. We get to enjoy it together tonight with everybody’ . . .We’re going to give [the players] a few days off and then we come back and have the last two games and every day of training to prepare ourselves for the postseason.

Stat of the Match

56% – FC Cincinnati placed 5 of 9 shots on target, three of which found the back of the net. FCC’s 56% shooting accuracy out-classed Indy Eleven’s 25% accuracy (5 of 20 shots on target) and improved their own season shooting accuracy to 49.7%.

Who Started?

Alan Koch made 10 changes from the side that clinched the USL Regular-Season Championship at Richmond earlier this week. Only goalkeeper Evan Newton remained in the starting XI from Wednesday. Every field position rotated this evening without missing a beat in Koch’s 4-4-2 formation.

Adi (88′ Ameobi) – König
McLaughlin – Lahoud – Gibson – Cicerone
Konate (53′ Smith) – de Wit – Keinan (C) – Bahner
Newton

What’s Next?

FC Cincinnati closes out their 2018 regular season on the the road visiting Pittsburgh on October 6th and Nashville October 13th. The next match at Nippert will be an Orange & Blue first-round playoff match on Saturday, October 20th at 4 pm.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season and the run to the 2018 USL Cup.

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

#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

Indy Eleven 2 – 3 FC Cincinnati: Rotation Reaps Hoosier State Rewards

FC Cincinnati tested their squad depth on Wednesday and earned an impressive 3-2 road victory against Indy Eleven at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Indy 5.2_Match Recap
Design: Connor Paquette / Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati tested their squad depth on Wednesday and earned an impressive 3-2 road victory against Indy Eleven at Lucas Oil Stadium. The victory was their fourth this season in five matches played away from Nippert Stadium.

Each team snagged a pair of goals in a back-and-forth first half. The Orange & Blue were awarded an early penalty kick in the sixth minute when Emery Welshman was fouled by defender Carlyle Mitchell in the box. Kenney Walker converted the ensuing penalty kick, claiming a small slice of revenge after an unpleasant visit to Lucas Oil in March.

Shortly thereafter, the home side scored two goals in seven minutes to reclaim the lead. Jack McInerney grabbed a stray back-pass by Walker in the 24th minute and got his own rebound from a Spencer Richey save to make it 1-1. The second of Indy’s two goals was a penalty kick awarded against Paddy Barrett, despite seemingly little contact between the Irishman and Soony Saad. However, five minutes before halftime, Jimmy McLaughlin leveled the score at 2-2, finishing off a beautiful slice of buildup play between himself, Corben Bone, and Emery Welshman.

FC Cincinnati played a compelling second half, controlling a fair share possession and creating quality chances throughout. Their efforts paid dividends in the 54th minute when Corben Bone placed a manicured strike past Indy goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams from 20 yards out. The goal was assisted by midfielder Mike Lahoud, who claimed his first start in an FCC jersey this season.

The 3-2 lead would stand for the duration of the contest despite some late pressure from the Eleven. Manu Ledesma, Will Seymore, and Tomi Ameobi all came on as substitutes and got their hands dirty putting the game to bed. Final score: Indy Eleven 2 – 3 FC Cincinnati.

Key Events

7′ – GOAL – CIN – Kenney Walker (PK)
24′ – GOAL – IND – Jack McInerney
30′ – GOAL – IND – Ayoze (PK)
41′ – GOAL – CIN – Jimmy McLaughlin (assist Corben Bone)
54′ – GOAL – CIN – Corben Bone (assist Mike Lahoud)
60′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Forrest Lasso
72′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Emery Welshman
75′ – YELLOW CARD – CIN – Kenney Walker
88′ – YELLOW CARD – IND – Ayoze

Match Notes

The result takes FC Cincinnati to 14 points and moves them up to the lofty heights of second place in the Eastern Conference after seven matches played. Indy Eleven remains in seventh place on ten points.

FCC featured a rotated roster that included six changes to the squad that earned a 3-0 victory against Ottawa Fury FC. Emery Welshman, Jimmy McLaughlin, Daniel Haber, Mike Lahoud, Matt Bahner, and Paddy Barrett all entered the fray as starters in this contest.

Starting XI

Welshman (86′ Ameobi)
McLaughlin – Bone (81′ Seymore) – Haber (67′ Ledesma)
Lahoud – Walker
Smith – Lasso – Barrett – Bahner
Richey

Barrett and Lahoud received their first starts of the 2018 season. Nazmi Albadawi, Richey Ryan, and Evan Newton all missed the match with minor injuries.

FC Cincinnati “inaugurals”, players that featured on the 2016 roster, scored all three goals on Wednesday.

Alan Koch’s goatee is 2-0 this season and is, in part, responsible for six FC Cincinnati goals.

What’s Next?

The Orange and Blue head back home to Nippert Stadium for their third match in eight days. They’ll face Atlanta United 2 for the first time ever in a 7 pm Saturday kickoff in the Queen City. The USL newcomers have talent on their roster but are winless in their last five games. Alan Koch and company will be looking for maximum points and their first home win of 2018 this weekend.

Check in tomorrow for more analysis of Wednesday’s result and also stay tuned for our Match Program preview of FC Cincinnati versus Atlanta United 2.

Indy 5.2_Match Recap

FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 Louisville City FC: Deeper Cuts

In our Deeper Cuts segment we dive deeper into the statistics from FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 loss to Louisville City FC in the home opener.

While the fans were able to finally welcome FC Cincinnati home to Nippert Stadium for the all-important first clash against Louisville City, the Orange & Blue dropped a disappointing 1-0 decision to the defending USL champions. FCC dictated pace and play, especially in the second half, owning the numbers game over Lou City. However, the statistics also indicate that FC Cincinnati could not capitalize on the offensive side of the ball.

Let’s dive deeper into the numbers and consider the Orange & Blue’s approach in their next game against LCFC.

Reversing Fortune

Over the first two games of the season, FCC got out to an early lead, then held the defensive line for the final 60 minutes or so. But Lou City managed to do the defending in Saturday’s match. They jumped out to a quick lead by playing the ball deep to the end line and depending on clutter in the box to get the goal.

Lou City did this a few times to start the game, but once the lead was taken, they were content to fall back and dare FCC to beat them offensively. The heat maps and possession numbers (55% to 45%) indicate that FCC won the possession battle by the end of the game. However, the heat maps also show that Louisville owned the ball more in their own box later in the game and kept FCC from penetrating too deeply.

FCC LOU 1st
FCC (left) and LCFC heat maps in the 1st half

FCC LOU 2nd
FCC (left) and LCFC heat maps in the 2nd half

With Luke Spencer out of the lineup, Lou City played a 3-4-3 formation. This put early pressure on the FCC defense and allowed the midfielders to pull back in the second half. The clearances showed just how anxious Lou City was to play keep-away, owning a 44-16 advantage in that statistic. Defenseman Paco Craig alone had 13, including the goal line clearance in the first half that kept the 1-0 lead.

Pushing through

For the most part, FCC did a good job in keeping possession of the ball and controlling the stats when it came to duels (52% to 48%) and passing accuracy (83% to 77%). However, one unseen set of numbers was not in FCC’s favor—dribbling.

A successful dribble is defined as one where a player has the ball and is able to beat the defender while retaining possession. FCC managed to dominate that statistic, successful 10 times to Lou City’s 5. However, FCC also lost the dribble 10 times (as shown in the red triangles), while Lou City lost it only once. While FCC was doing well to challenge the defense and get around them, they were only successful half the time.

FCC LOU Dribble

This may be a minor development since FCC was willing to challenge the defenders in the first place. However, a lot of those unsuccessful dribbles were lost and cleared around the Lou City box. No matter how many passes they put together, FCC couldn’t get past the last line of defense.

Finishing the job

In general, while FC Cincinnati enjoyed plenty of runs at the Lou City box, the team could not put the finishing touch past Lou City’s defense and goalkeeper. They hammered 16 shots at goal in the game, but only managed three on target, all in the first half. Much of the rest of the attacks on frame flew astray.

While there was a ton of pressure put on Louisville City late in the game, the crossing passes were not on target. FC Cincinnati launched 37 crosses in the game to Louisville’s 10, but only 6 hit their mark. As the game got closer to the end, FCC resorted to a constant barrage of crosses from Lance Laing and Jimmy McLaughlin on the left, but very few found their mark.

FCC LOU Cross

Perhaps the cross selection got a bit predictable and allowed the Louisville back line to settle in place. Maybe Kenney Walker’s absence forced play too far to the edges. Perhaps the switch to a two-man midfield made the middle approach obsolete. Regardless, Lou City appeared more comfortable parrying the crosses, as FCC’s approaches tended to be late.

Despite all of the unsuccessful crosses and shots, FCC kept the game manageable for the full 90. Louisville showed their cards as a team that will rely heavily on a defensive front, especially when their offense is depleted. However, FCC is in a very similar “defensive-ball” situation. Until the offense leans more on passes within the box and less on deep crosses, you can expect more 1-0 games in the future.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for all of your upcoming FC Cincinnati coverage.

FC Cincinnati’s #10 role, Goalkeeping Wall, and Team Two Standout

Putting the Indy Eleven result in preseason context, plus more on Newton, Bone, and Haber as the preseason schedule takes a turn for Cincinnati.

MGW_5677

There are just over three weeks left of preseason before FC Cincinnati’s March 17 “Groundhog Day” opener against the Charleston Battery. Here are a few thoughts to wrap up the week after reflecting on the 2-1 preseason rehearsal against Indy Eleven.

The Result

Results don’t mean much in preseason, and that certainly applies to Thursday’s match, but the win is good for confidence. Both 11-man squads found the back of the net, and the second squad won the game after conceding early, so there are plenty of positives to take away.

It’s worth noting, however, that Indy had plenty of scoring chances of their own, mostly via the counter-attack. If they had been more clinical in front of goal, Indy would have certainly scored more than once. They’re also not as far along in their preseason—Jack McInearny and Soony Saad had just signed this week, and Indy only landed their head coach about a month ago. It’s preseason. Enough said.

Corben as #10

Mr. Bone’s preseason form to date has been notable. The Plano, TX native scored the lone goal against New England in the first preseason match. He also started in the #10 role (central attacking midfield behind the forward) vs. Tampa Bay, and against the Eleven yesterday he got 60 minutes in that same position.

A lot of preseason speculators gifted that role to Nazmi Albadawi, but FC Cincinnati’s #19 is certainly making his case to Alan Koch. Keep an eye on this space over the next four local matches, especially in the two against USL competition. Nazmi certainly has plenty of time to claim a playmaking role, and as a new member of the squad, he probably isn’t as settled yet into the team and the environment here in Cincinnati.

One can also make the case that there should be a fair bit of rotation between Bone, Albadawi, Walker, and Ryan in the central midfield roles. Three of those four players are 29 years old or older, so having depth in central midfield over the course of a long campaign will be important.

Newton Is a Wall

All three goalkeepers are looking good so far, but Evan Newton continues to impress. The former Sacramento Republic netminder had three key saves in the first 60 minutes to keep a clean sheet for his unit. So far this preseason, despite the fact that wins don’t mean much yet, Newton has yet to surrender a goal in the three games he has appeared.

Furthermore, FC Cincinnati’s goalkeeping trio has looked sharp and prepared each time out. All three have only conceded two total goals this preseason, with the second being a penalty kick that was just out of Spencer Richey’s reach yesterday. Jack Stern’s energetic style is infectious and seems to have created quick bonds between the three goalkeepers. They are a bright spot so far this preseason.

Haber Shines on the Second Team

Daniel Haber put his name on the scoresheet in emphatic fashion yesterday. The 25-year-old Canadian winger should have netted twice during his 30 minutes—not only did he score the winning goal from a feed from Matt Bahner, but he put a good chance over the crossbar in the 87th.

Haber is one we called out at the beginning of Phase Two as a player to watch. There’s a lot of competition for places on the wing and there are some heavy hitters ahead of him. However, Haber looks primed to push those veterans for minutes in March and the USL regular season. Additionally, FC Cincinnati needs dynamic substitutes with scoring ability that can change a game. Haber should certainly be able to fill that role if he can’t battle his way into a regular starting position.

So that’s a wrap for the traveling portion of FC Cincinnati’s eight-match preseason slate. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the 2018 preseason including next Tuesday’s friendly against NKU.

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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.

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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.

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FC Cincinnati 3 – 1 Ottawa Fury FC: Four Numbers That Mattered

Seeking to right the ship, FC Cincinnati halted their slump with a convincing victory over Ottawa Fury at Nippert Stadium.

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Meyer / Ryan Meyer Photography

After two USL road losses that left FC Cincinnati embarrassed and looking for answers, the boys in Orange & Blue rebounded on a short week. They turned in arguably their best bounce-back performance of the season, beating the Ottawa Fury 3-1 in front of 20,058 at Nippert Stadium.

Resorting back to a 3-4-3 formation to match Ottawa’s own, coach Alan Koch leaned on returning players to give others a breather—Tyler Polak returned to the Starting XI for the first time since spraining his foot against Louisville July 15th, and both Kenney Walker and Sem de Wit returned after serving one-game suspensions.

After thirty minutes trying to find their form and letting Ottawa be the more physical team, FCC produced a physical presence of their own. Danni König snaked around his defender and tapped home a left-footed cross from Polak in the 34th minute to give FCC an early 1-0 lead.

Ottawa pressed their offensive line a bit harder after the goal, almost equalizing in the 39th minute. A Steevan dos Santos deflection was kept out of goal, parried acrobatically off the goal line by Harrison Delbridge. The pressure from Ottawa led to a perfect counterattack opportunity in the 42nd minute. König redirected a midfield pass to a streaking Jimmy McLaughlin, who deposited a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Callum Irving for a 2-0 lead at halftime (and an entertaining ode to Robbie Keane in his goal celebration).

The hits kept coming in the second half as FCC capitalized from Ottawa fouls. Fury FC failed to clear a Polak set piece from the right in the 57th minute. It found Sem de Wit’s left foot to give FC Cincinnati a 3-0 lead—the Dutchman’s first professional goal of his career.

With a lead that felt almost too comfortable, FC Cincinnati had to survive a barrage of shots in the remaining 30 minutes. A 63rd-minute goal from dos Santos skirted past Mitch Hildebrandt to make the game 3-1, but the goalkeeper returned to form with sprawling saves in the 81st and 92nd minutes to seal the deal.

FC Cincinnati’s win lifts them to 9-9-7 (34 points) and sixth place, while Ottawa falls to 7-9-7 (28 points).

Four Numbers That Mattered

+10 – FCC’s advantage in clearances (27 to Ottawa’s 17). Having built a large lead after 60 minutes, FCC demonstrated a clear ability to keep the ball away from the aggressive Ottawa front line. While Ottawa led in possession, passing accuracy, and shots on target, FC Cincinnati used a bend-not-break approach for the rest of the game—22 of Cincinnati’s 27 clearances came in the second half.

9 – The number of goals scored by Danni König this year. While FCC may not be scoring at the clip Jeff Berding had hoped for at the start of the year, the team has found its dual threat. König has assembled a bounce-back season after scoring 21 goals in 2015 and only 5 last year. Perhaps King König likes home cooking—8 of his 9 goals have come at Nippert.

20,058 – The number of FC Cincinnati fans in the stands on a Wednesday during the first week of school. Fans could have easily sat this one out, but tonight’s draw not only keeps the average attendance over 20K, but indicates that faith has not been lost yet. Home field advantage has given FCC 26 total points over 14 games, compared to only 8 over 11 away games.

10 – The number of days until FC Cincinnati’s next game (September 2nd vs. Pittsburgh). This is the team’s longest breather of the year, and it may be coming at the right time. Last year, FCC went 4-0-1 down the stretch in September, and they’ll need fresh legs and bodies to repeat their form this September.

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

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Cheat Sheet: FC Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls II

An information graphic provides the vital details for Saturday’s match between FC Cincinnati and New York Red Bulls II.

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Photo courtesy JES Photography / Joe Schmuck

Just four days after facing-off with the MLS edition of New York Red Bulls, FC Cincinnati heads to Montclair, New Jersey to take on New York Red Bulls II, the USL counterpart.

This is the first meeting between these two sides in 2017. FC Cincinnati lost twice to Red Bulls II last season. The last time these teams met resulted in a 2-0 defeat for the Orange and Blue at Red Bull Arena. It was a match marred by VAR controversy. Mitch Hildebrandt was shown an early red card in that match, but his suspension was subsequently overturned by USL.

Red Bulls II are the reigning USL champions, although key departures have made them less potent in 2017. Three players from the 2016 Baby Bulls roster, Aaron Long, Ryan Meara, and Derrick Etienne, Jr. are now with the first team and featured against FCC in the US Open Cup on Tuesday.

Alan Koch’s side currently sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference on 31 points. NYRBII slots in two places and three league points behind them in ninth. Both teams have played 23 matches.

FC Cincinnati will be without both Kenney Walker and Sem De Wit for this match. Walker picked up his fifth yellow card of the season last Saturday and is therefore suspended for accumulation. De Wit saw red against Louisville City and therefore must also sit out of Saturday’s contest.

In addition to the suspensions, roster rotation is expected as many of the regular starters played against Louisville City and the MLS Red Bulls already this week. Djiby and Kyle Greig are available after missing out on Wednesday’s US Open Cup match.

Red Bulls II are also likely to be without some key players as the first team calls in reinforcements following Tuesday’s grueling US Open Cup match. Names like Bezecourt, Basuljevic, and Metzger, who all have played substantial minutes with NYRBII, could be with the first team. Also note that leading goalscorer Brandon Allen was loaned out to Minnesota United in July.

Also, listen to Michael Walker from O&B Press recap the USOC Semifinal and preview Saturday’s match against NYBRII on the Raising Bulls Podcast.

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Here are four fast facts that will make you an exceptionally well-prepared fan for Saturday’s USL clash.

  • FC Cincinnati is 1-1-3 in games following a midweek US Open Cup match. The single match they won was against Bethlehem Steel at Nippert three days after dispatching AFC Cleveland on May 17th.
  • The Baby Bulls have conceded a lot of goals this USL season. In fact, they’ve given up 11 more goals than FC Cincinnati after 23 matches. However, Alan Koch’s side has hit their own defensive rough patch, conceding ten goals in their last three league games. Compare that to NYRBII’s four goals allowed over the same stretch.
  • Red Bulls II striker Stefano Bonomo missed the first half of the season through injury, but has returned in good form, scoring three goals in the last three matches.
  • Jimmy McLaughlin has a good chance to be selected on Saturday, after playing a substitute role in the past two games. He’s second in the team in chances created (27), and leads the team in crossing accuracy (29%) for players with 10 crosses or more. His service will be needed to feed Djiby and Kyle Greig in attack.

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

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