Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Charlotte Independence

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

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Design: CSDIV / Images:Joe Craven

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

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

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

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

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

Fast Facts

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

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

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

USL Eastern Conference Snapshot

With four weeks of the USL regular season in the books, let’s take a snapshot of the Eastern Conference, acknowledge the leaders, and highlight the surprises.

Periodically this season, Orange & Blue Press will take a snapshot and recap major USL Eastern Conference happenings with an eye on FC Cincinnati’s competition and postseason run.

If you’ve been solely focused on FC Cincinnati so far this season, you may have missed all the offseason USL changes. The Eastern Conference expanded to sixteen teams this season. Joining MLS bound Nashville SC are FCC’s new I-74 rival and former NASL side Indy Eleven, North Carolina FC (formerly the NASL Carolina Railhawks), and the Atlanta United 2 squad. The Harrisburg City Islanders re-branded as Penn FC. Both the Rochester Rhinos and Orlando City B teams are taking a hiatus. Additionally, Saint Louis FC has moved to the Western Conference. In typical U.S. sports fashion, one-half of the sixteen USL Eastern Conference teams will make the playoffs.

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2018 USL Conference Alignment

Four Weeks In

The opening few weeks have had no shortage of action and early season drama. Here are three early-season takeaways:

  • The defending USL champions, Louisville City FC, are still the side to beat in 2018. James O’Connor has his squad playing compact and efficient soccer. They have already beaten and blanked playoff hopefuls Nashville SC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and FC Cincinnati.
  • Two USL Player of the Month (“POTM”) honorees for March come from the East. First, the ageless Colombian Jorge Herrera netted four goals for the Charlotte Independence. Next, FCC’s Evan Newton has already taken home two USL save of the week honors and was just chosen the fans USL save of the month. Through the end of fan voting Monday, Newton tallied the most POTM fan votes, but this makes up only 51% of the poll. The USL Technical Committee (25%) and USL National Media Panel (24%) ballots round out the equation. Final results will be announced on Thursday.
  • As seen in the Eastern Conference tables below, separation is already occurring between the hopefuls and the laggards. Three teams have failed to earn a point – North Carolina FC, TFCII, and Ottawa Fury F.C, although it is still early in the season.

Surprises

The surprise developments over the first few weeks of action include:

  • Charlotte Independence, the “Jacks” as their fanbase refer to them, unexpectedly sits in 3rd place overall with 7 points. Charlotte came out of the gate in full stride winning their first two 2018 contests. The Jacks have started to roll back down the hill with only one point earned in their past two matches. Could their hot start be the result of early season winnable home fixtures?
  • Tommy Heinemann, the dynamic striker FC Cincinnati signed and then released, joined Penn FC on March 29th. Tommy notched his first goal for the newly branded side on Sunday, but his mysterious start to the 2018 season continued as he was subbed off in the 49th minute. There appeared to be no apparent contact but he raised his hand and limped off the pitch. Where will this intriguing story go next?
  • Nashville SC’s home attendance. The Fighting Six Strings drew a very strong crowd of 18,922 to their USL home opener at Nissan Stadium. However, this past weekend they could only find 7,487 fans in the Nashville market to fill the seats at First Tennessee Park (capacity of 10,000). That’s disappointing second home game support from the MLS starlet.

Conference Leaders

Table Watch

Orange and Blue Press writer Geoff Tebbetts took a shot at his prognostication abilities last month in 2018 USL Season Preview: Five Teams to Challenge FCC. Let’s check-in and see how his analysis is faring by looking at the standings based on points per match. The teams he tipped look pretty good so far, with Louisville, Tampa, Indy, and FCC all in the top 4.

Stay tuned for additional Orange and Blue Press coverage and analytical insight as we gear up for the Bethlehem Steel FC match.

Charlotte Independence 3 – FC Cincinnati 2 – Recap Roundup

FC Cincinnati was dealt a heartbreaking road loss at the hands of the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday evening.

Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Independence

FC Cincinnati was dealt a heartbreaking road loss at the hands of the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday evening. The game was tied at 2-2 in the 85th minute when a Charlotte free kick delivered by Jorge Herrera was redirected into the Orange and Blue’s own net by FC Cincinnati defender Paul Nicholson. Adding insult to injury, the Independence were playing with only 10 men at the time the goal was scored. Charlotte defender Bilal Duckett had been sent off earlier in the second half for a second yellow card offense. Andrew Wiedeman and Sean Okoli scored the two goals for FC Cincinnati. Both FCC goals came as equalizers after Charlotte had taken the lead.

For play-by-play details of the game’s events, turn your attention to the following sources:
FC Cincinnati Official
USL
Cincinnati Soccer Talk
Enquirer
Charlotte Post

Despite the loss, FC Cincinnati claimed the Queen City Cup on away goals. The trophy was awarded to the team with the best results over the two legs played between FC Cincinnati and Charlotte this season. FC Cincinnati defeated the Independence by a score of 2-1 at Nippert on April 9th. The cup win seems like a small consolation for FC Cincinnati after losing two matches in a row for the first time in the club’s short history. Harkes’ men will return home to Nippert on Monday for a Labor Day fixture against the Western Conference’s Saint Louis FC. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more analysis, stats and color commentary on Wednesday’s result.