Deeper Cuts: Possession in the Final Third, Captain Hoyte, Cup Competitions Loom

A two-game road trip before the Gold Cup break started with a thud for FC Cincinnati. A 3-1 loss in the Centennial State…

Photo Credit: Paul-Michael Ochoa / FC Cincinnati

A two-game road trip before the Gold Cup break started with a thud for FC Cincinnati on Saturday. A 3-1 loss to Colorado in the Centennial State leaves the Orange & Blue with the lowest point total in MLS as they near the midway point of the 2019 season.

Possession in the Final Third

Some may be surprised that FCC maintained a 60%-40% possession* advantage over the Rapids Saturday, their highest possession total this season. However, a closer look suggests that not all possession numbers are created equal, and a more telling metric is possession in the final (offensive) third of the field.

The chart below shows total passes by each team split between the defensive, middle, and offensive thirds of the field. Colorado’s numbers are on the left (orange) and FC Cincinnati’s are on the right (blue).

Graphic via whoscored.com

The Rapids actually completed one more pass than FC Cincinnati in the final third over the 90+ minutes. These numbers highlight that, despite FC Cincinnati’s overall possession advantage, Colorado actually had slightly more possession in their offensive third. 77% of FCC’s possession was held in the non-threatening defensive and middle third.

In another match on Saturday, the New York Red Bulls had a clear advantage in overall possession as well, 62% against Real Salt Lake. However, New York registered a much higher 39% of their possession in the final third in comparison to FC Cincinnati’s 23%. FCC created 8 non-blocked shots against Colorado with that 23%, and only 1 of the 4 on target was a goal. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls created 16 non-blocked shots against RSL, and 4 out of the 9 on target found the back of the net.

Possession even in non-threatening positions does limit the time the opponent has with the ball, which is obviously a good thing. It’s also the platform for the attack, but a team still has to create the chances and convert them.

To keep the short story short, overall possession doesn’t tell much on its own without assessing where possession was held and whether it led to a proportionate number of goal-scoring opportunities.

Hoyte as Captain

Justin Hoyte wore the armband on Saturday in place of the suspended Kendall Waston, who is now on his way to Gold Cup duty for Costa Rica. Hoyte tallied the third-most passes on the team (74) and completed them with a remarkable 96% passing accuracy.

While his passing numbers are nice, the defense’s primary role is to keep the ball out of the back of the net, and that didn’t go so well. Hoyte reflected those sentiments in his post-match comments.

“It’s just disappointing. First half, we’ve done okay in the first 15, 20 minutes, and then we are not sure what happened. Second half, we gave away some silly goals. It was good to come back one-one, and then to concede a goal straight away after we have scored is not good enough. It is just disappointing. We just have to reflect on our performance and we must do better as a team.”

The directness of Hoyte’s comments are refreshing, and they ring more true than narratives about the team being unlucky or not getting rewarded for hard work.

Cup Competitions Looming

The CONCACAF Gold Cup starts in less than two weeks. The group stage begins on June 15th and lasts until the 28th. The knockout stage then extends from June 29th to July 7th.

Key members of the Orange & Blue, including Kendall Waston, Allan Cruz, Darren Mattocks and Alvas Powell, will therefore be unavailable, as soon as Thursday’s contest against NYCFC.

Yoann Damet will have to roll out some makeshift squads during that time-period especially if the injury list doesn’t getter shorter soon. Leo Bertone, Fatai Alashe, Kenny Saief, Przemysław Tytoń, and Greg Garza have all been injuried or ill for multiple games and there’s no clear indication they will return soon.

Of course, these roster limitation will impact FCC for the start of their participation in the U.S. Open Cup. Given the thin squad, it stands to reason that fans will see some of the less-experienced faces for the matchup with rival Louisville City FC, maybe even appearances by SuperDraft picks like Rashawn Dally and Tommy McCabe. That contest is scheduled for Wednesday, June 12th.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS season.

*Possession definition – During the game, the passes for each team are totaled. Then each team’s total is divided by the game total to produce a percentage figure which shows the percentage of the game that each team has accrued in possession of the ball.

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 Defensive Fortress – 2018’s Unsung Hero

The glory and accolades seem to favor the goal scorers, but the FC Cincinnati defense it the unsung hero of the 2018 season.

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Image: Joe Craven

With FC Cincinnati pulling away from the pack in the East, it’s clear they’ve found winning form this season. The offensive explosion this season has produced 56 goals to date, compared to 46 for the entire 2017 season. Those goals have helped produce an impressive 67.9% win rate. With only three losses in 28 games this season, there’s another factor at work here — a tough, organized, and efficient defense.

The Orange & Blue have remained unbeaten since May 26th with a 13-0-4 record. During the 17 game unbeaten streak they’ve recorded nine clean sheets and conceded 11 goals.  For the season they currently stand fifth best in all of USL keeping opponents scoreless in 12 matches. The 1-0 blanking of Louisville City FC showcased FCC’s defensive fortitude as last year’s USL champions threw the kitchen sink at FCC’s goal. A barrage of 43 crosses and 19 total scoring attempts resulted in only 5 shots on target for LCFC. These performances have been the norm for the FC Cincinnati defenders throughout the season and will be essential to success in the postseason.

The Orange and Blue Stronghold

The addition of key players this season has proved the difference maker all over the field. The defensive unit is evidence of coach Alan Koch’s commitment to building a championship squad. The center backs continue to impress with Dekel Keinan, Forrest Lasso, and Paddy Barrett sharing the duties of anchoring the back line. These additions have become a staple of the starting 11 this year. The outside of the defense has also had new additions. Blake Smith has seen significant playing time and newly acquired Pa Konate adds speed, depth, and Serie A credentials. Returning players Justin Hoyte, Matt Bahner, and Sam Dewitt round out the Orange and Blue’s concrete barrier. With Bahner coming off an injury and Konate back from international duty, coach Koch has all of his defensive weapons available for Sunday’s match. Here, coach Koch speaks about preparing for a Sunday match and managing training for the returning players.

Workhorses

The unsung heroes of the pitch rack up some impressive numbers. Here’s a summary of the stats for the five defensive players with the most playing time.

  • Dekel Keinan:  20 games played (1,746 minutes), 115 clearances, 94.4% successful tackle rate, 35 interceptions, 2 goals.
  • Forresst Lasso:  24 games played (2,124 minutes), 183 clearances, 79.2% aerial dual success rate, 38 interceptions, 2 goals.
  • Paddy Barrett:  12 games played (1,080 minutes), 64 clearances, 77% passing accuracy rate, 25 interceptions, 1 goal.
  • Blake Smith:  24 games played (2,005 minutes), 81.2% passing accuracy rate, 13 successful crosses, 4 assists, 1 goal.
  • Justin Hoyte:  24 games played (2,160 minutes), 79.4% passing accuracy rate, 15 successful crosses, 2 assists.

Offensive Weapons Too

FC Cincinnati’s defensive fortress has the ability to get forward and push into the attack as well. The back line has combined for a total of 48 shots, 6 assists, and 6 goals. Here’s captain Dekel Keinan bringing the game level against Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

The old saying of a house is only as good as the foundation it’s built on can be used throughout the sports world. Soccer is certainly no exception. The glory and accolades seem to favor the goal scorers, the play makers, the stars. Those of us fortunate enough to experience the game as players and coaches know one thing for certain, a good defense will carry you to championships. FC Cincinnati is showing it has what it takes.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for continued coverage of FC Cincinnati as they finish their regular season and prepare for the playoffs.

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International Experience Lines FC Cincinnati’s Roster

As we wish Mike Lahoud and Pa Konate safe travels and good luck at AFCON, we highlight
ALL of the international experience on FCC’s roster.

Last Thursday, FCC announced that two players will take part in the African Cup of Nations qualifying matches scheduled for early September. Midfielder Mike Lahoud and defender Pa Konate will each travel abroad, and represent Sierra Leone and Guinea respectively. The international matches will be played on September 9th, and the pair will miss FCC’s next match against Louisville City at Slugger Field.

The 32nd edition of the African Cup of Nations will be held in June 2019 in Cameroon. Qualification for the tournament is now underway and extends over 5 match days held between June of 2017 to March of 2019. The upcoming September fixtures represent Matchday 2 of the qualification process. Lahoud’s Sierra Leone won its first match over Kenya. Guinea also won its opening match against the Ivory Coast, an African powerhouse. If these two players continue to be selected at the international level, they will play again in October and November of 2018, and March of 2019.

FC Cincinnati actually has three other players besides Lahoud and Konate with appearances at the full international level. Let’s take a look at the players who have grabbed the opportunity to play for their native land.

Dekel Keinan

Need an experienced international defender to captain your squad, and contribute goals in big games, like Saturday’s equalizer against Pittsburgh? Look no further than Dekel Keinan.

Keinan is the most decorated international player on FC Cincinnati’s roster. After extensive time with the Israeli national team at the U-21 and U-23 level, he received 27 total senior caps. The native of Rosh HaNikra was a regular in defense for Israel over a six year period from 2008 to 2013. He made notable contributions during the 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifying campaigns. Israel, unfortunately, did not qualify for the World Cup finals in either cycle.

Justin Hoyte

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Justin Hoyte played extensively for the England at the U-16 through the U-21 levels, making 58 appearances. The native of Leytonstone in the East London suburbs, he had ambitions to play for the senior national team. It wasn’t to be though, and in 2013, he made himself available to play for Trinidad and Tobago, where his father Les was born. He earned 18 caps for the Soca Warriors over a four year period and appeared in friendlies, the Gold Cup, and the early stages of the 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Emery Welshman

Emery Welshman was born in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, a suburb of Toronto. His parent are Guyanese though, and he is therefore eligible to play for their national team. He earned his first cap in 2015 and has made 5 appearances thereafter for the Golden Jaguars. He scored for Guyana in a friendly against Barbados, and also netted in a World Cup qualifier against St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Experience Just Below the Senior Level

While the five referenced above advanced to appear for the senior national team, several others have represented their country at levels just below. Fatai Alashe made several appearances for the United States U-23 squad during qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He even got a call-up to the senior national team for the 2016 January camp under Jürgen Klinsmann. Unfortunately, an injury cut Alashe’s experience short, and he withdrew from the subsequent friendlies.

Fanendo Adi made two appearances with the U-23 Nigerian team in 2011. He was also called-up to the senior team for an African Cup of Nations qualifier in 2017, but didn’t get into the match. Sem De Wit made a single appearance with the Netherlands U-18 team in a match against Austria in 2012. Goalkeepers Spencer Richey and Even Newton also represented the United States at the U-17 level. Spencer Richey went with the U.S. to the 2009 U-17 World Cup in Nigeria.

With the build-out of next year’s MLS roster, FC Cincinnati will add even more experienced international talent to the squad. They might even sign players in the mix for the U.S. Mens National Team. The prospects are exciting, but there’s a trade-off of course. The MLS and international calendars don’t always complement each other well. Alan Koch and Luke Sassano will will have to manage these players time away from the club, just like they have to now for Konate and Lahoud. Senior level internationals come with prestige, but they also come with commitments that must be considered when building a roster deep enough to compete successfully in America’s top flight.

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

Indy Eleven 0 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Deeper Cuts

More insights on FC Cincinnati’s victory in Indy, including Newton’s 4th Law, the impact of FCC’s fullbacks, and another display of character.

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Photo Credit: JES Photography

Attention Cincinnati, this is no April Fool’s joke! FC Cincinnati has won back-to-back shutout road matches for the first time in their young history, and they’ve done it in style. In front of 1200+ jubilant traveling fans, the Orange & Blue earned the full three points in their 1-0 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. They also helped Indy Eleven set a new club record attendance of 17,535.

Although this match carried all the same ingredients and grit as the away win at Charleston, there is also a different feeling to the result and this team. Let’s roll the tape…

Evan Almighty

It’s only two games into the season and we might run out of superlatives to describe Evan Newton’s sensational play. He is truly inventing the 4th Law of Motion in front of our very eyes. Having labored through engineering school, I’ve never been so happy as I am now to witness a physics experiment and pen a lab report. Evan Newton’s 4th Law of Motion is simply defined as repelling a certain round object in the field of play from crossing the magic line.

Newton spread his six saves evenly across both halves of play, but it was his double save in the 40th minute that earned him his second Man of the Match (MOTM) honors. Guessing correctly on the penalty kick, he followed up the initial block with a sublime foot save to stop Ben Speas strike after the rebound.

Wall of Defense

Even with the exploits of our phenomenal keeper, this was the definition of a team win and it took a wall of defense to secure all three points. The back line of Hoyte, Keinan, Lasso, and Smith may feature as the defensive unit on the formation chart, but it takes all ten field players (and three substitutes) to earn a clean sheet. Legendary pigskin football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant famously said, “Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.” If this is true, FC Cincinnati may have found the winning formula.

After the Charleston victory, we took a peek at FCC’s center back pairing. Today, let’s highlight the outstanding performance of the fullbacks, Justin Hoyte and Blake Smith. In the first two charts below, we see the Indy Eleven’s heatmap and touchmap for the full contest. In particular, these show how the home team concentrated play and attacked along the narrow flanks.

All stats and graphic courtesy USL / Opta

In contrast, look at the defensive and pass distribution chart for Hoyte and Smith. It illustrates how they combated Indy’s penetrating surges and touches. Without these multi-disciplined players being in position, making timely stops, covering the weak side, and acting as an outlet from the back, the scoreline would certainly have been different in Indy.

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Distribution and defensive events from Hoyte and Smith

Another key to victory was FC Cincinnati’s defensive shape. They kept Indy Eleven’s shot selection, specifically in the second half, limited to outside the 18-yard box or attempts from wide angles. Except for Netwon’s tip over the crossbar in the closing minutes, Indy Eleven never really threatened to find the equalizer.

Character

Now let’s delve into what is different about this 2018 FCC team on the pitch from seasons past – character. Upon each signing in the offseason, we heard over-and-over again about the quality of character of the players Coach Koch was bringing into the side. The mental toughness and resolve this side has displayed over the first two matches, particularly in hostile away venues, is encouraging. Yes, they are paid to do a job, but in today’s professional sports it is refreshing to see a group of players proverbially leaving it all on the pitch.

There are many individual examples of this throughout the team, but Will Seymore is deserving of special mention. He stepped off the bench in the 17th minute to fill in for Kenney Walker. Indy Eleven’s Jack McInerney injured Walker with a harsh tackle in the first few minutes of action. On the road, FCC could have wilted, but Will stepped in and the team didn’t miss a beat.

As always, the players never miss a chance to applaud and engage with their passionate fans and that accessibility continues to endear this city to the club, and vice versa.

Coming out of the gates with two wins, two clean sheets, and all six points is the perfect way to start the season. With the inaugural “War for 74” in the rearview mirror, it’s now time for the Dirty River Derby against Louisville City. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for all of your upcoming FC Cincinnati coverage.

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

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

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Credit: Ryan Meyer Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Numbers That Mattered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Meyer Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Numbers that Mattered

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

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

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

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

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

Match Photos via Ryan Meyer

 

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

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FC Cincinnati 1 – 1 Charlotte Independence: “A Point Feels Like A Loss”

Talking points and quotes from Saturday’s draw with the Charlotte Independence, as the Orange and Blue failed to capitalize on their Nippert advantage.

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FC Cincinnati played the Charlotte Independence to a 1-1 stalemate in front of 21,115 at Nippert Stadium on Saturday. Alan Koch’s team went down a goal in the 18th minute when Charlotte’s Alex Martinez blasted a close range effort past Mitch Hildebrandt from a tight angle. After being outplayed for the balance of the first half, the Orange and Blue leveled just before halftime on the foot Justin Hoyte. The former Arsenal fullback exchanged with Corben Bone on the left side of the box. A Charlotte defender interrupted their play but the ball fell to Hoyte who put a first time curler into the bottom right corner.

A goalless second half followed. Alan Koch introduced Djiby Fall, Andrew Wiedeman, and Josu Currais in an attempt to find a winner, but it wasn’t to be. Charlotte finished the match with 10 men as a result of forward Enzo Martinez receiving a second yellow card for dissent in the 89th minute. FC Cincinnati’s best chance of the half fell to Jimmy McLaughlin in stoppage time. Corben Bone played a long ball into the box for Djiby who headed it down for McLaughlin. He took a touch to his right and fired a shot at goal, but it was partially blocked and deflected out of bounds.

The draw leaves FC Cincinnati in eighth place with 16 total points after 13 matches played.

Talking Points

Djiby On The Bench

Danni König started the match at center forward even though the team’s leading scorer Djiby Fall was available for selection. Djiby had just completed a six game USL suspension that resulted from his altercation with Louisville City’s Niall McCabe back in April. Alan Koch had an eye on the team’s US Open Cup showdown with Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday, and elected to start the Danish forward for this match. König had a hard time making his mark. He had just 18 touches and produced only one shot over the 90 minutes. His single shot was a near-goal that was blocked off the line by Charlotte midfielder Callum Ross.

First Half Frustration for Koch

FC Cincinnati was outplayed in the first half. Charlotte had ample space to operate and capitalized on it with the opening goal and a number of quality chances. David Estrada nearly doubled the lead for the visitors in the 31st minute, sending a close range effort off the crossbar. At intermission Koch said the following of his team’s play. “I don’t think we’re very happy with how the first 45 minutes went. We gave Charlotte way too much respect…we’re allowing them space all over the field.”

Hoyte’s late first half equalizer got the Orange and Blue back into the match. Hoyte was playing just his third match for the club after signing on March 29th. His playing time has been limited by a hamstring injury he sustained shortly after he arrived from England.

Off Target

FC Cincinnati produced 17 total shots over the course of the ninety minutes. However, only four of the 17 were on target and two of those four shots were from defenders. Jimmy McLaughlin and Aodhan Quinn had three shots each to lead the team, but none of those six were on goal.

Needed Three Points

FC Cincinnati needs to beat teams like Charlotte at Nippert if they want to be a top team in the East. After 13 matches played they are in eighth place and barely hanging on to a playoff spot. The tone was brief and somewhat downbeat in the post match press conference.

“A point feels like a loss…we looked good at moments, individual mistakes prevented us from getting on top of the game tonight.” — Alan Koch

“The mood in the locker room is a bit disappointed.” — Harrison Delbridge

“I enjoyed scoring a goal, but at the end of the day it’s about winning” — Justin Hoyte

Match Photos via Joe Schmuck

 

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Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference

Next Saturday’s opponent the Charleston Battery wins a lot of games, and they did it again this weekend. They downed the Richmond Kickers 1-0 at home to open up a four point lead at the top of the Eastern Conference. They are eleven points clear of FC Cincinnati having played the same number of games.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies drew 1-1 with the Rochester Rhinos and remain in second. Ottawa beat Harrisburg, and Toronto FC II played to a 1-1 draw with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Louisville City and New York Red Bulls II play Sunday in a matchup between the #3 and #4 teams in the East.

Bumper Week Ahead

Weeks don’t get much bigger than the week in store for FC Cincinnati and its fans. On Monday the team will host a Season Ticket Holder Open House at Woodward Theatre in OTR to reveal the most recent stadium plans. On Wednesday, they’ll host Columbus Crew SC in a US Open Cup, “Hell is Real” derby match, that’s expected break attendance records. They then close the week by hosting first place Charleston Battery at Nippert. That match will provide a chance to erase this team’s early season struggles against the best team the Eastern Conference has to offer.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the week ahead.

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Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0 – FC Cincinnati 1: Massive Road Points against Rival

FC Cincinnati earned their first points of the 2017 season by defeating the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Highmark Stadium on Saturday.

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Photo Courtesy Chris Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds

FC Cincinnati earned a massive road victory on Saturday when they defeated the Pittsburgh Riverhounds by a 1-0 scoreline. Djiby Fall delivered a headed goal in the 55th minute against a ten man Pittsburgh side to secure the victory. The three points earned were FC Cincinnati’s first of the 2017 season, after they lost their season opener last Saturday.

FC Cincinnati earned nearly 60% of possession in an evenly played first half. They went up a man in the 42nd minute when Pittsburgh defender Gale Agbossoumonde brought down Andrew Wiedeman, who was making a threatening run down FC Cincinnati’s right. The center back was shown a second yellow card for the tackle and was sent off. Agbossoumonde earned his first caution for a hard challenge delivered to Austin Berry that forced the Cincinnati native to leave the match. FC Cincinnati had more possession and created chances, but nothing that truly threatened Pittsburgh’s goal. Pittsburgh had opportunities to score on the counter, and had the best chance for either team in stoppage time. The first half ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

FC Cincinnati capitalized on their man advantage in the 55th minute, when Andrew Wiedeman delivered a fine cross from the left for Djiby Fall. Djiby rose and nodded the ball firmly down at goal. It bounced back up and into the top right corner. The strike was Djiby’s second headed goal in as many matches, both assisted by Wiedeman.

FC Cincinnati continued their possession game in the second half, allowing a weakened Pittsburgh side few chances to equalize. They created chances of their own and outshot Pittsburgh 10-4 in the second period of play. One goal was all they needed, and the match finished 1-0.

New defensive signing Justin Hoyte was on the bench for FC Cincinnati but did not see his first action for the team.

For more play-by-play details of the match’s events, turn your attention to the FC Cincinnati full match recap.

FC Cincinnati will play its third consecutive road match next Sunday when they face Bethlehem Steel at Goodman Stadium. It’s the final road match before the Orange and Blue return to Nippert for their home opener on April 15th.

Kudos to all of the FC Cincinnati supporters that traveled to Pittsburgh to support the team.

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