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


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.

Deeper Cuts: Dueling FC Cincinnati Midfield Leads the Way

Detailed stats and deeper analysis of FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, August 18th at Nippert Stadium.

Fatai Alashe / Image: Ryan Meyer

After a 3-0 statement victory over the Battery on Saturday, the Charleston monkey is now truly off of FC Cincinnati’s back. Prior to this match, the Orange & Blue had only beaten the Battery one time in six attempts. In the three prior meetings at Nippert, FCC could never muster a win. Charleston was the only Eastern Conference team* that FCC had never defeated on home turf. They erased those bad memories on Saturday with a dueling midfield, a miserly defense, and a plug-and-play squad that is rolling on a 13 game unbeaten streak.

*Stat excludes teams new to the USL this year (i.e.: Nashville SC, Indy Eleven).

Dueling Midfield

Kenney Walker led FCC in passing accuracy vs. Charleston / Image: Ryan Meyer

Adding Fatai Alashe to an already talented midfield reaped rewards that made their way onto the stat sheet. The team passing accuracy (PA) elevated to 82%, which is 5% higher than their season average coming into the game. Kenney Walker led the way in distribution with a standout 91.7% PA on the evening.

FC Cincinnati was noticeably aggressive to the ball throughout the match, winning over 72% of the duels in the first half, and two-thirds of duels over the duration of the contest. Alashe, Walker, and Ledesma led the squad with 7 duels won each. It was a team effort though. Six FC Cincinnati players won 5 or more duels. Alan Koch has an embarrassment of riches in central midfield at his disposal, and he spent his currency effectively in the roster selection against Charleston.

Miserly Defense & Plug-and-Play Squad

Image: Ryan Meyer

Saturday’s victory came packaged with yet another clean sheet. That’s 11 shutouts total on the season, and 7 in the last 10 games. Charleston was kept at arm’s length on Saturday, with the exception of Ataulla Guerra’s ferocious long-range effort that rattled the crossbar. FCC’s defense allowed just 6 total shots and not a single one was from inside the box. What’s more impressive is that FCC has produced two consecutive cleans sheets while swapping in center back Paddy Barrett for team captain Dekel Keinan.

That’s not the only example of FC Cincinnati’s increasingly plug-and-play roster. Alashe entered for Lahoud. Welshman started in place of König, and Spencer Richey was still minding the nets rather than Newton. Neither the offense or defense is missing a beat despite these regular changes.

Early Numbers for Alashe and Adi

Fatai Alashe is the first of FC Cincinnati’s three summer signings to see the starting eleven. Over the 62 minutes he played on Saturday, he showcased a passing accuracy of 82.4%. He also won 5 fouls, 2 tackles, and 7 of 11 duels. He paired with Kenney Walker in the defensive midfield of FCC’s 4-2-3-1 and provided strength on possession, toughness in the tackle, and a partnership that could match the physical Battery attack.

Alan Koch is taking a measured approach to using his most dangerous new weapon, Fanendo Adi. For the third consecutive match, Adi replaced FC Cincinnati’s starting striker in the final third of the contest. Adi now has accumulated 47 total minutes over three appearances. He has 3 shots, all on target. He has earned 2 fouls, won 7 of 14 duels, including all of the aerial duels he’s been involved in.

While there’s not much to go on in terms of numbers for Adi, his impact in the matches is apparent. Defenders react differently when he’s in the match. He has a commanding presence and directs traffic on the field. His calm touches help the team maintain possession. He’s looked capable of scoring during each outing as well. He would have certainly have opened his account on Saturday if it weren’t for Skylar Thomas’ own goal.

While we don’t have a big enough sample size to really assess either Alashe or Adi right now, there’s plenty more to come from these two in 2018 and beyond.

Road Trip

Well, the home cooking has been nice. The Orange & Blue secured 16 of 18 possible points during their two month home stand in Cincinnati. It’s back on the plane this week though, and the team is headed south. On Wednesday August 22nd they’ll face Atlanta United 2 before heading to Florida for a showdown in Tampa with the Rowdies on Saturday.

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

#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.


FC Cincinnati 4 – 2 Atlanta United 2: Offensive Explosion Vaults FCC into First

FC Cincinnati has gone streaking! The Orange & Blue win their third straight, a 4-2 home victory over Atlanta United 2.

Atlanta 5.5.2_Match Recap
Design: Connor Paquette / Image: JES Photography

FC Cincinnati used a plethora of first-half strikes to roll to their third-straight win, beating Atlanta United 2 by a 4-2 scoreline. The wet atmosphere failed to put a damper on the home team, who capitalized on two Manu Ledesma goals to pass Louisville City and move into first place.

The first 25 minutes was predominantly owned by FCC’s possession, but the floodgates soon opened from two similar plays. Emmanuel Ledesma chased down a pass that skirted through the defensive line in the 26th minute, then passed to a streaking Danni Konig for an easy tap-in. FCC doubled the lead when Ledesma again broke past the sleeping defense, grabbing a Blake Smith pass to beat the keeper in the 28th minute.

Atlanta refused to give in and quickly earned a goal just minutes afterward. A foul from Dekel Keinan led to a deflection in the box from the free kick. Jon Gallagher then pushed it past Spencer Richey to make it a 2-1 game.

Cincinnati and Atlanta exchanged goals again later in the half. Corben Bone struck for his third goal in three games in the 38th minute, but a stray pass from Justin Hoyte fell to Laurent Kissiedou, who fired it past Richey for a 3-2 halftime score.

The second-half scoring started before the fans knew what happened. Goalkeeper Nicolas Caraux failed to clear from a charging Konig, and the pass fell to Ledesma. The midfielder struck a shot past Caraux for a quick score to make it 4-2.

Much of the second half involved crisp passing that helped FCC whittle down the clock, and the match yielded surprisingly few yellow cards. Guido Gonzalez Jr. provided quite a fair game, carding only three players all night. By the time the final whistle blew, FCC had passed Louisville City FC in the standings, who lost earlier in the day to Indy Eleven, 1-0.

Key Events

26′ – GOAL – Danni Konig (CIN) (Emmanuel Ledesma assist)
28′ – GOAL – Emmanuel Ledesma (CIN) (Blake Smith assist)
30′ – YELLOW CARD – Dekel Keinan (CIN)
31′ – GOAL – Jon Gallagher (ATL) (AJ Cochran assist)
37′ – YELLOW CARD – Laurent Kissiedou (ATL)
38′ – GOAL – Corben Bone (CIN)
41′ – GOAL – Laurent Kissiedou (ATL)
46′ – GOAL – Emmanuel Ledesma (CIN)
87′ – YELLOW CARD – Andrew Carleton (ATL)

Match Notes

Starting XI 
König – Ledesma (Welshman 65′)
(diamond) Bone – McLaughlin (Lahoud 71′) – Ryan – Walker
Smith – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte

Goalkeeper Evan Newton missed his third-straight match with a day-to-day hip injury, and midfielder Nazmi Albadawi missed his second game in a row due to his own rib injury.

FC Cincinnati had only one yellow card all night, an amazing achievement in itself, considering the referee. However, that yellow card was Dekel Keinan’s fourth this year. His next yellow card will lead to a one-game suspension for accumulation.

FC Cincinnati rises to 5-1-2 (17 pts) and occupies first place, although Louisville City has a game in hand. Atlanta United II loses their third-straight game and falls to 1-3-3 (6 pts), slipping down to 13th place.

What’s Next?

The Orange and Blue are once again on the road, travelling to Charlotte for a Saturday matchup against the Independence to kick off the “Queen City Cup” challenge. Charlotte lost 2-0 to Charleston on Saturday and currently sits in 10th place in the standings.

Check Orange & Blue Press on Sunday for our Deeper Cuts analysis of Saturday’s result, and coverage of next week’s gameday in North Carolina.

Atlanta 5.5.2_Match Recap

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

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

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Indy Eleven

Orange and Blue Press’ Match Program supplies the information and fast facts you need to prepare for FC Cincinnati at Indy Eleven on Wednesday.


Design: CSDIV / Image: JES Photography

FC Cincinnati continues its road-heavy schedule this Wednesday in Indianapolis playing back-to-back road games for the second time this season. They will face a solid Indy Eleven squad for the second of three games in the series. In the first meeting between these two sides, FCC managed to grind out a 1-0 victory in Indianapolis. More recently the Orange & Blue appear to have found their form after soundly defeating the Ottawa Fury 3-0 on Saturday. That victory puts FC Cincinnati in fifth place in the USL Eastern Conference standings.

Indy Eleven comes into the match two places behind FC Cincinnati in the East, but they’ve played one less match. The Eleven rebounded from their March loss to FCC with back-to-back victories against North Carolina FC and Nashville SC. Note that Indy’s three victories came against three teams who are currently fighting for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. Indianapolis’ defense is one of the toughest in the USL, having conceded only two goals including one penalty in 2018.

This week will most certainly be dangerous waters for the Orange & Blue. They have one of their most action-packed weeks of the year with only three days rest between playing in Ottawa and Indy, and then have just another three days to prepare for their home match Saturday, May 5th against Atlanta United 2.

Fast Facts

Here are four facts to relay to the FC Cincinnati fans sitting around you when you’re watching the game on Wednesday.

  • FC Cincinnati continued their road dominance on Sunday as they held Ottawa scoreless to earn their third clean sheet on the road this season. Even without star goalkeeper Evan Newton, the Orange & Blue looked solid defensively.
  • Both teams have struggled to convert the chances they have created this season. Indy Eleven’s conversion rate (goals scored divided by shots attempted) of 8% is tied for 27th in the 33 team USL. Compare that to a 13% conversion rate for FCC, which is good enough for 19th.
  • Carlyle Mitchell is a rock in the center of Indy Eleven’s defense. The center back leads the team with 35 clearances (18 more than any other Indy player). He also leads the team in aerial duels (30) and aerial duels (21) won.
  • During the last match against Indianapolis, Kenny Walker suffered a concussion after a nasty hit from Jack McInerney. McInerney was given a retroactive one-game suspension for the no-call penalty on Walker. Kenny will no doubt be looking for revenge by attempting to score his third goal in three games after returning from his injury in Indianapolis.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati at Indy Eleven.

Ottawa Fury FC 0 – 3 FC Cincinnati: Deeper Cuts

We dive deeper into FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 victory over Ottawa Fury FC (and that highlight-reel Walker goal).

Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati’s last game against Ottawa Fury FC in 2017 was an embarrassing 4-0 loss that almost knocked them out of playoff contention. Considering Cincinnati has undergone a sea change while the Fury remained relatively quiet in the offseason, the result had to be different this time.

With possession pretty much evenly split, but with shots in Cincinnati’s favor, this game again felt like two separate halves. Held toothless in the first, FCC broke through with three quick goals in the second half, including two beautiful distance shots from Kenney Walker and Manu Ledesma. In the end, both teams exhibited their preexisting strengths and weaknesses.

Ottawa’s Big Gamble

While Ottawa has given up 14 goals, the most in the USL for any squad, they tend to last a bit longer out of the gate than one might expect. So far, the Fury have not given up a goal in the first 30 minutes of a game, but they’ve collapsed by the end of it, having given up 11 in the last 30 minutes.

This makes Ottawa’s overall setup from Saturday perplexing. Going by their heat maps, Ottawa looked content with playing a high back line and a pulled-back attack line. Over the first 45 minutes, this appeared to be working—FCC was unable to break beyond the defense. When they did, either the offside flag went up (seven times!), or the faster Ottawa defense was able to catch the break from behind.

OTT Heatmap 04282018
Ottawa’s 1st-half (left) and 2nd-half heat maps. Note the midfield work and lack of box presence.

This pressure led to a more comfortable Ottawa attack, but FC Cincinnati’s defense was also unshakeable. While Ottawa took seven corner kicks to Cincinnati’s one over the course of the game, their drawn-back offense forced them to fire outside the box. Only one shot—a quick open-goal clearance by Blake Smith in the 43rd minute—was on frame and in the box for Ottawa. However, the high-playing defense forced FCC’s attack back as well—only two off-target shots were fired in the first half.

Cincinnati’s Big Payoff

With Lance Laing out with a hamstring issue, Alan Koch opted to forego any sort of left-wing presence. The team rolled out a midfielder-heavy 4-4-1-1 diamond formation with Richie Ryan pulled back in midfield, Corben Bone and Walker on the sides, and Nazmi Albadawi heading the middle.

FCC OTT Ave Psn 04282018
Average positions for FCC (green) and OTT (black)

While this led to deeper defensive play in the first half, it led to cleaner work in the second. If we view the number of times teams “recovered” on the field, both had the same amount of recoveries* in the first half (27-26). However, FCC rebounded better in the second, recovering the ball 42 times to Ottawa’s 22.

With better control of the ball in the offensive half, FCC’s attack got progressively stronger, while Ottawa saw their own chances fade. FCC hammered 12 shots in the second half, and all but two were taken from inside the box. The Fury, on the other hand, had only one off-target shot over a 30-minute span in the second half. Ottawa ended up with a generous 10 shots over the full 90 minutes, but only two were inside the box.

FCC OTT Shots 04282018
FCC (green) and OTT (black) shots in the 1st half (left) and 2nd half (right).

Yes, Cincinnati may have been snake-bit in the first half. However, their typical second-half surge, combined with Ottawa’s late-game lethargy, produced the expected result.

That Walker Goal, Though

It’s hard to add much analysis to the wonder-goal that Kenney Walker hit from way downtown. It wasn’t the longest goal in USL history—this shot from Sacramento’s Rodrigo Lopez in 2015 has it beat—but it might be the prettiest half-field volley.

Goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau had been playing a fantastic game for Ottawa. Attacks from Danni König and Bone came down the center of the box, but Crepeau stayed forward and wide to absorb shots. However, the forward pull of the defense may have led to his downfall.

Crepeau had been playing further up in the box than Spencer Richey did, perhaps as a precaution for any plays that got by Ottawa’s defensive line. As a result, Crepeau may have been more ready for a closer challenge. A typical high volley from 50 yards could be caught or padded away, even at this distance. However, Walker’s shot was a flat volley screened by players that gave Crepeau little time to react.

The telestrator doesn’t lie. From the goal kick by Richey to the time the ball hit the net, the shot never hit the ground and even scraped the post on the way in. Chalk that part up to luck, but considering Ledesma’s later goal was also a distance chip-shot, Walker may have known what he was doing all along.

Up Next

FC Cincinnati’s road trip continues Wednesday with a return to the “scene of the crime” in Indy. With Walker back from his concussion, it will be interesting to see if this new look formation gets more play.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s next away game.

*Recovery – This is where a player wins back the ball when it has gone loose or where the ball has been played directly to him.

Ottawa Fury 0 – 3 FC Cincinnati: Walker’s Brilliant Volley Opens Floodgates

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Joe Craven

After a fruitful second half in the new look shape that was used against Pittsburgh last Saturday, Koch returned to the diamond 4-4-2 away against Fury FC. With Evan Newton day-to-day with a minor hip injury, Spencer Richey received his first start of the regular season for FC Cincinnati. Blake Smith returned to the starting XI as the left fullback.

Although they controlled possession early, the Orange & Blue had a disappointing and sloppy first half. The Fury deployed a high, organized back line that caught FCC offsides on five separate occasions. This pinned FCC back into their half forcing them to defend mightily in their box at times.

Ottawa had the two best scoring opportunities and went into the locker room at half with the better metrics. The Fury out-shot FCC five to two (two shots on target versus none for the FCC) and held a four to zero advantage in corner kicks. In addition, Ottawa had 70% passing accuracy in FC Cincinnati’s zone as compared to FCC’s 60% passing accuracy in the home side’s zone.

Similar to last week’s match, FCC came out blazing in the second half. Danni Konig missed a tap-in two minutes into the half off an accurate feed by Corben Bone. Bone then had a dangerous shot of his own repelled in the 48th minute from a fine through ball by Emmanuel Ledesma. Through the first fifteen minutes of the second half, FCC tripled their first-half shot tally, placing all four shots on target. Ottawa attempted to slow down the Orange & Blue press by making back-to-back subs in the sixtieth and sixty-second minutes.

Then the goal of the season, and possibly the goal of the entire history of FC Cincinnati’s franchise occurred. Kenney Walker delivered an absolute laser of a volley from 45+ yards out that caught an in-form Maxime Crepeau standing at his penalty spot. To be fair, Crepeau may not have had a chance to save this brilliant heads-up strike as it caromed off the post and into the net. Let’s take a look at this phenomenal strike.

The floodgates in Ottawa opened as Bone headed in a pinpoint Ledesma cross one minute later. To finish off the scoring, Ledesma took advantage of a defensive mistake, grabbed a loose ball thirty yards out, and chipped Crepeau off his line (again) in the seventy-seventh minute. FCC delivered their most prolific half of the season, peppering twelve shots on goal, eight on target and converting three for goals. Whatever Koch is feeding this team at half, let’s start to make it part of the pregame meal as well. Final score from TD Place is FC Cincinnati 3 Ottawa Fury FC 0.

Key Events

50′ – YELLOW CARD – Forrest Lasso
55′ – YELLOW CARD – Emmanuel Ledesma
57′ – YELLOW CARD – Blake Smith
68′ – GOAL – Kenney Walker
69′ – GOAL – Corben Bone (Emmanuel Ledesma assist)
77′ – GOAL – Emmanuel Ledesma

Match Notes

The result takes FCC to eleven points and moves them up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference (before Saturday evening’s match schedule). Ottawa Fury FC remains in last-place with one point and a negative twelve goal differential.

As mentioned above, FC Cincinnati made a couple of tweaks to their roster, starting Spencer Richey in goal and Blake Smith returning to his starting left fullback position. New signee Michael Lahoud dressed as part of the squad’s substitute bench but did not see any action. Eighteen total players have seen the pitch this season for FC Cincinnati.

Starting XI (4-4-2 diamond midfield)

Ledesma (Haber 83′) – Konig (Welshman 90+1′)
Albadawi (McLaughlin 72′)
Bone – Ryan – Walker
Smith – Lasso – Keinan – Hotye

What’s Next?

The Orange and Blue head back to Lucas Oil Stadium on Wednesday for their second match this season versus Indy Eleven. It will be their fifth road match of the season in only seven outings. FCC has been stellar on the road keeping three clean sheets and picking up 10 out of a possible 12 points. Keep in mind they only tallied 16 points away from Nippert in all of 2017.

Check in tomorrow for our “Deeper Cuts” analysis of today’s result and more match coverage from Orange and Blue Press.

FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Pittsburgh Riverhounds: Electric Second Half Comeback Secures Draw

A recap and match notes from FC Cincinnati’s 2-2 draw with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, April 21st at Nippert Stadium.

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Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati came from behind not once, but twice to earn a 2-2 draw against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday. Substitute Kenney Walker scored a late equalizer in the 78th minute to secure the point for Alan Koch’s side. A crowd of 24,505 filled Nippert stadium to take in the action on a brisk April evening in the Queen City.

The visitors drew first blood in the sixth minute of play. Defender Jordan Dover beat Lance Laing to a bouncing ball on the left side of FCC’s defense. He waltzed into the box, did a scissors-move and fired a driven shot at goal. The strike took a deflection off of Forrest Lasso, and Evan Newton got his fingertips to the ball but couldn’t keep it out of the net.

FC Cincinnati significantly out-possessed the Riverhounds in the first half but rarely looked threatening in the final third. Bob Lilley’s team fell into an unsurprisingly organized defensive shape and took a 1-0 lead into halftime.

Alan Koch promised changes after the halftime break and a re-energized FC Cincinnati squad took the field in the second half. They poured bodies forward and got their reward in the 59th minute through Danni König. A poor clearance from Pittsburgh defender Thomas Vancaeyezeele fell to Corben Bone outside of the 18-yard box. Bone faked a shot then slid a through ball to Danni König who finished to Dan Lynd’s right.

König goal celebrations. Image: Joe Craven

Fourteen minutes after König’s goal, FC Cincinnati fell behind again. Thomas Vancaeyezeele made amends for his earlier mistake and slotted a firm strike past Evan Newton from 12 yards, assisted by Kenardo Forbes.

FC Cincinnati continued the pressure though and found an equalizer that would stand, fifteen minutes before the match ended. It came from the right foot of midfielder Kenney Walker who entered the match only eight minutes before.

Alan Koch introduced Emery Welshman for Danni König shortly after the goal. König rolled his ankle and wasn’t able to compete at the same level after the injury. The Orange & Blue continued to possess the ball and pin Pittsburgh back, but they weren’t able to create another truly meaningful chance, and the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

Key Events

6′ – GOAL – PGH – Jordan Dover
36′ – YELLOW CARD – Jordan Dover
59′ – GOAL – Danni König (Corben Bone assist)
68′ – YELLOW CARD – Emmanuel Ledesma
73′ – GOAL – Thomas Vancaeyezeele (Kenardo Forbes assist)
78′  – GOAL – Kenney Walker
88′ – YELLOW CARD – Dekel Keinan
90’+2 – YELLOW CARD – Lance Laing

Match Notes

The result leaves FCC on eight points in the Eastern Conference and the draw moves them up a spot into sixth place. The Riverhounds remain one point above and one place ahead of the Orange & Blue in the standings. Louisville City remains at the top of the East after drawing 1-1 with Atlanta United 2.

Despite a first half that he was unhappy with, Alan Koch heaped praise on the FC Cincinnati players in the press conference. He said he was “very proud of the group for coming back, not once but twice against a Pittsburgh team that had not conceded (a goal) all season.”

Danni Konig’s ankle injury appears minor at this point and he said he was fine in the post-match press conference. He did request to be substituted from the match because the injury was affecting his performance.

FC Cincinnati made a couple of tweaks to their roster, starting Danni König for the first time this season. Emery Welshman was in the 18 but struggled with a back injury in practice earlier this week. Jimmy McLaughlin also made his first start of the season in place of Daniel Haber, who started on the left week last week. Lance Laing dropped back to left fullback for this match to pair with McLaughlin.

Starting XI 
König (Welshman 79′)
McLaughlin (Walker 70′) – Albadawi – Ledesma
Bone – Ryan
Laing – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte

Alan Koch changed into a 4-3-3 formation as a halftime adjustment and flipped the wing positions of Ledesma and McLaughlin. He also made a significant change in the 70th minute when he introduced Walker for McLaughlin. The eleven after the change looked like the following.

Ledesma – Konig
Bone – Ryan – Walker
Laing – Lasso – Keinan – Hotye

What’s Next?

The Orange and Blue head to Canada for a Saturday matinee with Ottawa Fury FC on April 28th. It will be their fourth road match of the season in only six outings. Ottawa currently sits in last place in the Eastern Conference despite earning a 1-1 draw against North Carolina FC today.

Check in tomorrow for our “Deeper Cuts” analysis of Saturday’s result and more match photos from Joe Craven and Joe Schmuck.

Pitt 4.21 2_Match Recap

FC Cincinnati Links in Review – April 14

Our Links in Review segment takes a look at the past week and some of the best FC Cincinnati related content produced by various outlets.

Photo Credit: Joe Craven

In this segment, we highlight our feature article of the week and take a look at some of the best FC Cincinnati related content produced by other outlets. It’s a way to recap the week’s events and share content that we think is worth your attention.


Orange and Blue Press – Stephen Buckeridge: USL Eastern Conference Snapshot

Occasionally this season, Orange & Blue Press will review events in the Eastern Conference to examine FC Cincinnati’s season and their post-season prospects. This article recaps the league’s expansion and realignment, the leaders of the Eastern Conference, as well as some surprises thus far in the 2018 season.

USL – USLSoccer.com Staff: USL Clubs Learn Potential Open Cup Draw

This past week FC Cincinnati learned who its first potential opponent of the 2018 US Open Cup will be. They will play the winner of the PDL’s Michigan Bucks or the NPSL’s Detroit City FC. They will host the match at Gettler Stadium on May 16th. This article gives a layout of all the USL teams and their potential lower-division foes. It also shares more information on all the first round teams.

Soc Takes – Kevin Johnston: FC Cincinnati reaps benefits of Ledesma’s chance creation

This is a delightful article that highlights FC Cincinnati’s rising star, Emmanuel Ledesma. The article does a nice job recounting his 2017 season with the New York Cosmos and exactly why FC Cincinnati signed the former NASL standout. The article discusses Manu’s first two relatively unproductive weeks with FCC but also talks about the upside of the dynamic playmaker.

CincyShirts.com: Not Long Ago, Soccer Was a Tough Pitch in Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati is not the city’s first soccer club. In fact, there have been multiple clubs before FCC’s first season in 2016. This article takes a walk down memory lane and provides a lovely look at Cincinnati’s soccer past including both men’s and women’s teams.

Cincinnati.com – Charlie Hatch: FC Cincinnati is noticeably and statistically better with Kenney Walker playing

Charlie Hatch hits the stats hard in order to stress the importance of Kenney Walker’s role in FC Cincinnati’s results. His article also discusses Alan Koch’s attempt to increase the depth of the 2018 squad in an attempt to minimize the impact of the loss of any one player during the season.

WCPO – Amanda Seitz: FC Cincinnati gets OK to build West End stadium on Cincinnati Public Schools land

STADIUM WATCH: Earlier this week FC Cincinnati took another step in the right direction toward building a stadium and earning an MLS bid. Tuesday the Cincinnati Public School Board reconvened to discuss a potential land swap that would allow FC Cincinnati to build on the site of Taft High School’s Stargel Stadium. Ultimately the board unanimously agreed to the deal with the club, though it is worth noting a group of people protested the school board’s decision.

ICYMI on Twitter

Continuing with the stadium theme – there are two key Cincinnati City Council votes on Monday, April 16th, on FC Cincinnati’s stadium deal. The first is a vote by the Budget & Finance committee at 1 pm. If the deal passes that committee, it will go in front full council at 4 pm for more discussion and ultimately a vote.

On a lighter note, USL newcomer, Las Vegas Lights, never misses a chance to entertain us. The announcement of their newest sponsorship partner is no exception.

Did you read something that’s a little different and worthy of a shout out? Let us know and stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for Sunday’s coverage of FC Cincinnati vs Bethlehem Steel FC.

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