Bethlehem Steel FC 1 – 1 FC Cincinnati: Deeper Cuts

Detailed stats and deeper analysis of FC Cincinnati’s 1-1 draw with Bethlehem Steel FC on April 15th.

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Image: Charlotte Muscroft/Bethlehem Steel FC

FC Cincinnati went on the road for the third time in four matches on Sunday and picked up a hard-fought 1-1 draw in Bethlehem. Nazmi Albadawi was awarded his first start of the season and got the equalizing goal in the 71st minute to secure the tie. This article goes a level deeper into the details behind the road point FCC earned in Pennsylvania.

The Result – Not Pretty But Positive

This wasn’t a glamorous game, but the result makes up for it. The weather was bad, the surface gave the players trouble, and both teams struggled to finish the chances they created. Many of FCC’s performances this season have been similarly austere. But the results are unmistakably positive, and professional soccer is a results-oriented business. As Geoff Tebbetts mentioned in his match recap yesterday, this is the best four-game start to a season in FC Cincinnati’s three-year history. FC Cincinnati currently has an average of 1.75 points per game. For comparison purposes, the Charleston Battery finished second in the Eastern Conference last season with an average of 1.69 points per game. Consider also that this roster boasts 17 new players and that last season’s MVP, Kenney Walker, has been out for the better part of three games. That may sound like excuse-making but those are real factors. So even though some may not be enjoying the aesthetics right now, the results are there.

New Faces

While Nazmi’s start drew a lot of fan’s attention yesterday, he was just one of three players that made his 2018 debut as a starter for the Orange & Blue. The other two were Matt Bahner and Daniel Haber. Here’s a more detailed look at how all three fared on Sunday.

Nazmi, of course, had the most influential game of the three. He scored the lone goal of the match, had a 71.4% pass completion rate, fired six shots (two on target), and had one key pass.

As we’ve seen in previous matches, FCC’s central attacking midfielder plays quite high (close to the forward), and often peels out of the crowded midfield to find the ball and combine with the wingers and fullbacks.

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Average position of Albadawi (#5 in green on left side), just behind #10, CF Welshman
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First-half distribution by Albadawi, when he was statistically most influential.

As for the others, Matt Bahner won 3 of 4 duels and had 2 clearances and 2 interceptions. Daniel Haber had 1 on-target shot, 2 key passes, and delivered 3 successful crosses out of 5 total. Both were substituted toward the end of the match as FCC searched for second-half goals. Statistics aside, it was good to see these three get a taste of the action for the first time this season.

Trending Upward

Most of the points gathered this season have depended on strong defensive performances, but the distribution and attack statistics are improving…in some categories. First, Alan Koch’s side is getting more of the ball. The Orange & Blue were slightly out-possessed in the first two matches, averaging 47% possession in those games. That number has improved in the matches against Louisville City and Bethlehem. FCC has won the possession battle in both, averaging 55% in each match.

FCC produced just 9 shots per game on average in their first two matches. Contrast that with a 17 shot per game average in their two most recent performances. It’s worth noting that against Louisville and Bethlehem, FCC went down a goal early and pushed numbers forward later in the match in an effort to equalize. The good news though, is that the chances are coming.

Finishing is where the Orange & Blue continue to struggle, however. Despite producing 51 total shots in 4 games, FCC is averaging only 3.25 on-target shots per game. FC Cincinnati’s conversion rate (goals/shots) is at 8% which is tied for 27th in a 33 team league. The stats may sound grim, but the chances have been there to take, especially in the last two games. With a little more finishing quality and a little luck, FCC’s goals scored should follow the upward trend in the other categories. Combine that with an already stingy defense (2 clean sheets and only 2 goals conceded in 4 games), and there’s a recipe for success.

Wrapping Up

So while it’s not champagne football at this point (and nobody promised that), it’s been a good start to the 2018 campaign and the Bethlehem result is another example of that. The Orange & Blue now return home for a single match at Nippert versus Pittsburgh before getting back on a plane to face Ottawa Fury FC at the end of April. While the team continues to focus on fine-tuning their football, fans will turn their attention to the drama unfolding on the MLS expansion front, which is sure to dominate headlines this week.

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

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Cheat Sheet: FC Cincinnati vs Harrisburg City Islanders

An information graphic provides the vital details for Saturday’s match between FC Cincinnati and the Harrisburg City Islanders. Plus, four fast facts.

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Photo for header and information graphic courtesy of Ryan Meyer Photography
FC Cincinnati plays the first game of a three game league home stand on Saturday July 22nd against the Harrisburg City Islanders. The Orange and Blue should be rested and ready after vanquishing rival Louisville City 3-2 last weekend on a baseball field. It’s important to note that this home stand will be interrupted by two non-league matches. Alan Koch’s side will host a friendly against Valencia CF on July 24th, and travel for a US Open Cup quarterfinal match against Miami FC on August 2nd.

This will be the first time that FC Cincinnati has played Harrisburg in 2017. Last season, they beat the City Islanders 2-0 at Nippert. They also drew 1-1 with Bill Becher’s side in Pennsylvania.

Harrisburg currently sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference on 21 points. FC Cincinnati slots in two places above them in sixth, with both teams having played 19 games this season. Harrisburg has been in good form lately, winning three and drawing one in their last five played, including a recent 1-1 draw with the red hot Charlotte Independence. That draw halted Charlotte’s six game win streak.

The match against Charlotte was on Tuesday, and was Harrisburg’s fourth game in eleven days. FC Cincinnati should theoretically have fresher legs coming into this contest, despite also having a hectic schedule.

Alan Koch will be able to select from a healthy squad on Saturday, with one exception. Defender Tyler Polak suffered a foot sprain in the match against Louisville City.  He was scheduled to be re-evaluated on Wednesday evening, and may miss out on Saturday’s contest.

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Here are four fast facts to serve as a backdrop for Saturday’s contest:

  • Matt Bahner and Jimmy McLaughlin are the providers in wide spaces for FC Cincinnati. With 52 and 47 crosses respectively, they each have at least 26 more crosses than any other player on the team. McLaughlin leads FC Cincinnati in crossing accuracy for players with more than 5 crosses at 32%. Service please.
  • Saturday’s match will be one of two matches FC Cincinnati plays in 2017 that is a live test of Video Assistant Referee (VAR). “The VAR process consists of an additional referee positioned in a booth, and video technology is utilized through every available camera angle to advise the head referee of clear game-changing situations: goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents and cases of mistaken identity.” [USL]
  • Harrisburg leads the USL in fouls conceded. With 305 fouls, they have 46 more fouls than any other team in the USL. Compare this to FC Cincinnati with 252 fouls conceded in the same number of games. Midfielder James Thomas is also second in the USL in yellow cards with 7. Physical Opponent.
  • FC Cincinnati likes to attack from close range. With sixty percent of the 2017 USL season in the books, the Orange and Blue have scored 23 goals. All 23 have been scored from inside the box.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of Saturday’s contest.
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Lo positivo, negativo y feo de lo que va de la temporada 2017

Carlos Julca cubre algo de lo bueno, lo malo y lo feo de lo que va de esta temporada 2017.

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Ryan Meyer Photography

Todos sabemos que había grandes expectativas hacia el FC Cincinnati en esta temporada 2017, pero no todo ha salido como se planeaba.

Después de terminar la temporada 2016 con una devastadora derrota ante el Charleston Battery 1-2, Jeff Berding mencionó que el equipo no se iba a conformar. El equipo comenzó a conformar una plantilla que haría temblar a cualquier rival esta temporada, pero todo no ha salido como se esperaba. Es por eso que hoy quiero cubrir algo de lo bueno, lo malo y lo feo de lo que va de esta temporada 2017.

Lo bueno

Matt Bahner y Djiby Fall – Dos de los fichajes para esta temporada han sido los que han más impactado al equipo de manera positiva en la cancha. Las acciones en la defensa de Matt Bahner han sido excelentes, ganándose la titularidad desde el comienzo de la temporada y dejando en la banca a Pat McMahon quien fuese titular en la temporada 2016. En el otro lado de la cancha Djiby, el número 9 y titular indiscutible se ganó el corazón de toda la afición en el primer partido en casa anotando 4 goles para ganarle a uno de los mejores equipos de la conferencia del Este (St. Louis) por un marcador de 4-0 y asi lograr acumular 6 goles en 6 partidos jugados hasta el momento.

Asistencia – Como siempre la ciudad ha respondido al equipo y asistido a los partidos, el año pasado FC Cincinnati tuvo un promedio de 17,296 personas por partido, en esta temporada con solo 3 partidos en casa de lo que va de la temporada, el club ya tiene un promedio de 19,608 personas por encuentro.

Lo malo

Las Tarjetas rojas – En 8 jornadas hasta la fecha, el equipo ha recibido ya 4 tarjetas rojas, un número exagerado ya que en la temporada 2016, el club no recibió ninguna durante toda la temporada. Esto ha llevado a que jugadores importantes como Nicholson, Dacres, Craven y nuestro máximo goleador, Djiby, pierdan minutos esenciales de juego.

Resultados – En lo que va de la temporada (8 jornadas), FC Cincinnati tiene un record de 2 ganados, 3 perdidos y 3 empates sumando tan solo 9 puntos colocándose en la séptima posición de la conferencia Este, lo cual no cumple con las expectativas de la afición durante esta temporada. Hay que agregar que todavía hay 24 partidos por jugar y FC Cincinnati tiene la organización y plantilla para cambiar estos resultados y ganarlo todo esta temporada.

Lo feo

Como se mencionó anteriormente, en lo que va del torneo las tarjetas rojas han sido un gran problema. En la jornada 6 cuando Cincinnati se enfrentó a su rival Louisville City FC, Djiby recibió una tarjeta roja en los últimos minutos del encuentro de un partido muy físico. Luego de la falta y de recibir la tarjeta, jugadores del Louisville se acercaron a Djiby e intercambiaron palabras provocando a Djiby con empujones sin que el árbitro hiciese algo al respecto. Después del partido fue denunciado ante la liga que mientras los jugadores estaban intercambiando palabras, Djiby supuestamente mordió a uno de los jugadores de Louisville City FC mostrando una foto no muy visible como prueba. La liga investigó la situación y después de algunos días dieron la sanción de 6 partidos (aún faltan 4) de suspensión a Djiby. En mi opinión, no había pruebas suficientes para tomar esta decisión, pero la liga pensó diferente. Ahora FC Cincinnati deberá buscar la victoria sin su delantero estrella por los próximos 4 partidos.

Para la afición, tal vez para FC Cincinnati este comienzo de temporada ha sido malo, pero recuerden que todavía estamos en la séptima posición y 8 son los que clasifican a los playoffs. Todavía no es tiempo para desesperarse, este equipo está jugando muy bien creando ocasiones de peligro pero le falta el gol en los partidos que más lo necesitan. El equipo tiene mucho para poder ganar este torneo y falta mucho por jugar. A nosotros los aficionados, nos toca seguir apoyando al equipo mientras se acoplan a la nueva dirección técnica de Alan Koch. VAMOS FCC!

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Preseason Battles To Watch: Defense

FC Cincinnati retained last year’s defensive starters and added Cincinnati native Matt Bahner in the offseason. Who will earn a starting spot in 2017?

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FC Cincinnati’s preseason comes to a close after they take on the Xavier University Mens Soccer team at the XU Soccer Complex on Friday. The 2017 preseason has provided the coaching staff and fans with a good look at a lot of players. The team has produced one win, two draws, and two losses over three weeks of play. The Orange and Blue have scored nine goals and conceded nine during their five game preseason stretch so far. It’s important to note however, that preseason results and associated statistics, should be taken with a grain of salt.

This article is the final installment of a series from Orange and Blue Press on preseason battles. The focus of this article is on another well defined area of the field for FC Cincinnati, defense.

FC Cincinnati had a very stable back line in 2016 anchored by Austin Berry and Harrison Delbridge. Delbridge starred and earned All USL First Team Honors for his performance. Tyler Polak and and Pat McMahon were regulars at left and right fullback respectively.

Cut to the Chase

Berry, Delbridge, and Polak all appear to be locks for the starting eleven in 2017, assuming they are healthy. The only battle truly in progress is for the right back position, where Pat McMahon is fighting to retain his starting position after the arrival of Matt Bahner from the Jacksonville Armada.

Pat McMahon has been a fine servant to the club over the past year. He started 21 of the first 24 matches FC Cincinnati played last season. He was a consistent performer, with a high work rate, and fit well into a system where Harkes asked the fullbacks to go up and down the length of the field with regularity. He also scored a stoppage time goal in the first Dirty River Derby that proved pivotal in FC Cincinnati winning the River Cities Cup. McMahon eventually lost his grip on the starting position and began to share starts with Derek Luke in August of 2016.

Prediction and Depth

Bahner will get the nod at right back to start the season. Berry, Delbridge, and Polak will make up the rest of the back four. The battle for right back is a tight however. Bahner, a Cincinnati native, has stared three preseason matches. McMahon has started two. Bahner played the majority of the match against Sacramento, which was the best dress rehearsal for a real USL game that the preseason offered. He also came from a NASL side, which (arguably) was a higher level of US Soccer in 2016. Signs point to Bahner being the starter, but this is one to watch on Friday night and beyond. With Bahner as the starter, McMahon will provide backup at right back. Derek Luke will be the reserve left back.

Depth is the real question mark in defense for FC Cincinnati. Austin Berry is injured and will miss two to three weeks with an elbow sprain. Paul Nicholson is the obvious replacement for Berry while injured. In 2016, Nicholson deputized for Berry from the end of April until mid-July after Berry suffered a quad injury during training. Nicholson is capable, but any additional defensive injuries could cause a real problem. Because of this lack of depth, FC Cincinnati showcased a few trialists in their preseason games. Expect Koch to sign one of these trialists soon to provide needed cover in central defense.

FC Cincinnati’s USL season kicks of on March 25th in a familiar setting. For the second year running, their first game is a road trip to the Charleston Battery. It’s the first of three consecutive road matches to start their regular season campaign. The home opener is on April 15th and will feature football starved fans and a newly expanded pitch at Nippert Stadium.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2017 Season.

 

 

FC Cincinnati’s Preseason Kicks Off

FC Cincinnati kicked off its preseason with two training sessions on Wednesday. Alan Koch and Matt Bahner talked to O&B Press about the season ahead.

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FC Cincinnati kicked off its 2017 preseason with two practice sessions on Wednesday. After a morning workout in Mason, coach Harkes put the team through its paces in an evening session at UC’s Sheakley Athletics Center.

Orange and Blue Press caught up with a couple of FC Cincinnati’s newest faces at UC.

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Alan Koch

Alan Koch joined FC Cincinnati’s technical staff in the offseason and has a big assignment. He’s the assistant coach for the first team, the head of scouting and analytics, and is also in charge of FC Cincinnati’s academy project. The Durban, South Africa native most recently served as the head coach of Vancouver Whitecaps 2, and brings a wealth of coaching experience to the organization. FC Cincinnati hopes to capitalize on Koch’s experience working with the Whitecaps academy, one of the most esteemed development programs in MLS. We talked to Alan about his new role, FC Cincinnati’s plan for an academy, and his contributions to the MLS expansion application.

AUDIO (57 seconds):

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Matt Bahner

Cincinnati native and former University of Cincinnati standout Matt Bahner had a good first day on the job. He’s only been in town for a week but is settling in nicely with his new team. “It’s a dream come true” said Bahner about the opportunity to return and play for his hometown club. Bahner spent the past two years playing with the NASL’s Jacksonville Armada. He featured at fullback there, and is looking forward to earning an important role on FC Cincinnati’s roster. Bahner says he’s “comfortable playing anywhere on the back line,…at full back or more centrally.” He’s the only defender signed by FC Cincinnati so far this offseason. His versatility will be important for the squad. Before playing for the Armada, Bahner spent two season’s with the Harrisburg City Islanders. He was the only City Islander selected to the USL All League 2nd team in 2014. The City Islanders went all the way to the USL PRO playoff final that year, losing 2-0 to the Sacramento Republic.

Bahner has end product to his game as well. Check out the assist and game winning goal starting at 1:36 of this video.

FC Cincinnati plays the first of six preseason games against OKC Energy on February 19th in Bradenton, Florida. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue press for more coverage and color commentary of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.

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Daryl Fordyce