D.C. Match Notes, Injuries, Dally Seizing Opportunity

Photo Credit: FC Cincinnati

The Result

FC Cincinnati drew 1-1 with D.C. United in the third and final game of the Bradenton portion of preseason programming. Now it’s time to play the broken record . . . don’t read too much into preseason results. FCC wasn’t at full strength. D.C. United wasn’t at full strength. There were a lot of substitutions and playing-time was given to players on the fringes of each team’s starting eleven. That being said, the team can take confidence from another positive result against the best team they’ve faced so far.

Thursday’s contest was a tale of two halves. D.C. dominated early when both team’s higher-priced players featured. United probably should have scored more than one goal but Przemysław Tytoń put in an inspired performance. That’s a good sign, becuase the Polish keeper will likely be called upon to keep FCC in the game more than once this season. The Orange & Blue controlled proceedings later in the match with a lineup that featured several USL carryovers and 2019 draftees. Nazmi Albadawi grabbed the 81st-minute equalizer to reward that group’s efforts. That man Manu Ledesma had the assist. It was another good preseason exercise, and that’s all.

Alan Koch had the following to say after the match.

“In the first 45 minutes tonight, if that was a league game, we could’ve been 3-0 down. So, it’s a great reality check to have that with a few weeks to go in our preparation. I said ‘you played three teams in the league, those three teams have been together for a long time, and we didn’t lose to any of them.’ Results don’t mean anything, but that shows a group that’s willing to come together and fight for each other, so we’ve gained a lot from this trip.”

Bradenton’s Been Good to the Orange & Blue

Geoff Tebbetts managed to glean a nice statistic out of yesterday’s contest, even without visuals or any real match data. The Boys in Orange & Blue end their IMG stint with 5 points (1-0-2). While it may only be preseason, FCC has 4 wins and 5 draws in 11 games at IMG over the last four preseasons.

No Major Injuries

Alan Koch starts almost every preseason interview talking about the importance of staying healthy during preseason. The FCC staff has an important challenge ahead to get the group match-ready in a short time-period but also to manage the health of the players. How well they do that will go a long way toward determining whether they can get any points out of three very difficult matches to open the MLS season.

There are still some minor injuries though. Greg Garza and Darren Mattocks did not play Thursday due to injury. Per our direct communications with FC Cincinnati today, Kendall Waston, Emery Welshman, and Leo Bertone were rested yesterday and didn’t miss the match because of injury. It’s worth noting that Pat Brennan is reporting some minor niggles with a few players in Friday’s training session..

In more positive news, Spencer Richey played his first live-action game minutes of the preseason, entering at halftime and finishing the game with a clean sheet for his portion of the contest.

Lundt to LCFC, Dally Seizing the Opportunity

FCC confirmed Thursday that Ben Lundt is officially headed to Louisville City FC on loan. This loan move was first reported on Tuesday by Kristian Dyer.

A loan has been anticipated since FC Cincinnati drafted two keepers back in January. Teams rarely keep more than three keepers on the roster, and Lundt is an international player. Louisville should be a suitable place for the German to continue his development, even if it will be difficult to see any FCC player in purple.

Another name that demands attention this preseason is Rashawn Dally. The Connecticut native must be doing something right this preseason. He signed an MLS contract with FC Cincinnati earlier this week and started alongside Fanendo Adi on Thursday. Dally has accumulated more playing time (80 minutes) than any other draftee so far.

Dally still might be loaned out, but as the only player FCC drafted in the third or fourth rounds of the 2019 SuperDraft, he’s making the most of his opportunity. If this team is light in any position, it’s on the forward line, so he may have a chance to remain with the MLS team.

The Orange and Blue return from Florida on Saturday and play their next friendly against Indy Eleven in the Indianapolis ‘burbs on Tuesday. Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.

Photo Credit: FC Cincinnati

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. 

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Tampa Bay Rowdies

Design: CSDIV / Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati continues their Southeast road trip as they take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies in St. Petersburg on Saturday. These sides faced each other six weeks ago when FCC secured a convincing 2-0 victory at Nippert. The result was the Orange & Blue’s first victory over the Rowdies, improving to 1-2-1 all time.

FCC will be looking to extend their unbeaten streak to 15 and turn the corner at Al Lang stadium. In their previous two contests they lost 0-2 and 0-3 (2017 playoffs). Fortunately, the road has been a safe place for the Orange & Blue in 2018. Entering Saturday’s match, they are 7-1-3 away from home. In these 11 games, they have earned five clean sheets and posted a plus 10 goal differential.

Tampa Bay were included in most pre-season polls to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With only ten games remaining in their regular season, they are on the outside looking in. The Rowdies currently sit in twelfth place and have only earned six points in the last six games. Following Saturday’s match, they conclude the regular season by playing six of nine on the road.

Since coming over from the Red Bulls in early July, forward Stefano Bonomo has added a spark. In five matches donning the Rowdies kit, the former U.S. Men’s U-18 player has scored three times. He is now tied for the team lead with six goals. However, Tampa Bay has struggled to replace two key creative forces in the midfield. In June, current team assist leader and thorn in FCC’s side, Marcel Schäfer, returned to Germany as the Sporting Director for the Bundesliga club Vfl Wolfsburg. In addition, 2017 NASL Young Player of the Year Jack Blake was loaned to Real Monarchs SLC for the remainder of the 2018 season.

On a short-week, both sides are traveling into Tampa on Thursday (the Rowdies had a come-from-behind draw in Pittsburgh Wednesday evening) and will likely make changes to their game rosters. FCC certainly didn’t need any extra lift while flying, after their emphatic 5-1 thrashing of Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday.

Alan Koch will continue to rotate his squad to keep legs fresh and fine-tune the lineup for the upcoming playoff run. USL MVP-candidate Emmanuel Ledesma is set to return following his one match yellow card accumulation suspension. Fanendo Adi was given the night off in Atlanta and is likely chomping at the bit in anticipation of playing on the manicured Florida grass. Will the Orange & Blue extend their unbeaten streak to 15 games?

Fast Facts

Here are five fast facts to get you ready for Saturday’s 7:30 pm away kickoff.

  • What’s a fast fact section without mentioning Emmanuel Ledesma? Not only is he leading the team with 11 goals and 10 assists, the timing of these achievements have been significant. Ledesma has 4 game-winning tallies and 4 game-winning assists. That’s a ton of potential one-point results that he’s helped secure the full three points.
  • Interchangeable backline – FC Cincinnati has kept eight clean sheets during their fourteen match unbeaten run (0.57 goals against overall). Of note, the club utilized four different center back and keeper combinations in these eight shutouts, with Justin Hoyte and Blake Smith anchoring the outside fullback spots.
  • Statistically, these two sides vary greatly. On offense, the Orange & Blue have scored 19 more goals (51 to 32) and created 12 more assists (33 to 21). Additionally, FCC have converted their strike opportunities at a significantly better rate, 20% to 13%. From a defensive angle, FCC has conceded 10 less goals (24 to 34) and has kept six more clean sheets (11 to 5).
  • Tampa Bay has started 31 different players this season, with only two players exceeding 1,500 total minutes. In contrast, FCC has started 24 different players with eight logging more than 1,500 minutes. Corben “Ironman” Bone leads the team in starts (23), games played (all 25) and minutes (2,018).
  • The Orange & Blue’s five goals in Atlanta set a new club record for goals in a match. With his brace, Nazmi Albadawi raises his season tally to nine. This places three FCC players (Ledesma, König and Albadawi) in the top 25 for goals scored this season (best in the USL).

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Atlanta United 2 1-5 FC Cincinnati: Five-Alarm Fire in Georgia

Nazmi Albadawi grabs a brace and Fatai Alashe gets his first goal in the first five-goal game in FC Cincinnati history.

Atlanta 8.22_Match Recap.jpg
Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

Alan Koch and team extended their impressive unbeaten streak to fourteen with a 5-1 thrashing of Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday. The Orange & Blue are on a roll, and have won six of their last seven matches, and seven of 11 played on the road in 2018. They were without leading goalscorer and talismanic playmaker Emmanuel Ledesma for this match. The Argentine maestro was sidelined, serving a one game suspension for yellow card accumulation.

Alan Koch made three changes to the side that beat Charleston convincingly four days earlier. The changes included a debut for Pa Konate, the Swedish left fullback recently acquired from Serie A side S.P.A.L. Another storyline heading into Wednesday’s match was the goalkeeping selection for the home team. FC Cincinnati’s former U.S. Open Cup hero, Mitch Hildebrandt, minded the nets for Atlanta United 2 against his former team, and had an evening to forget.

FC Cincinnati was the early aggressor and opened the scoring in the 18th minute of play. Emery Welshman held the ball up in the box, then laid it off to Corben Bone. The Plano, TX native fired through traffic, and his deflected shot looped over Hildebrandt and into goal. Nazmi Albadawi then doubled FCC’s fun just seven minutes later. Jimmy McLaughlin’s penetrating run attracted Atlanta’s attention on the right-hand side. He dished to Nazmi in the box, who took a touch and delivered a blistering strike into the corner. Hildebrandt had a decent look at the shot and might have done better. Alan Koch’s team comfortably managed the rest of the first half and went into the break two goals to the good.

Just eight minutes after the whistle that started the second half, FC Cincinnati thumped in another pair of goals. Fatai Alashe, recently loaned from the San Jose Earthquakes (and signed to an MLS contract), grabbed his first goal in Orange & Blue, cleaning up a rebound from a close-range Nazmi Albadawi shot. Albadawi then secured his brace by scoring again just two minutes after Alashe’s goal. The score was 4-0 to FC Cincinnati and the rout was on.

Atlanta United 2 got a consolation goal in the 65th minute. Fullback Shawn Nicklaw beat Spencer Richey with a thunderous long-range effort that found the top right corner. Not to be outdone, FC Cincinnati added a record-setting (most goals-scored in a FCC game) fifth when Emery Welshman struck with just three minutes remaining in regulation.

Final Score: Atlanta United 2 1-5 FC Cincinnati

A fire alarm from an apartment building near to Coolray Stadium rang throughout the end of the first half and most of the second, inspiring the title of this match recap.

Standings Update

The second-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds dropped points on Wednesday after Tampa Bay came from behind to secure a draw at Highmark Stadium. Louisville City FC now occupies third after a convincing 3-0 victory over the Charlotte Independence. FCC is now 9 points clear on top of the USL’s Eastern Conference.

Screenshot 2018-08-22 21.59.42.png

Highlight of the Match

Nazmi Albadawi scored two goals on a night where the big question was how would FCC’s offense perform without Emmanuel Ledesma.

Quote of the Match

Fatai Alashe had the following to say about getting his first goal for FC Cincinnati in just his second start for the organization.

“Whenever a game goes like this, you want to get yourself on the score sheet – especially early in my move here. It’s nice to get a goal. I told my mom before the game I’d score so I’m sure she’s pretty happy about that. It’s a good start and it’s positive so we’ll look to continue it.” 

Stat of the Match

FC Cincinnati had 19 total shot in this match, with 10 on target for a 52.6% shooting accuracy. That ties FC Cincinnati’s highest total of the season for shots on target, and is FCC’s second highest shot total for a game in 2018. Their high shot total and high shooting accuracy paid dividends and resulted in the first five-goal game in FC Cincinnati history.

Who Started?

FC Cincinnati made three changes to the starting eleven that featured last Saturday against Charleston. Pa Konate made his FC Cincinnati debut, replacing Blake Smith at left back. Captain Dekel Keinan returned to the starting eleven after missing two matches with a minor injury. Finally, Jimmy McLaughlin deputized for the suspended Emmanuel Ledesma.

Welshman
Bone (55′ Cicerone)- Albadawi – McLaughlin
Alashe (71′ Lahoud) – Walker
Konate (61 Smith) – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte
Richey

What’s Next?

FC Cincinnati continues its road trip on Saturday with a visit to Al Lang Stadium to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Tampa Bay has recently fallen from their place as one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams. However, FC Cincinnati has never won or even scored a goal against the Rowdies in Florida. They will look to change that narrative this weekend in the Sunshine State.

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

Atlanta 8.22_Match Recap

Nashville SC 0 – 0 FC Cincinnati: MLS Expansion Throwdown Ends in a Stalemate

FC Cincinnati played to a scoreless draw with MLS expansion rival Nashville, SC at Nissan Stadium on Saturday, July 7th.

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati played to a goalless stalemate with MLS expansion rival Nashville SC in front of 18,228 at Nissan Stadium. In the first ever regular season meeting between these two sides, Nashville SC started and finished the first half as the better team. They maintained a 60% share of possession and created quite a few more chances during the first 45 minutes. NSC midfielder Lebo Moloto was unlucky not to put the home team ahead late in the first half. His 43rd minute strike from just outside of the box came back off the inside of the post. Evan Newton then denied a point-blank header from Moloto just one minute later. With some hard defending and a bit of luck, the Orange & Blue went in level at the halftime break.

Alan Koch and company regrouped in the second half and Nashville SC’s dominance slowly eroded. FC Cincinnati introduced three substitutes starting in the 72nd second minute to help influence the result. Jimmy McLaughlin, Russell Cicerone, and Emery Welshman all entered the fray and helped to create some late opportunities for the Orange & Blue. Cicerone and Welshman each had a one-on-one opportunities with just minutes remaining in the match, but NSC goalkeeper Matt Pickens smothered the chances. Forrest Lasso’s 87th minute header from a corner kick also went agonizingly wide left of the goalpost, and the match ended goalless. FCC has still only lost once on the road in 2018 and are 6-1-3 away from Nippert this season.

Final Score: Nashville SC 0 – 0 FC Cincinnati

Standings Update

FC Cincinnati remains on top of the Eastern Conference with the draw, now 4 points clear of  Pittsburgh, who has 2 games in hand. The Riverhounds are in action on Sunday at 1pm versus Ottawa Fury FC. The Orange & Blue maintain a seven game USL unbeaten run that extends back to June 2nd.

Highlight of the Match

The game opened up toward the end of the second half and FC Cincinnati had a couple of good chances to sneak out of Nashville with maximum points. Emery Welshman’s one-on-one in the 89th minute was snuffed out by Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens.

Stat of the Match

The two teams created a combined 32 shots on goal during the contest but only 5 total were on target.

Shots from FC Cincinnati (left) and Nashville SC (right). Both teams were largely off-target during Saturday’s 0-0 meeting at Nissan Stadium.

Quote of the Match

Alan Koch summarized his feelings about Saturday’s result in Music City.

“Positive result, playing against a good Nashville team at their place in a very tough environment. We’re glad to take the point. We weren’t good in the first 45 minutes. They were clearly the better team. We had to adjust a few things tactically at halftime and I think it became an even game in the second half. Then we started to get going, feeling a little more confident about things and created quite a few chances in the last five to 10 minutes.”

Who Started?

Alan Koch started the same lineup that featured in the 2-0 victory over Ottawa Fury FC last Saturday.

Ledesma – König
Albadawi
Walker-Bone
Lahoud
Smith –  Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte
Newton

What’s Next?

The Orange & Blue retreat to Cincinnati where they can settle in and get accustomed to some home cookin’. Alan Koch’s side will play six straight USL league matches in the confines of Nippert Stadium before heading back out on the road. Mixed into that schedule is a tasty international friendly against RCD Espanyol of Spain’s La Liga.

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

Midseason Review: Keys to First Half Success and Questions for the Next 17

Midseason Review: How FC Cincinnati’s first half of 2018 stacks up against previous years, attendance, MVP, and key questions for the second half.

FC Cincinnati is destined for the first division of U.S Soccer in 2019. With their MLS future finally decided, a reasonable person might ask, “How much does the 2018 USL season really matter?”

It matters quite a lot if you consider the words of FC Cincinnati’s manager and front office. Both Alan Koch and Jeff Berding have stated a clear ambition to finish their third and final USL season on top. FC Cincinnati’s head coach said the following at the MLS announcement at Fountain Square on May 29th.

“We still have an amazing season ahead of us this year, and we want to finish that off in style.”

So far, so good.

How 2018 Stacks Up

FC Cincinnati currently sits on top of the Eastern Conference after 17 matches played, the halfway point of the 2018 season. Their position on top is not new. They’ve gone into each of their last 10 USL matches in either first or second place in the Eastern Conference.

Even though the Pittsburgh Riverhounds can match FC Cincinnati’s midseason point total by winning their two games in hand, FCC’s current standing bodes well. In 2016 and 2017, the team’s ranking at the halfway point was a good predictor of where the Orange & Blue would finish the regular season.

At the midway point in 2016, FCC had just beaten Bethlehem Steel FC, the final positive result in an 11 game unbeaten streak. They stood in third place with a 9-2-4 record and 31 points. That season they finished the regular season in third, but fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Charleston Battery.

At the midway point of a less successful 2017 season, FCC drew Orlando City B in Florida. They were 5-5-6 at that point with 21 points, good enough for seventh place in the East. They finished last season just one place ahead of that in sixth, and again crashed out in the first round of the USL playoffs, this time to Tampa Bay.

Comparing the first half of FCC’s three seasons:
Screenshot 2018-07-03 06.23.43.png

It’s worth noting that the length of the USL schedule was extended each of the past two years; in 2017 the season was 32 games, and in 2016 it was 30.

So their current first place standing is a good omen. They also have talent, depth, and MLS momentum, but there is a lot of soccer to be played.

Attendance

It wouldn’t be an FC Cincinnati article without some attendance talk. FCC is averaging 24,953 in paid attendance through half of the 2018 season. That’s up almost 18% from last year. They currently boast the fifth highest attendance of professional soccer teams in the U.S. and Canada behind Atlanta United, the Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, and the LA Galaxy.

First Half MVP

This is a short conversation. The first 17 games have produced some great moments, supplied by a variety of players, but Emmanuel Ledesma has been a class above the rest. He leads the team (and the USL) in assists with 8, and is tied with Danni König for the most team goals, also at 8. Ledesma also leads FCC in chances created (30), shots (36), shots on target (19), fouls won (26), and crosses (42). He’s had a goal or assist in 9 of the 17 games so far this season. Ledesma can boast 5 USL team of the week selections and 1 USL player of the week award. He’s got a good shot at USL MVP if he can keep up the pace.

Keys to First Half Success

Outside of the heroic contributions of Emmanuel Ledesma, the following highlights tell the story of the first 17 games.

Evan Newton

Early in 2018, the offense hadn’t gelled and goals were hard to come by. It took two heroic performances by Evan Newton to earn maximum points on the road against Charleston and Indy Eleven. FCC probably shouldn’t have won either of those games, and their midseason record might not look quite as rosy without those points. The three-time USL Save of the Week winner has the ability to make stops that change the outcome of games. The defense hasn’t been as airtight recently, but fans have good reason to feel confident with Newton in the net coming down the stretch.

Road Form

Perhaps the most standout feature of the first 17 games has been the road form of FC Cincinnati. Alan Koch’s “road warriors” are 6-1-2 in a travel-heavy first half of the season. The single game they lost was the 4-1 drubbing they took in Charlotte, which looks like an aberration at this point.

Squad Depth

In addition to fine road form, the depth of the squad has stood out. The team has been able to overcome injuries to Tyler Gibson, Kenney Walker, and Evan Newton. They’ve also dealt with yellow card suspensions to Keinan, Lasso, and Ledesma. Most recently against Ottawa, Mike Lahoud stepped in as the holding midfielder for the injured Richie Ryan, and was one of the best players on the field. Few USL teams can compete with FCC in terms of the strength of the 18 they can put out each week.

Hydra Attack

The team boasts 9 different goalscorers and 8 different players with assists. Early in the season, a “score from anywhere” offense was the hallmark of the Orange & Blue’s strategy. As the season has progressed, however, there’s been a shift to the goals being more concentrated with the attacking players: Ledesma, König, Welshman, and Albadawi.

Questions for the Next 17

A lot can change after the next 17 games, and FC Cincinnati will have to continue to absorb every team’s best shot if they want to stay on top of the heap. That quest starts this Saturday, July 7th, against Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium. The answers to the following questions will go a long way toward determining FCC’s end of season success.

Can they improve their home record?

Only dropping 1 of 9 games on the road is pretty insane. Results away from Nippert in the second half  will likely drop off, at least a little. However, home form has been average up until now (4-2-2), so there’s a good chance if they can pick things up at Nippert, any second half dip in road results can be offset at home. They need to take better advantage of a Nippert Stadium that should be packed for the rest of the season.

Will MLS expansion become a distraction?

A lot of news will hit the press between now and October about next season and the team’s rise to Major League Soccer. There’s also a lot to be done by the coaching staff behind the scenes to get ready. Although technical director Luke Sassano will do a lot of the heavy lifting, Alan Koch will certainly need to be involved in the decision making. Could the attention required and distractions to the players negatively affect results? The team did a good job of managing the MLS circus during the first half of the season. That will have to continue.

Can the defense keep things cleaner?

FC Cincinnati’s offense is really ticking, and they currently lead USL in goals scored with 35. However, over a third of the teams in the USL have conceded fewer goals than FCC. The Orange & Blue have conceded 21 goals, or 1.2 goals per game. Compare that to the second place Pittsburgh Riverhounds, at 0.47 goals per game; or Nashville SC at 0.67 goals per game. Those teams can’t compete with FCC’s offense, but the defense will need to be stingier to capture a top seed in the playoffs. There’s reason to be optimistic though. They’ve kept clean sheets in 3 of their last 5 games.

Can Ledesma stay this hot?

Emmanuel Ledesma has been on fire. While there’s no signs of him slowing down, increased production by others in the second half might be required to maintain the top spot. Nazmi Albadawi looks primed to fill the role. The Raleigh, NC native is picking up steam and has 6 goals in his last 8 league outings.

Can FCC peak at the right time?

USL, like MLS, is obviously a playoff league. They could get the answer right to all of the questions above, and if they aren’t in peak form at playoff time, the hard work can go out the window in one game. That’s the nature for American sports. Doing everything possible to stay healthy and be at peak form for the playoffs is critical.

Midfielder Mike Lahoud said the following about the team’s performance in the first half of the season.

“We’re content with the body of work, but we’re not satisfied. We haven’t won anything yet. This is the halfway point, and you get zero trophies for being in first place halfway. We’re moving toward something tangible, and from here on out, it’s a downhill slalom.”

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for the second half of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.

FC Cincinnati 2 – 0 Ottawa Fury: FCC Hits Two and is Top at Midseason

FC Cincinnati got back on track on Saturday by beating Ottawa Fury FC 2-0 in front of 27,107 at Nippert Stadium

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati got back on track on Saturday by beating Ottawa Fury FC 2-0 in front of 27,107 at Nippert Stadium. Danni König gave the Orange & Blue the lead in the 16th minute of play, finishing off a delicious cross from Blake Smith in a move that showcased FC Cincinnati’s controlled buildup play. Alan Koch’s side dominated possession in the first half against a defense-minded Fury FC, but they opened themselves up to a handful of threatening counters. The back line snuffed out the danger though, and FCC went into the halftime break with a 1-0 advantage.

Fury FC came out with intent in the second half. They broke out of their defensive shell, won an improved share of possession, and threatened goal, mostly from a series of set pieces earned in the middle portion of the second half. FC Cincinnati’s defense, organized by Dekel Keinan and benefitting from the safe hands of Evan Newton, held under the pressure. Nazmi Albadawi capped off a professional performance with a sensational goal in stoppage time. Corben Bone broke free of Ottawa’s defense deep on the left side of the field. He floated a precise cross into the path of Albadawi, who volleyed from just outside of the center of the box to double the score. Game over.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 2-0 Ottawa Fury FC

Standings Update

FC Cincinnati remains on top of the Eastern Conference with the win, six points clear of  Pittsburgh who has 2 games in hand. Pittsburgh was inactive on Saturday. Rival Louisville City FC sits in third and continues to struggle. They drew 3-3 with NY Red Bulls II at home after leading the match 2-0 at halftime. They haven’t won a game in their last 5 played.

Highlight of the Match

The buildup play to the first goal was eye-catching, but Nazmi Albadawi’s volley to ice the game in stoppage time will be a USL Goal of the Week contender.

Stat of the Match

Mike Lahoud had the second most total passes on the team with 69, at a staggering 97.1% passing accuracy. He had 48 passes in the first half and didn’t miss a single one. He didn’t actually miss a pass until the 62nd minute of play. Lahoud played a critical role as the lone central defensive midfielder in FCC’s diamond 4-4-2. He replaced Richie Ryan who is has been a stalwart in that role, but is out 3-6 weeks with a lower leg injury.

Mike Lahoud’s passing distribution vs Ottawa – that’s a LOT of green

Quote of the Match

Alan Koch was asked about his feelings on the team’s performance at the halfway point of the season.

“I’m not comfortable, I’m never comfortable, unfortunately. I’m very happy with the group because we put a really new group together this year, and obviously it takes time to build. But through 17 games, I’m very proud of every player in the group — how they’ve come in and they’ve responded to the challenges we’ve thrown at them, . . .Very happy, but we’re not comfortable because we know we’re only halfway.”

Who Started?

Alan Koch made five changes to the lineup that started midweek in the draw against Toronto FC II.

Ledesma (78′ McLaughlin) – König (90’+5 Haber)
Albadawi
Bone-Walker (69′ Welshman)
Lahoud
Smith –  Keinan – Lasso – Hoyte
Newton

What’s Next?

The Orange & Blue have a week to recover and prepare for their first ever regular season match against Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium on Saturday, July 7th. Nashville sits within striking distance of FCC in fourth place. The contest pits Alan Koch’s side against a USL newcomer and future MLS rival.

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

FC Cincinnati 2 – 2 Bethlehem Steel FC: Bonus Track

The Orange & Blue Press Bonus Track segment is a shortened version of our Deeper Cuts series. This edition takes a look at how FCC fared without playmaker Manu Ledesma.

Image: Ryan Meyer

The Bonus Track segment is an abridged version of Orange & Blue Press’ Deeper Cuts series. It takes one component of a recent match and breaks it down in more detail.

Despite two well-timed goals and a man advantage, FC Cincinnati could not claim all three points against a young but talented Bethlehem Steel FC, drawing 2-2 at Nippert Stadium. This article takes a deeper look at how the team fared without key playmaker Emmanuel Ledesma.

Life Without Manu

One question that was answered clearly on Wednesday is that the team can create and convert chances without Manu. The Argentine playmaker was suspended for the match after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season last Saturday. While FCC boasts the ability to score from many positions on the field, Ledesma clearly is the most threatening component of the attack. He currently leads FC Cincinnati in assists, shots, shots on target, chances created, and crosses. He’s also second on the team in goals with 5, just behind leader Danni König.

Without Ledesma on Wednesday, FCC had 27 total shots over the course of the entire match, converting twice. They created 15 of those 27 shots in the first 52 minutes of the match, before the red card was issued to Bethlehem.

So who stepped up to fill the void in Ledesma’s absence?  Primarily Nazmi Albadawi and Russell Cicerone.

Albadawi had one of his most influential games of the season. The Raleigh, NC native had the most passes of any player in FC Cincinnati’s front six (40) at a 82.6% passing accuracy. He scored the first goal, won 4 out of 6 duels, fired 8 shots (most on the team) with 4 on target, and created 6 chances (also most on the team).

In addition to Naz’s contributions, Russell Cicerone continued to impress on the right flank, starting his third consecutive match in 8 days. He took 7 total shots—2 were blocked, 4 on target, and just 1 off target—and scored the goal to go ahead 2-1. He also created 1 chance and won 9 duels during the contest.

Nazmi Albadawi said the following about the the team’s offensive effort after the match:

“(Bethlehem) is a good team and they played well in the first half. That being said, in the first half, I thought their goalkeeper had two or three really good saves … We had opportunities … they just didn’t go our way for one reason or another. I thought we were better in the second half.”

Obviously Manu’s clinical finishing ability could have been a difference-maker in this match. However, FC Cincinnati created enough chances and scored enough goals to win. If they kept things tidier in defense, they would have earned the other two points.

That Second Goal Though

Alan Koch said the following about Bethlehem’s second goal in the post-match press conference:

“That’s frustrating, you should never concede a goal straight after you scored. You’ve got to have the focus, and we always preach five-minute segments of the game. We should have managed that a lot better.”

Despite the draw, the team showed it can cope without their star playmaker if needed. That playmaking depth will be of some comfort over a long USL campaign, where Ledesma will need rest, and injuries are always a possibility.

It’s worth noting that the overall stats skew in FC Cincinnati’s favor because of the man advantage, but Albadawi and Cicerone influenced the game well before the 52nd minute, even if their goals came afterwards.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of Saturday’s league matchup against Richmond Kickers.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at North Carolina FC

Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program supplies the information and fast facts you need to prepare for FC Cincinnati at North Carolina FC on Saturday, June 9th.

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Graphic: CSDIV / Image: Joe Craven

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Graphic CSDIV / Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati travels to Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Complex Saturday to face North Carolina FC for their second meeting of the season. After a come from behind win against at NYRBII last Saturday, the Orange & Blue regained first place in the Eastern Conference. They will look to add another three points to an already impressive 2018 away campaign this weekend.

North Carolina FC currently sits in 12th place in the East with 11 points after 10 matches played. Their most recent league match resulted in a 2-1 loss at home to an improving Bethlehem Steel squad. However, their two previous home matches were strong shutout wins; an impressive 4-0 rout against Atlanta United II and a convincing 3-0 blanking of Penn FC. NCFC’s attack is led by leading scorer Daniel Rios who has 5 goals on the season.

The last meeting between the two teams three weeks ago proved quite fruitful for FCC with a decisive 4-1 trouncing at Nippert. The Orange & Blue attack inflicted a heavy toll on the visitors. FC Cincinnati midfielder, and North Carolina native, Nazmi Albadawi made a statement of his own against his former club tallying two goals in spectacular fashion. That match also showcased the talents of Argentinian Emmanuel Ledesma and Danish striker Danni König, who combined for three assists and two goals. Expect to see this lethal combination attack early and often this weekend.

Both teams are coming off heartbreaking midweek penalty kick losses in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition. While fatigue could play a roll this weekend, FCC should have an advantage with their recent player rotation and depth. As always, the starting XI and formation will be interesting to watch as they seek to continue their 5-1-1 road dominance. The manager and team’s focus now shifts to staying top of the table and winning the league championship.

Fast Facts

Here are four fast facts to get you ready for Saturday’s 7pm kickoff in Cary, North Carolina.

  • FC Cincinnati leads the Eastern Conference in goals scored with 22 but are fourth from the top in goals conceded at 16.
  • Despite where NCFC currently sits in the standings, they’ve still found a way to score at home netting nine goals in fives matches. In comparison, FCC has scored ten goals at home in the same amount of matches.
  • Canadian midfielder Kyle Bekker leads North Carolina FC in assists (4) and chances created (15).
  • FCC standout and Argentinian midfielder Emmanuel Ledesma leads the USL with 12 points (5 goals and 7 assists).

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati at North Carolina FC on Saturday.

FC Cincinnati 4 – 1 North Carolina FC: Deeper Cuts

Detailed stats and deeper analysis of FC Cincinnati’s 4-1 victory over North Carolina FC on Saturday, May 19th, at Nippert Stadium.

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Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati was on target at Nippert Stadium and thrilled over 22 thousand supporters with four goals in a statement victory against North Carolina FC. The win keeps them on top of the Eastern Conference heading into another busy week of U.S. Open Cup and league action. In our Deeper Cuts segment we dig further into the result and put it into context of FC Cincinnati’s season to date.

Offense Keeps Ticking

FC Cincinnati’s offense is in full stride ten games into the season. Nazmi Albadawi and Emmanuel Ledesma were the headline makers on Saturday, but FCC’s score-from-anywhere “Hydra” offense pulls goals and chance creation from all over the roster.

The Orange & Blue can boast five different goal-scorers with at least 3 goals, five different players with assists, and 13 different players that have created at least 3 chances. Emmanuel Ledesma scores goals, but his impact as a playmaker has been even more significant. He leads the team in both assists (7) and chances created (19) by some margin.

FC Cincinnati is now third in the USL and first in the Eastern Conference in goals scored with 20 total. They’ve scored 15 goals in their last five games and scored at least 3 goals in 4 of the their last 5 matches. Their conversion rate (goals / non-blocked shots) is tied for first in USL at 20%. In ten matches, they’ve only been held goalless one time (versus Louisville City FC). Only Phoenix Rising FC and Portland Timbers 2 have scored more goals in USL play and both teams have played one more match than FCC. This is a fun team to watch right now.

Ryan’s Foundation

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Ryan’s Distribution against NCFC, via Opta on USL

The man almost never misses a pass. Orange & Blue Press highlighted Richie Ryan’s metronome-like presence in the midfield earlier this season. He played that role again on Saturday in one of FC Cincinnati’s best possession-based performances of the 2018 campaign.

Against North Carolina FC, he led the midfield with 64 passes at a staggering 95% completion rate. He also had a perfect 100% pass completion percentage in the opponent’s half. His distribution, consistency, and decision-making at the base of FC Cincinnati’s midfield is the platform on which their successful attack is built. His steady presence, especially with Walker and Bone just in front of him in the diamond, provides FCC’s more attacking players with service and freedom to create.

In truth though, it was a really good passing night for the team overall. Seven FCC players had an 80% passing accuracy or higher, all of them in the back line or the diamond midfield.

Paddy in the Back

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Image: Joe Craven

Paddy Barrett made his second start of the season in USL play and third start overall on Saturday. A big talking point going into the match against NCFC was the absence of Forrest Lasso, who was suspended for yellow card accumulation. Let’s take a deeper look at how Paddy fared on a good defensive night for the Orange & Blue.

Barrett had 64 passes, the most of any defender, at a 87.7% pass completion rate. He won 7 of 11 duels and won 5 of 7 aerial duels. Add to that 2 tackles, 3 clearances, and an interception. That adds up to a reliable defensive performance.

Outside of the numbers, the defense was organized and didn’t look that vulnerable in the air without the towering presence of Lasso. They were minutes away from securing a coveted clean sheet, but it wasn’t meant to be. FCC had a 17-4 advantage in tackles and 82.4% tackle success rate. Compare that to their average success rate for the season of about 65%.

So a good night on both sides of the ball unsurprisingly equates to a convincing victory. Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of another action-packed week for the Orange & Blue.

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