2018 USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: Conference Finals

Might as well see this through. Our guru predicts the next USL Cup representative from the East.

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Image: Ryan Meyer

Three years of participation in the USL have been beneficial for FC Cincinnati. Paint it any way you like—FCC still advanced further than ever before in the standings this year. The regular-season trophy still has value. Some rivals may brag that it’s not a gold star, but hardware occupies the trophy case.

However, it’s hard to deny that seeing the same names at the top of the marquee at this stage of the season is rough. In all three years of FC Cincinnati’s existence, Louisville City has made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. That alone is frustrating enough, but all three years have also produced the same two opponents in those conference finals. When Louisville has excelled, New York Red Bulls II have been with them every step of the way.

New York won it all in 2016. Lou City took it all in 2017. Now it’s time for the rubber match, and yeah, it stings to watch that from the perspective of the bystander.

There is at least one bright side. Phoenix Rising’s victory against Swope Park means that the West will be represented by a new independent team. While “Team Drogba” took out the Rangers, Orange County SC defeated Reno 1868 to take the fourth and final spot. Yes, the East may be more of the same, but a team west of the Mississippi will get a shot to host its first USL Cup Final since 2014.

This point is where I stop talking about FC Cincinnati. If you’re okay with that, read on, while I take out my crystal ball…


Conference Final Predictions

#2 Louisville City FC (21-6-9) vs. #5 New York Red Bulls II (15-8-13)

Head-to-head record:

New York leads the overall series (4-3-3). However, Louisville is undefeated in the past five matches, including the playoffs.

Past results:

We’ve been down this road before, and the results have been eerily similar but opposite. New York hosted the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals against Louisville and knotted the game at 1-1 before extra time. Red cards were exchanged without a result, but the Baby Bulls managed a 4-3 win in penalty kicks. The 2016 USL Cup in Harrison was surprisingly well-attended, and New York blasted Swope Park 5-1.

In 2017, Louisville got the opportunity to host against New York and took another early 1-0 lead. However, New York again tied the game in the second half, and extra time was penniless. This time around, New York couldn’t find the frame in penalty kicks, and Lou City took that one 4-3. A late Cameron Lancaster goal was the difference in the 2017 USL Cup, with Lou City beating Swope Park 1-0.

And so the sides meet once again. Fifteen of the 18 players on Louisville’s gameday roster from last year are still on the team. The most important piece, ex-head coach James O’Connor, is now piecing together a broken Orlando City team. Pundits wondered if Lou City was washed up with only player-coaches, but the arrival of John Hackworth has done its job. Since their last loss to FC Cincinnati at home, Lou City has gone 8-0-1, outscoring their opponents 25-6. Their game against Bethlehem Steel FC last week was a relative cakewalk. Midfielder Brian Ownby finally returned to form, pocketing a brace to help Louisville win 2-0.

New York’s squad is almost a complete overhaul from 2017, but essential pieces remain. Andrew Tinari still helms the midfield, while goalkeeper Evan Louro has returned to fine form from his run in 2016. Head coach John Wolyniec is the glue that keeps this team together. During his tenure with Red Bulls II, the squad has been one of the most ruthless offenses in the USL—the team has scored an average of 2.01 goals per game since 2016. (Louisville has scored an average of 1.89 in the same span.)

We don’t need to tell you how the Baby Bulls pretty much dismantled FC Cincinnati in the Conference semifinals. A goal in the 12th minute from Amando Moreno stood the entire way, while the defense rattled the Orange & Blue constantly. Perhaps the 1-0 score is misleading, as New York controlled the ball well in small spaces and slowed the game’s pace to a crawl.

This year’s results:

Past games between Louisville and New York were relative displays of control and defense. The two matches this year were anything but that. In the first June matchup at Louisville, Lancaster put in two quick-fire goals for an early 2-0 lead. However, Louisville played a physical game against the Baby Bulls afterward. The team racked up 19 fouls and 5 yellow cards, while New York dominated possession (57%). It took a late header from Magnus Rasmussen to save a 3-3 draw for Louisville.

It appeared that New York had their own game well in hand back in August. Goals from Tinari and Ethan Kutler gave New York an early 2-0 advantage. However, Louisville pulled off their own offensive counter with a hat-trick from Lancaster. When the smoke cleared, Lou City’s fireworks display gave them the 6-4 win.

Prediction:

Both teams have understandably matured since their last game. Hackworth’s steadiness has given Louisville an eight-game winning streak and a path towards hosting another USL Cup. Wolyniec’s leadership has the Red Bulls on their own five-game winning run. Both teams have displayed immense kinetic energy on the pitch and have put up solid numbers against the other.

While both defenses are likely to be put through the wringer, the deciding factor will be the midfield. While Tinari has become a bedrock for New York, Louisville’s Ilija Ilic has played incredible football this year. His first of two goals against New York patched up the leak in that 6-4 comeback win. The Serbian’s numbers (12G, 11A) would have him in the MVP talks if it weren’t for his teammate Lancaster.

It will hurt the Greater Cincinnati region for me to say this, but I cannot see Louisville caving to the same hijinks that undid Cincinnati’s year last week. While New York enjoys playing a compact game, Slugger Field is made for that kind of close contact. On top of that, this Louisville offense is by far the most powerful it has ever been. Both teams will bomb the goal with plenty of strikes, but Lou City will do one better. Louisville 3, New York 2.


Again, the pain won’t go away after this game. No matter which team wins, they’ll be favored to double their cup total in the final. The best thing you can do is tune out the static and become a Phoenix or Orange County fan next week.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more on the USL Playoffs and all FC Cincinnati news as they transition to MLS competition next year.

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Images: FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 New York Red Bulls II

Images of FC Cincinnati’s USL Cup Playoff loss to New York Red Bulls II on Saturday, October 27th, 2018.

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Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s playoff defeat to New York Red Bulls II on Saturday, October 27th 2018. When browsing the gallery below, for any given image, a high-resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.” A watermark identifying the photographer can be found on each photo. All images are courtesy of Joe Schmuck and Ryan Meyer.

For more particulars of Saturday’s contest, turn your attention to the following article.

New York_Match Recap
FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 New York Red Bulls II: USL Era Ends in Conference Semis

Images

Make sure you didn’t miss our Best of 2018 Images article, found below.FCCvINDY-188
2018 Images: A Season of Record-Setting Memories

All images are copyright protected to safeguard the creative rights of our photographers. We’re very open to sharing our work with those who want to show support for FC Cincinnati. We simply request that you ask (via DM on Twitter or email) and give credit where it’s due. Thanks!

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

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FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 New York Red Bulls II: USL Era Ends in Conference Semis

FC Cincinnati set two new USL records and finished their regular season while playing Nashville SC to a 3-3 stalemate at First Tennessee Park.

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Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati’s dominant 2018 season came to an abrupt end on Saturday in the USL Cup playoffs, when they were defeated 1-0 by New York Red Bulls II. A modest crowd of 16,617 witnessed the end of FC Cincinnati’s USL era on a damp fall afternoon in the Queen City.

New York came into the match confident, on the heels for four straight wins, and clearly had the better first half. They capitalized quickly on their good start 12 minutes into the contest. Following a cleared Emmanuel Ledesma free kick, the Baby Bulls unleashed a piercing counter-attack. Supporting New York players distracted three FCC defenders long enough to allow Amando Moreno space for a shot. His effort from just outside the penalty area beat Spencer Richey to the lower left corner. John Wolyniec’s side shut down a one-dimensional FC Cincinnati with Fanendo Adi leading the line, allowing only one shot in the first stanza. At halftime, Alan Koch said, “we have to be better in the second,” but also cited New York’s gamesmanship and time-wasting following the goal.

FC Cincinnati adjusted to their alternate formation in the second half — a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. That change plus the introduction of Kenney Walker in the 61st minute produced immediate benefits. The game opened up and both teams had chances to change the scoreline. Alan Koch also introduced Jimmy McLaughlin and Emery Welshman late in the match in an attempt to find a breakthrough. It wasn’t to be though. Despite 19 second-half shots between the two teams, neither team found the back of the net. A resilient Red Bulls II side salted away the game and FC Cincinnati’s record-setting season fell short of the promises offered by their regular season championship.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 0 – 1 New York Red Bulls II

Highlight of the Match

FC Cincinnati had clear chances to equalize in the second half. New York also had quality chances to double their lead. Neither team could convert. Fanendo Adi’s 50th-minute effort was probably the best of the bunch for the Orange & Blue.

Stat of the Match

Emmanuel Ledesma was clearly the standout player of 2018 for the Orange & Blue. The Baby Bulls, however, limited FC Cincinnati’s star to just two off-target shots on Saturday. Manu was still able to create 3 chances and win 14 of 19 duels, but the Red Bulls were able to neutralize what should have been a deadly combination of Ledesma and Adi. Therefore, one 12th-minute goal was enough to sink the USL regular season champions.

Quote of the Match

Team captain Paddy Barrett had the following to say about the loss in the post-match press conference.

“We’re all mature enough to take this on the chin . . . To be part of this group, we don’t want it to end on such a low. From me and everybody in the dressing room, we should keep our heads up and be proud of what we did this year.”

Who Started?

Alan Koch started the exact same 11 players that started last weekend in the penalty-kick victory over Nashville SC. The formation changed from the visual below to a 4-4-2 in the second half, with Ledesma moving up to join Adi.

Adi
Bone – Albadawi (79′ McLaughlin) – Ledesma
Gibson (61′ Walker) – Alashe
Smith (86′ Welshman) – Lasso – Barrett – Hoyte
Richey

What’s Next?

Another exit from the playoffs, earlier than expected, leaves FC Cincinnati fans wanting more as they exit the United Soccer League. There will be a day to reflect on the loss and put it in perspective, given a season full of fine moments. That quiet reflection won’t last for long though. Monday is expected to be a day full of team news and player exits, as FC Cincinnati turns the chapter and looks forward to its first division future.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as we put a finishing touch on the 2018 season and keep you filled-in on the conclusion of the USL Cup Playoffs.

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Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs New York Red Bulls II

Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program supplies the information and fast facts you need for FC Cincinnati’s playoff meeting with New York Red Bulls II.

Design: CSDIV / Image: Ryan Meyer

One down, three to go. FC Cincinnati continues their quest for the USL Cup this Saturday against perennial Eastern Conference contender New York Red Bulls II. It’s another high-stakes, winner-takes-all matinee at Nippert Stadium. The Orange & Blue advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals after a grueling 1-1 draw with Nashville SC that was settled by penalty kicks. Kenny Walker delivered the decisive spot kick to win the shootout 6-5 after Nashville SC’s Justin Davis put his attempt over the crossbar. It’s the first time FCC has advanced to the conference semifinal in their three-year history.

New York Red Bulls II punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference semis by beating the Charleston Battery 1-0 on the road. A 21st-minute Tom Barlow strike and some tidy defending were enough to seal the victory. For more details on these teams’ recent head-to-head-history and predictions for both semifinals in the East, check out Orange & Blue Press’ article by Geoff Tebbetts.


2018 USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: Conference Semi-Finals

Alan Koch’s squad finished 25 points ahead of a talented but inconsistent Red Bulls II squad during the regular season. The Orange & Blue, of course, are still carrying a USL-record unbeaten streak heading into this playoff match. That streak currently stands at 24 games (17-0-7). The Baby Bulls are the #5 seed and are in sizzling form. They come into the contest on a 7-game unbeaten run that includes four straight wins.

There are no major injuries for FC Cincinnati ahead of Saturday’s contest. However, the squad may still be without striker Danni König. The Danish forward and double-digit goalscorer returned home last week citing personal reasons. The FCC jerseys worn last Saturday against Nashville donned a small 11 on the sleeve to recognize his absence.

Fast Facts

Here’s a heavy dose of fast facts to get you ready for this Eastern Conference semifinal showdown.

  • This contest features two of the best offenses in the USL. FC Cincinnati has 73 goals so far in 2018 and New York Red Bulls II is right behind with 72. Those are the third and fourth highest totals in the league. FC Cincinnati finished the regular season with the highest goal total, but Orange County FC (74) and Louisville City FC (75) leapfrogged them last week with high-scoring playoff matches.
  • Red Bulls II has one of the worst defenses in the league and conceded 24 more goals than FCC during the regular season (59). Only 7 teams allowed more goals than New York, and none of them made the playoffs. John Wolyniec’s squad only kept 5 clean sheets compared to FCC’s 15. However, they’ve been stingy recently, conceding only 2 goals in their last 3 matches.
  • New York likes to do their damage from close range. Of their 72 goals, only 6 have been scored from outside the 18-yard box (8%). In comparison, FCC has scored 22% of their goals from outside the box in 2018.
  • Red Bulls II have created three times as many penalties kick opportunities as FCC (12 to 4). They have only converted 66% of those spot-kicks though, and FCC has converted all 4 of their attempts.
  • NYRBII’s Jared Stroud and Tom Barlow are players to watch as they account for 5 of the team’s last 7 goals. Barlow has 3 and Stroud has 2 over their last 4 matches.
  • Corben Bone is red-hot in Orange & Blue with three goals in the last 2 games. If you include last weekend’s playoff strike, he now has the second most goals of any FCC player in 2018. Bone also joined Eric Stevenson as only one of two FCC players to score a playoff goal.
  • Spencer Richey is coming off of his third five-save match of 2018 against Nashville SC, and FCC is 11-1-3 this season when he’s between the sticks. Jack Stern’s goalkeeping squad needs to be at their best again on Saturday to stop a potent Red Bulls II attack.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s playoff match versus New York Red Bulls 2.

2018 USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: Conference Semi-Finals

Three out of four ain’t bad. We attempt to predict the next two matches in the USL Eastern Conference playoffs.

Image: JES Photography

Is everyone calm and collected after last weekend?

Good, because the matches only get tougher from here.

Now that the opening weekend has come and gone, the smoke has cleared to present two very similar matches in the East. Independent teams dominated the table in the regular season, but two “MLS 2” squads snuck up on their opponents for significant upsets. While one remaining challenge is a rematch from last year’s playoffs (Louisville vs. Bethlehem), the other is a “rematch” of fanbases from the 2017 U.S. Open Cup semifinal (Cincinnati vs. New York).

Considering that Louisville and New York were in similar situations last year, the stage could be set for a rubber match between LCFC and the Baby Bulls. However, Cincinnati’s 24-match unbeaten streak cannot be ignored, and Bethlehem is a much leaner team than they were last year. Any of the four outcomes for a conference final are still possible.

Okay, so I didn’t see the Steel overcoming the Steel Army. 75% is still a good percentage for predicting the future. Let’s ride the hand that Lady Luck dealt and make some more guesses.


Conference Semi-Final Predictions

#1 FC Cincinnati (23-3-9) vs. #5 New York Red Bulls II (14-8-13)

Head-to-head record:

Cincinnati and New York are level in the six matches they have faced each other (3-3-0). New York holds a +3 goal differential, but FC Cincinnati currently holds a 3-game winning streak.

Past results:

People have been debating who FC Cincinnati’s rivals may be in Major League Soccer next year. True, their nearest foes are Columbus and Chicago. Both are within driving distance, and both have fallen by the sword of the Knifey Lions. However, I would argue that perhaps the deepest bond might be with the New York Red Bulls. Despite the accolades thrown about last year, the loss against the MLS squad in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals stung much worse than the loss against Minnesota United this year.

It might not be visible, but the friction between FC Cincinnati and the Baby Bulls is there. In 2016, New York was the one team that FCC could not garner a single point against. The 2-1 loss at Nippert was one thing, but the early red card on Mitch Hildebrandt and the obvious VAR advantage made the 2-0 loss on the road harder to swallow. It didn’t get any better from the embarrassing 4-0 loss on the road in 2017. Both losses were brutal signals that the team wasn’t ready. It also proved that New York had a glut of rich talent in their system, while Cincinnati had to depend on synergy and experience.

However, the tidal wave has receded ever so slightly. A record 30,417 came to the last home game of 2017 to watch the Orange & Blue trounce the Red & Yellow 4-2. The results have been closer this year, but more to our liking. Goals by Emmanuel Ledesma and Danni Konig followed a missed penalty kick by the Bulls’ Brian White to give FCC a 2-1 win on the road to start their current 24-game unbeaten streak. The home game followed a similar pattern, as Ledesma fed Forrest Lasso and Paddy Barrett on set pieces for a 2-1 victory.

The Baby Bulls tend to leave more of their offense at home (49 goals at home, 23 on the road), but they didn’t need many goals last week. Tom Barlow’s goal in the 21st minute lasted the full 90 minutes, and goalkeeper Evan Louro made 4 saves to preserve a 1-0 victory over Charleston. Don’t look now, but that victory was New York’s third win in their last three road games.

Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati needed all 120 minutes and maybe a bit of luck from Mother Nature. Much like the regular season, the Orange & Blue couldn’t figure out Nashville SC. The 1-1 draw finally ended when Justin Davis popped up his penalty kick and Kenny Walker buried his. The goal from Corben Bone in the 95th minute was his 12th in USL play this season and his ninth in the last 12 matches. Meanwhile, Spencer Richey had arguably his best game of the season, making 5 saves to keep out a flood of late attacks.

Prediction: FC Cincinnati 2, New York 1 (after extra time)

I’m already feeling like I’m making the wrong choice. It would be easy to think this game could be an offensive onslaught. New York took 626 shots over their 34-game season, the most in the USL, and scored 71 in the process. Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati was the most accurate, leading the USL with 72 goals and a hefty 21% conversion rate.

Still, Cincinnati’s wins this year were victories on defense. Over both games against Cincinnati, the Baby Bulls led in shots (30-17) but trailed in shots on target (4-8). This stonewalling was partly due to the back line’s ability to block shots. They deflected 9 in total and kept New York’s shooting accuracy to a measly 13.3%. If Cincinnati expects a win, Paddy Barrett and Forrest Lasso need to be physical and unafraid. Both scored on the Baby Bulls last time, but they’ll need to be defense-minded in this one.


#2 Louisville City FC (20-6-9) vs. #6 Bethlehem Steel FC (14-12-9)

Head-to-head record:

Louisville City leads the overall series (4-0-3) and enjoys a +9 goal differential.

Past results:

As the record shows, this is hardly a rivalry. Bethlehem was the first pelt that Louisville claimed in the postseason last year, and the contest wasn’t even close. Louisville had lost at home only twice in 2017, while Bethlehem had limped into the playoffs. James O’Connor’s boys fired 12 shots on target against the Steel in the first round, an astounding 66.7% in accuracy. All Bethlehem could do is rack up frustration and four yellow cards on the way to a 4-0 throttling by the Derby City.

While Louisville’s starting eleven has been relatively unchanged over the season, Bethlehem coach Brendan Burke has tinkered with his lineup. The statistics for the two teams were almost identical in their Week 1 clash at Louisville. However, Louisville attacked goalkeeper Jake McGuire from his left constantly, putting the 3-1 game away early. The rematch at Bethlehem featured a heavy amount of possession by Louisville (65-35), but the use of 31-year-old James Chambers as the captain calmed the Steel down. Bethlehem fired as many shots as Louisville and captured a 0-0 draw.

Bethlehem’s lineup got even younger for their playoff match against Pittsburgh. Burke started six players who were under 20 years old, but it was Santi Moar (1 assist) and Chambers (1 goal) who led the team. Bethlehem’s offense—4th in the East in goal differential—put just enough on the board to force Pittsburgh’s goalkeeper to beat them in penalty kicks. The Steel outlasted Pittsburgh 10-9 in penalty kicks, advancing when Raymond Lee missed his last opportunity.

Louisville’s path was much simpler. The Coopers dominated again in possession (57-43) and put 10 shots on target against Indy Eleven. A brace from Niall McCabe put the game away early in the second half, and thoughts of a comeback were squashed by a brilliant set-piece goal. Louisville’s 4-1 win was nothing new, as they have never lost a playoff game at Slugger Field in eight matches. Their only two postseason losses have been on the road (2015 at Rochester, 2016 at New York).

Prediction: Louisville City 4, Bethlehem 2.

Not many of us predicted Bethlehem would slug back against a strong Pittsburgh defense. Bob Lilley had been automatic in the first round of the playoffs, but perhaps the writing had been on the wall. Pittsburgh had drawn with their opponents 14 times over the season, tied for first in the East. The door was left open for Bethlehem to take command against a team that had faced only one penalty kick all season.

However, if there’s anything close to an automatic win, it should be this week. Since their loss to Cincinnati, Louisville is undefeated in their last eight matches (7-0-1). Their offense has trucked opponents with a combined 23-9 scoreline over that span. Eight of those goals have come from Cameron Lancaster, and at least one more should come this week. Bethlehem can still perform better than their playoff game last year, but experience should trump youth in this one.


If you’re a fan of intense rivalries with more than just bragging rights on the line, you probably agree with my picks, but not everyone wants a postseason Dirty River Derby. What are your predictions for this stage of the playoffs? Let us know!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more on the FC Cincinnati match against New York this weekend.

Image: JES Photography

2018 USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: First Round

O&BP’s prognosticator crunches the numbers again to predict the first round of the USL Eastern Conference playoffs.

Image: Ryan Meyer

Okay, so Vegas didn’t end well last year.

I was this close to predicting the entire Eastern Conference playoffs last year. In the end, Louisville won all the chips after my half-hearted attempt at a hex fell flat. Still, I had no doubts that the Eastern Conference champ would win. While the jury’s still out on which conference has more punch this year, I can give it another go predicting the future in the East.

Last year, all the first-round games took place between teams separated by at least 650 miles. This year, all four games are thick with rivalry, with three games featuring teams separated by less than 300 miles. While the fourth game isn’t so close, it does feature one of two rematches from last year’s USL playoffs. The USL should see some hefty audiences, as the road teams and their supporters should be able to travel well.

So let’s dust off that crystal ball and test the luck again…


First Round Predictions

#1 FC Cincinnati (23-3-8) vs. #8 Nashville SC (12-9-13)

Last playoffs performance:

Cincinnati – Lost 3-0 to Tampa Bay Rowdies in the 2017 Conference First Round.

Nashville – First appearance.

At the end of the 2017 season, it was obvious that FC Cincinnati had a ton to accomplish to convince naysayers. While the signings were massive and the attendances were growing, reality felt heavy. Louisville had little problems getting a star on their logo in their third year. If the Queen City wanted to really outdo the Derby City, they would have to make deep impacts.

34 games have come and gone, and so far FCC have walked the walk and talked the talk. Yes, the team suffered two early home losses to Louisville, but the Orange & Blue kept marching. Despite their aggressive play, the squad stayed relatively healthy and free of red cards. The offense promised in 2017 showed up a year late, but produced crooked numbers on the scoreboard. While Emmanuel Ledesma has been the spark plug (16 goals, 16 assists), his energy feeds the engine—the team led the league in goals (72) and goal differential (+38). Not only does the team have four double-digit scorers, but they also have the drive of Fanendo Adi at their disposal.

And yet, even with all the records being set, there’s still this feeling that the shine’s being stolen. Nashville SC came into the league with the most fanfare, capturing the first MLS expansion slot before Cincinnati, to many people’s surprise. Their pickup of goalkeeper Matt Pickens in the offseason from Tampa Bay was surprising, but immense. The defense allowed the second-lowest amount of goals in the USL (31), and Pickens’ 14 clean sheets would have been a USL record in any other year. Most importantly, Nashville has been a thorn in Cincinnati’s side, capturing a draw in all three games.

Prediction: Cincinnati 2, Nashville 1.

Cincinnati’s inability to put Nashville away makes this match incredibly hard to predict. Nashville’s defense has been stellar when it comes to facing competition on the road. Against the other seven playoff teams, Nashville is 2-2-4 on the road with three clean sheets. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is 4-2-3 at home against the other playoff teams with only two clean sheets.

The Cincinnati offense should still run smoothly, and the defense should remain stout. This means that the X-factor will have to be the Cincinnati goalkeeping. Whether it is Evan Newton or Spencer Richey, the keeper will need to patrol the back line and keep Nashville’s quick attack out of the net. Of course, a few goals past Pickens wouldn’t hurt.


#2 Louisville City FC (19-6-9) vs. #7 Indy Eleven (13-11-10)

Last playoffs performance:

Louisville – Defeated Swope Park Rangers 1-0 in the 2017 USL Championship.

Indy – Lost 0-0 (4-2 PK) to New York Cosmos in the 2016 NASL Championship.

Lou City’s unheralded trend continued in 2018, despite shifts in the Derby City landscape. The departure of coach James O’Connor forced the team to tread water. Now that new coach John Hackworth is solidly in place, the team is riding a six-game winning streak heading into the playoffs.

Much of the success can be attributed to Cameron Lancaster’s record-breaking 25-goal tally. Despite playing only 2,005 minutes over 30 games, Lancaster has pocketed a goal every 80 minutes of play. However, the team’s 71 goals prove Lancaster isn’t the only producer. Injuries to key figures from 2017 threatened the team, but midfielder Ilija Ilic filled the void and was one of three players in the USL with double-digit goals and assists (11 goals, 11 assists).

With the departure of FC Cincinnati for MLS in 2019, Indy Eleven have emerged as Louisville’s biggest rival. While the season started with uncertainty, Indy cobbled together a decent squad under coach Martin Rennie’s leadership. Despite the heavy competition in the East, Owain Fôn Williams become a dependable goalkeeper, compiling 91 saves and 11 clean sheets while playing every minute of the USL season. The scoring load was rather spread out, with 16 players tallying a goal and forward Jack McInerney leading the team with 10.

Prediction: Louisville City 3, Indy 1.

While Louisville was expected to collapse from the midseason departure of O’Connor, the team has only gotten better. Their 37 points in the second half of the season was second only to Cincinnati (43), and their goal differential ballooned from +6 to +33 in the process. Meanwhile, Indy’s 21 points since the season’s midpoint was the worst of all 16 playoff teams.

On paper, Louisville is healthy and loaded for the postseason, while Indy has tired down the stretch. If Oscar Jiménez and Kyle Smith patrol their defensive edges, Louisville should defeat their northern neighbors handily.


#3 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (15-5-14) vs. #6 Bethlehem Steel FC (14-12-8)

Last playoffs performance:

Pittsburgh – Lost 4-2 to New York Red Bulls II in the 2015 Conference First Round.

Bethlehem – Lost 4-0 to Louisville City in the 2017 Conference First Round.

The matchup between the Steel and the Steel Army is the only intrastate clash this year (unless Sacramento and Orange County face off later). With Penn FC on hiatus next year, Pittsburgh and Bethlehem will have to embrace a new type of in-state hate.

The turnaround in Pittsburgh shouldn’t come as a surprise. Under coach Bob Lilley, Rochester had the best record in the USL three times and won the Cup once. Lilley’s move to Pittsburgh and focus on a stifling defense led to an incredible 17 clean sheets and a league-low 26 goals allowed. Highmark Stadium is now one of the strongholds in the East, as opponents could only score 8 goals over 17 games. Had it not been for a head injury (in a game against Bethlehem, no less), goalkeeper Dan Lynd could have had more than his 12 clean sheets this season.

The Steel have managed to improve steadily over the past three seasons, despite the movement between the Union’s USL and MLS squads. Their 56 goals were 5th-most in the East, a major improvement from the 32 scored in 2016. The offense has mostly come from the wings, particularly Santi Moar (6 goals, 8 assists) and youngster Michee Ngalina (6 goals). However, their record could be a mirage. Eleven of the Steel’s 14 wins were against teams that missed the playoffs.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 1, Bethlehem 0.

Even though Pittsburgh beat Bethlehem 4-1 last month, there’s a realistic possibility that this game could end scoreless after 120 minutes. While Pittsburgh is known for its defense, its offense has often taken holidays. Of their 17 clean sheets, the Riverhounds failed to score in seven of them.

If Pittsburgh is to win this game, they’ll need a strong performance from the offense, particularly Neco Brett. The Jamaican striker has been a blessing for the offense, scoring 15 goals (11 at home) this season. This year, when he scores, his team ALWAYS wins. Look it up—Pittsburgh is 10-0-0 this season if Brett tallies at least one goal. Pittsburgh has beaten the Steel twice this year, and if Lilley can keep the team focused on this week, they should only need one goal.


#4 Charleston Battery (14-6-14) vs. #5 New York Red Bulls II (13-8-13)

Last playoffs performance:

Charleston – Lost 4-0 to New York Red Bulls II in the 2017 Conference First Round.

New York – Lost 1-1 (4-3 PK) to Louisville City in the 2017 Conference Finals.

Rematches in the playoffs don’t happen often in the USL. Teams have come and gone, and the playoff format hasn’t been constant. However, the marquee rematch in the East might be the most savage. Despite having the third-best defense in the East last year, Charleston were beaten to a pulp by the younger Baby Bulls, an embarrassing 4-0 loss at home.

New York has been another interesting study in keeping the gas pedal down as long as possible. The Baby Bulls have scored 189 regular-season goals over the past three years, tops in the league. However, that potent offense has been accompanied by a fizzling defense. Their +12 goal differential is 6th in the East, despite the 71 goals put in the net. New York has scored 3 or more goals 11 times this year, but their record in those games is only 7-1-3. Midfielder Andrew Tinari, one of the few holdovers from 2017, leads the East in chances created (102), while winger Jared Stroud has excelled in his first professional year (7 goals, 11 assists).

Meanwhile, Charleston proves to be one of the bedrocks of independent soccer. Coach Mike Anhaeuser celebrated his 13th year as head coach by capturing his 200th win, leading the Battery to its 11th-straight season in the playoffs. While the team lost a lot of its young talent (hello, Forrest Lasso), plenty remained. Charleston placed its stock in its capable #10, Ataullah Guerra, who scored 15 goals for the Battery this year. The forward line was completely retooled, and Joe Kuzminsky won the job as the starting goalkeeper, racking up 12 clean sheets in the process. While the team had an outstanding summer with an 11-game unbeaten streak, the Battery dropped vital points down the stretch. They’ve won only five of their last 14 games, and all were against non-playoff teams.

Prediction: New York 4, Charleston 3.

I don’t want to call this game the definition of madness, but it’s hard not to pick the “upset” here. While the Red Bulls II squad has been sluggish on the road (2-5-10), their last two road games have been wins. In fact, over the past four years, the Battery have beaten New York only once in nine matches. Just this year alone, Charleston has given up nine goals to New York in two games, even though they have scored six of their own.

This game may come down to just how accurate the offenses can be. While Charleston was outshot 21-8 in their last game against New York, all four shots on net went in. However, the Battery could not solve super-sub Tom Barlow, who scored a hat trick in only 27 minutes of play. Charleston is going to try to flood New York’s defense early and often, but a second-straight early exit at the hands of the Baby Bulls could be imminent.


So what are your predictions for this first week of the Eastern Conference playoffs? Let us know!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more on the upcoming USL Playoffs.

Scouting the Field: Ranking FCC’s Possible First-Round Opponents

Now that FC Cincinnati is guaranteed a first-round home match, what potential matchup could spell the most trouble?

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Image: Ryan Meyer

The common cliché in sports is that you need to take things “one game at a time.” Looking too far ahead in the future will catch you napping against your next opponent. As good as this undefeated streak has been, coach Alan Koch has emphasized doing what you can against the next opponent, not the one you might play in the USL playoffs. The near-loss to Toronto FC II this weekend was a reminder of that.

While it helps to scout the opposition before the last minute, the planets could still align badly in the playoffs. Last year, #2 Charleston couldn’t beat #7 New York during the regular season, then got trucked at home by the Baby Bulls the first round. The same thing happened with FC Cincinnati in 2016—despite the strong end to the season, FCC couldn’t figure out the Battery during the regular season, then wilted in the second half to get knocked out early.

Basically, solid preparation is good, but the last thing you want is for fate to provide a difficult opponent. For this article, without looking too far ahead, we scout FC Cincinnati’s possible first-round opponents and rank the six in order of upset potential.

The Playoff Picture

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Image: Connor Paquette, teams are ordered by projected points.

Currently, FCC is the only team that has safely qualified for the playoffs. While the competition is getting closer to the top, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Charleston still own paths to first-round home games.

Aside from Toronto, Richmond, and Atlanta, the rest of the pack is still realistically alive. Charlotte, Tampa Bay, and Penn FC all have a tough road to get to that coveted playoff line, and while all could upset FC Cincinnati if they make it in, for the sake of brevity, we’ll focus on the closer competition.

6. Ottawa Fury FC

1200px-Ottawa_Fury_svgRecord:               12-13-5 (41 pts.), currently 7th
Schedule:           at Louisville, at Toronto, vs. Bethlehem, vs. Charleston

While they started out of the gate with three losses, Ottawa has been able to hang in the middle of the table. Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau leads the East with 13 clean sheets, while the defense has kept the powerful New York Red Bulls II offense checked over three games. Forward Tony Taylor has managed to get hot lately with five goals in 11 games.

However, it’s hard to really view the Fury as a credible away threat. The team has been shut out seven times in 15 road games and has yet to score on Cincinnati’s defense. In fact, most of Ottawa’s points have come against the poorer competition—they have no wins against the Top 4 teams (0-1-5). While the road wins against Indy and New York are notable, until they can break out a credible secondary scorer, Ottawa’s chances at pulling a first-round upset appear slim.

5. Indy Eleven

Indy_Eleven_Logo_svgRecord: 12-8-9 (45 pts.), currently 5th
Schedule: at Pittsburgh, vs. Tampa Bay, at Cincinnati, vs. Bethlehem, at Louisville

This position in the rankings could be debatable. For one thing, it’s hard to guess what position Indy may finish—four of the final five games are against projected playoff teams. On the other hand, Indy has yet to face FCC at Nippert Stadium, so it’s hard to gauge just how difficult a team they are on the road.

Goalkeeper Owain Fôn Williams has quietly claimed 10 clean sheets in 29 games started, and seven of them have been on the road. Forward Eugene Starikov (5 goals in his last 10 games) has become a solid second scorer next to Jack McInerney, while Ayoze (4 goals, 6 assists) is still a mammoth presence in the defending line.

Again, Indy could legitimately be higher after their game at Cincinnati—we’ll see how well they can perform at Nippert—but so far, they’ve yet to figure out FCC. They may also be searching for that extra threat on offense, as their other big offseason pickup, forward Soony Saad, hasn’t scored since Week 11. Their away offense also may need improvement, as they’ve only scored 14 on the road in 14 games.

Their proximity to Cincinnati could bring a huge away crowd to Nippert in the playoffs. Right now, the game on September 29th could be the indicator of how difficult Indy would be in the playoffs.

4. North Carolina FC

1200px-North_Carolina_FC_logo_svgRecord: 10-10-8 (38 pts.), currently 10th
Schedule: at Atlanta, at Charleston, vs. Richmond, vs. New York, at Louisville, at Charlotte

While the former Railhawks dug themselves into an early-season hole, NCFC has bounced back. They started the first 14 games with 7 losses (including two to FCC), but have gone 6-5-3 in the next 14 games.

Forward Daniel Ríos has been a blessing on loan from Guadalajara and currently sits second in the Golden Boot standings (17 goals). Midfielders Kyle Bekker (2nd in assists) and Austin da Luz (2nd in passing) are also high on the stats charts. The potent offense is ranked fifth in the East and has gotten better with the addition of midfielder Zach Steinberger from Indy.

Considering that NCFC still has four road games to play against difficult teams, the final stretch could show how serious the team is against competition. That would require a statement away win at either Louisville or Charleston. Without either, they may miss out on the playoffs completely.

3. Bethlehem Steel FC

Bethlehem_Steel_FC_(USL)_CrestRecord: 12-12-6 (42 pts), currently 6th
Schedule: vs. Toronto, at Ottawa, at Indy, vs. Tampa Bay

Bethlehem’s form may not scare most, as their inconsistency will flare up at bad times. Of their 12 wins, 11 have come against teams currently below them in the table. Their only marquee win is a victory at Indy Eleven in Week 10. They’ve also suffered bad losses to Penn FC twice and Atlanta. It’s hard to say which Bethlehem squad will show up.

That’s what makes them difficult to predict. So far, FC Cincinnati is the only team in the top half of the table that hasn’t defeated Bethlehem. The Orange & Blue looked inconsistent and shaky on the road, needing a Nazmi Albadawi goal late to force a 1-1 draw. The home match was even more deluding, as the team couldn’t take advantage of a lead late against a 10-man Bethlehem squad.

In total, 21 players have scored for Bethlehem, and their 50 goals ranks them fourth in the East. Santi Moar is a solid midfielder (6 goals, 8 assists) who has given FCC trouble this year, while forward Chris Nanco has improved over the season. This is an offense that will rarely be shut out. However, it’s also a team that will also rarely shut down your side. The goalkeepers have only six clean sheets, and their 40 goals allowed are tied for sixth-worst in the East.

As frustrating as the draws were against Bethlehem, let’s keep in mind that these two teams were vastly different then. Emmanuel Ledesma was serving a yellow-card suspension during the 2-2 home draw. FCC also have added Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe to the team since that match, while much of the Bethlehem offense has been promoted to the MLS squad. On paper, a match between the squads would look a lot different.

2. New York Red Bulls II

220px-Red_Bull_New_York_II.pngRecord: 10-8-11 (41 pts), currently 8th
Schedule: at Charlotte, at Nashville, at North Carolina, at Penn FC, vs. Pittsburgh

I don’t blame people if they see the Baby Bulls as less of a threat than the past two years. New York has been counterproductive on the road, as they haven’t won in 13 away games (0-5-8). Much of their talent could be frozen in place on their MLS squad, and the defense is the fourth-worst in the East (54 goals allowed). However, their defense was dead-last in the East last year, and they made it to the Conference Finals!

Even though they have no players with double-digit goals, Red Bulls II still leads the USL with 62 goals scored. Six of their players have five or more goals, including forward Jared Stroud, who is tied for second in the East in assists (10). The team has almost 100 more shots than the nearest competition (544 to Phoenix’s 442). They also play a very aggressive game—their 438 tackles lead the East, as well.

However, the top teams in the East still have the Red Bulls’ number. Their lone win over the Top 4 has been a home victory over Charleston. FC Cincinnati has also appeared to figure them out over the last three matches played (3-0-0). However, this is still a young and hungry team that sees the USL as a feeding ground, not as a training ground.

1. Nashville SC

Nashville_SCRecord: 10-9-9 (39 pts), currently 9th
Schedule: vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Charleston, at Atlanta, vs. New York, at Richmond, vs. Toronto, vs. Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati has exterminated a lot of ghosts this season. The Orange & Blue managed to claim their first victories over Charleston and Tampa Bay this year. They have also beaten Louisville and Charlotte after losses to both earlier.

However, there is one ghost they have not been able to bust—the enigma known as Matt Pickens.

Over the past two years, Pickens has had Cincinnati’s name. His Tampa Bay Rowdies squad eliminated FCC in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup and the 2017 USL Playoffs. While he may not have been the sole reason for the victories, Pickens only gave up one goal against FCC in four games as a Rowdie.

Pickens has only gotten better with the change of scenery. In 24 starts for Nashville SC, Pickens has conceded only 19 goals. His 12 clean sheets put him second in the USL and are already better than his numbers from last year. His 67 saves also puts him at fourth in the East. Over three seasons against Cincinnati (6 games), Pickens has never lost, giving up only two goals (3-3-0).

That solid wall in front of Pickens just adds to the frustration FCC fans have had with Nashville. While the offense has not been at Cincinnati’s level, forwards Brandon Allen, Ropapa Mensah, Alan Winn, and Tucker Hume have the potential to crack defenses. The team has shown that it is unafraid of the large Cincinnati crowds, which may be the kryptonite for an upset in the Queen City.

Most importantly, of the teams that are trying to make the playoffs, Nashville has the best record when it comes to playing the Top 4 (2-4-1). NSC is one of only two teams to have beaten the Riverhounds in Pittsburgh, and their only loss was a Week 1 loss at Louisville. Considering the team also has a U.S. Open Cup victory over an MLS side, the potential for a Music City upset is there.

Of course, they must make the playoffs first, and they’ll need to face FCC once more to do so.


Which team outside of the Top 4 terrifies you the most in a potential first-round matchup? Let us know what you think!

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FC Cincinnati 2 – 1 New York Red Bulls II: Deeper Cuts

We take a closer look at FC Cincinnati’s impressive 2-1 home win over Red Bulls II, particularly how it reminded us of the last home win over New York…

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Image: JES Photography

For the 2016 season and the first half of 2017, the rivalry between FC Cincinnati and New York Red Bulls II was hardly a rivalry. Despite getting the first goal in 2016, FCC could not decipher the Baby Bulls over their first three meetings, losing all by a combined score of 8-1. Each loss looked worse, with the last one a 4-0 embarrassment in New Jersey.

However, the advantage has decidedly flip-flopped in favor of FC Cincinnati since then. Thanks to their 2-1 victory Saturday, FCC has outscored the Baby Bulls 8-3 over their three consecutive wins, and has figured out how to silence the potent Red Bulls offense. This is despite New York’s heavy 48-26 advantage in shots over the three games and high possession numbers.

How exactly did FCC figure it out? Let’s see if we can find out by looking at footage from 2017…

Rewinding the Tape

Even though the rainfall turned the field into a slick surface, Saturday’s game felt like the 2017 victory over the Baby Bulls. The numbers, in fact, make it feel eerily similar. In the 2017 match, New York made many more passes than Cincinnati (+210) and held a significant advantage in possession (65%-35%), shots (18-9), and shots on goal (7-4). In Saturday’s game, New York again dominated in possession (59%-41%), shots (17-9), and shots on goal (3-2).

While New York enjoyed the offensive advantage, FC Cincinnati capitalized on set pieces to do damage in both games. In 2017, Austin Berry headed in a corner kick from Kenney Walker to get the early lead, and Walker’s free kick outside the box froze the New York defense to put the game away. In 2018, the set pieces (and defenders) delivered again, this time with Forrest Lasso and Paddy Barrett heading home crosses by Manu Ledesma.

With the lead held firm in both games, FCC backed off their defensive line and played a “keep-away” style of soccer. The Orange & Blue held a solid advantage in clearances in both 2017 (35-17) and 2018 (39-22) with many more of the clearances in the second half. In fact, if you look at the heat maps from both games by half…

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FCC’s first-half (left) and second-half heat maps vs. New York Red Bulls in September 2017.
FCC RB2 2018 Heat
FCC’s first-half (left) and second-half heat maps vs. New York Red Bulls in July 2018.

…you’ll see similar styles of play. In both games, Coach Koch pressed the defense up in the first halves to gain the quick lead, then drew the lines back later in the second halves to build a wall around the goalkeeper.

Ruthless Aggression

With the rain-slicked conditions forcing the teams into less passes and more 50/50 challenges, FCC took advantage of their aggressive brand of soccer. Last year, the team crafted their challenges at the right time to take six yellow cards, resorting to fouls down the stretch to halt offensive momentum.

With the game being much closer this time around, FCC took advantage of their physical strength to win the close plays. Despite the possession deficiency, FCC held an advantage in duels (52%-48%) and aerial challenges (53%-47%).

While FCC gave up more fouls to New York, their aggression factor frustrated the Baby Bulls much more. Andrew Tinari’s early yellow card forced the New York midfielder to play a more cautious form, while Danni König’s late charge to beat defender Jordan Scarlett to the ball in the first half forced Scarlett to over-exert himself and sub out from an injury. These plays may seem small, but overall Cincinnati’s confidence in their defense and challenges produced a win that appeared to be tenuous when the starting lineup was announced.

The luck of the crossbar and the referee’s hesitancy to pull a red card may have helped in the final score, but in general, what we typed about the game last year could equally apply to this year:

“New York dominated possession. . . and created a LOT of scoring opportunities. Despite this advantage, FCC created quality opportunities of their own via the counter-attack and from set pieces. They also played ‘good-enough’ defense that allowed them to hang on to the victory.”

Sometimes it pays to use the same playbook.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as FC Cincinnati enjoys a break from the USL and prepares for their home friendly against La Liga’s RCD Espanyol.

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Image: JES Photography

Images: FC Cincinnati 2 – 1 NY Red Bulls II

Images of FC Cincinnati’s victory over New York Red Bulls II on Saturday July 21st at Nippert Stadium.

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Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s 2-1 victory over New York Red Bull II on Saturday, July 21st. When browsing the gallery below, for any given image, a high-resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.” All images are courtesy of Joe Schmuck.

For more particulars of Saturday’s contest, turn your attention to the following article.

New York 7.21_Match Recap
FC Cincinnati 2 – 1 New York Red Bulls II: Center Back Headers Lead the Way

Images

All images are copyright protected to safeguard the creative rights of our photographers. We’re very open to sharing our work with those who want to show support for FC Cincinnati. We simply request that you ask (via DM on Twitter or email) and give credit where it’s due. Thanks!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.
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FC Cincinnati 2 – 1 New York Red Bulls II: Center Back Headers Lead the Way

FC Cincinnati battled a talented Red Bulls II side during a rainy evening in Cincinnati. The match-up between the 1st and 4th place teams did not disappoint with the Orange & Blue extending their unbeaten streak to 10 matches.

New York 7.21_Match Recap
Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Joe Schmuck

FC Cincinnati extended its unbeaten streak to ten games in a chippy, rainy night at Nippert Stadium. The Orange & Blue delivered a total team win in front of 23,602 vocal, soaked fans. For the second time this season, FCC was able to outlast the young, talented New York Red Bulls II squad 2-1. While the scoring came in the first half, the action was intense throughout and the match came down to the wire.

The Baby Bulls started the game with the better possession, energy, and chances. Spencer Richey was ready for the task and wisely came off his line in the 15th minute to snuff out a Tom Barlow breakaway. Just two minutes later, FCC gained its first corner kick and chance of the match. Against the run of play, the Orange & Blue were able to claim the lead when Emmanuel Ledesma placed his corner perfectly off of Forest Lasso’s head at the near post for his second goal in two games.

In the 23rd minute, Corben Bone barely missed when he cut the ball back and shot wide of the near post with his right boot. Red Bulls II came down the pitch, earned a free kick from 35 yards out, and were able to equalize off a set piece of their own. Unfortunately for Danni König, the shot deflected off his head and into the net for an own goal.

The first half scoring was not over. Ledesma once again illustrated his precision with the ball, delivering a long range free kick directly into the path of the surging Paddy Barrett. Paddy headed it home for his first tally in the Orange & Blue kit, regaining the lead for the home side.

Although the rain tapered off slightly in the second half, the chippy play did not. Both teams battled hard with three additional yellow cards being issued by the head referee. FC Cincinnati was able to manage the game and fend off a late surge by the Red Bull II attack. A little luck was needed in the 92nd minute when Barlow’s left-footed shot from a cross ricocheted off the inside of the crossbar and fell safely back into play.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 2-1 New York Red Bulls II

Standings Update

FC Cincinnati’s fifth victory in a row at home enables the Orange & Blue to further distance themselves at the top with 44 points after 21 matches. FCC now stand 9 points clear of Charleston after their 1-0 win at Pittsburgh. The Riverhounds fall to third place in the East with the loss to the Battery, and are now 10 points behind, with three games in hand. The Baby Bulls drop to 5th place after tonight’s loss, falling a point behind Lou City.

Highlight of the Match

For the second match in a row, both FCC goals were the result of set pieces. Ledesma skillfully delivered both dead ball situations, increasing his team and league lead for assists with 10. Both goals were of high quality, but it was the Irishman Barrett’s first goal as a FCC player that proved to be the game winner, and the fourth straight goal by a FCC center back.

Quote of the Match

Paddy Barrett had the following to say about the squad’s depth on a night when he opened his account for FC Cincinnati.

“That’s a credit to this coaching staff. We’ve got 25 players that, no matter what 11 you put out each week, you could put it up against any team in this league and we’re a lot of confident lads … we go out with confidence and get three points, no matter who comes here.”

Who Started?

Completing the third match in just eight days, Koch once again tapped into his deep roster and made 5 changes to the team that started against Charlotte mid-week. Spencer Richey replaced Evan Newton in goal, making his fifth start of the season. Paddy Barrett and Matt Bahner joined the back four in place of Dekel Keinan and Justin Hoyte. Nazmi Albadawi and Danni König returned to the starting line-up. In addition, Koch tweaked the stating formation, placing the squad in an attack-minded 4-3-3.

Ledesma (83′ Ciccerone) – König (90+2′ Ameobi) – McLaughlin
Albadawi – Walker – Bone (90′ Seymore)
Smith – Lasso – Barrett – Bahner
Richey

Barrett and Blake Smith both picked up yellow cards in the game, their 3rd and 4th respectively. Koch brought on three late substitutes, Russell Ciccerone, Will Seymore and Tomi Ameobi.

What’s Next?

Before returning to USL action in two weeks against Nashville SC, the Orange & Blue will host their third international friendly next Saturday. FC Cincinnati faces another Spanish Primera Division side when RCD Espanyol come to town. The Catalonia-based side finished 11th (mid-table) in La Liga last season and are working several new player signings into their squad.

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

New York 7.21_Match Recap