FC Cincinnati 0 – 2 New York Red Bulls

After 45 minutes of hard work and rough play, FC Cincinnati let New York Red Bulls escape from the Queen City with a 2-0 victory, …

Graphic: Connor Paquette

After 45 minutes of hard work and rough play, FC Cincinnati let New York Red Bulls escape from the Queen City with a 2-0 victory, sending the Orange & Blue to their eighth loss in their last ten games. While the team managed to hold an advantage in shots on target and kept possession largely 50/50, the second half was again a letdown. A turnover by Matthew Deplagne led to a swiped goal by Kaku in the 78th minute, and Omir Fernandez’s first MLS goal punctuated the loss in stoppage time.

While FCC’s roster was depleted from nine injuries and illnesses, the game featured the MLS debut of Nazmi Albadawi in the late stages of the game.

FC Cincinnati 0, New York Red Bulls 2

Nippert Stadium | Cincinnati, OH

Saturday, May 25, 2019

SCORING SUMMARY

RBNY – Kaku 78’

RBNY – Omir Fernandez (Brian White) 90+1’

FC Cincinnati: Spencer Richey; Alvas Powell, Justin Hoyte, Kendall Waston ©, Mathieu Deplagne; Caleb Stanko, Victor Ulloa (Nazmi Albadawi 81’) , Frankie Amaya; Emmanuel Ledesma (Kekuta Manneh 81’), Roland Lamah, Fanendo Adi.

Bench: Jimmy Hague, Nick Hagglund, Forrest Lasso, Eric Alexander, Rashawn Dally

Stats: Shots 12, Shots on goal 4, Saves 0, Corner kicks 8, Offsides 3, Fouls 12, Possession 49.5%, Passes 338 (70%)

New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles ©; Kemar Lawrence, Tim Parker, Amro Tarek, Michael Murillo; Marc Rzatkowski, Sean Davis; Andres Ivan (Omir Fernandez 79’), Cristian Casseres Jr. (Kaku 59’), Alex Muyl; Tom Barlow (Brian White 58’).

Bench: Ryan Meara, Derrick Etienne, Connor Lade, Sean Nealis.

Stats: Shots 8, Shots on goal 2, Saves 4, Corner kicks 4, Offsides 1, Fouls 10, Possession 50.5%, Passes 349 (68%)

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

RBNY – Michael Murillo (caution) – 39’

CIN – Kendall Waston (caution) – 58’

REF: Fotis Bazakos

AR: Nick Uranga, Cory Richardson

4TH: Ted Unkel

VAR: Chico Grajeda

Weather: Cloudy

Attendance: 28,290 (reported)

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs New York Red Bulls

FC Cincinnati return home to face the New York Red Bulls for their third match under interim head coach Yoann Damet. The Orange & Blue are …

Graphic: CSDIV

FC Cincinnati return home to face the New York Red Bulls for their third match under interim head coach Yoann Damet. The Orange & Blue are licking wounds after last weekend’s 5-1 thrashing in Orlando, and hoping to return to winning ways in front of a Memorial Day weekend crowd at Nippert stadium.

After a slow start to the season, Chris Armas’ Red Bulls have won four of their last six matches and are now in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Saturday’s match is the second meeting this season between these two teams. On April 28th, Red Bull won the first match 1-0 in New Jersey, despite a strong second half performance from FCC. Defender Connor Lade scored the lone goal in the 38th minute of that contest.

The Red Bulls come to Cincinnati after a disappointing 2-2 midweek draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps at home. A rotated Red Bulls lineup led 2-1 until the 61st minute when Freddy Montero equalized from the penalty spot after VAR spotted a handball in the box.

New York will have a few key absentees for this match. Bradley Wright-Phillips, Vincent Bezecourt, and Andreas Ivan are all doubtful due to injury. However, the center back pairing of Aaron Long and Tim Parker is likely to be reinstated on Saturday per Joe Goldstein. Long was injured and Parker was suspended for the match against Vancouver.

Corben Bone, Greg Garza, and Allan Cruz are all listed as questionable for FC Cincinnati. Forward Rashawn Dally has been recalled from his loan and is available for selection in this match.

Fast Facts

  • Mathieu Deplagne has logged 1,170 minutes for FC Cincinnati this season, more than any player on either team. Luis Robles of the Red Bulls has played every minute in 12 starts in 2019, 90 minutes less than Deplagne.
  • According to the oddsmakers, FC Cincinnati’s chance of winning, at the time of publishing, is paying the exact same as the odds of New York winning, 2.6 to 1.
  • FC Cincinnati needs to beware of set piece situations. The NY Red Bulls have scored the second most set piece goals in MLS, at 6, and FC Cincinnati have conceded the second most set piece goals, 5.
  • The Red Bulls are one of the few teams in the league with less yellow cards than FC Cincinnati. Their total of 15 cautions is the fewest in MLS. They do however have 2 red cards, including Kaku’s infamous ejection against Sporting Kansas City.
  • FC Cincinnati and the Red Bulls are second and third in MLS with the most interceptions per game at 13 and 12.5 respectively.

All stats via mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati versus New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

Deeper Cuts: Damet Rings the Changes, Shot Conversion, and Player Confidence

Following a tumultuous few weeks in club history, FC Cincinnati returned to Nippert Saturday with a new coach and mindset. Winless in 7 matches …

Image by Ryan Meyer

Following a tumultuous few weeks in club history, FC Cincinnati returned to Nippert Saturday with a new coach and mindset. Winless in 7 matches, and having gone 655 minutes scoreless from the field of play, FCC abruptly made a coaching change Tuesday. The club decided to place their foreseeable trust in the youngest MLS coach ever, previous assistant coach Yoann Damet. That decision was rewarded by the players with a flowing, decisive 2-1 victory over an in-form Montreal Impact. Many adjectives come to mind regarding the team’s performance … refreshing, encouraging, hopeful, enjoyable!  

With less than 100 hours since being named coach, how did Damet and his team turn the tide?

Tactical Changes

Damet made several tactical changes to the formation and line-up from what we’ve witnessed this season. The most significant and impactful change was to the midfield. Instead of rolling out a pair of Central Defensive Midfielders, “Yo” as the team refers to him, changed from a double pivot to a single pivot midfield formation.

He entrusted Victor Ulloa with a field general role that fostered connectivity between the back line and attacking players which FCC has been lacking all season. In Italy, they refer to this deep-lying midfield general as the “regista” – the director. Ulloa looked comfortable and ready to take on the regista role for the Orange & Blue. Ulloa had 93 touches in the match, 43 more than any other midfielder from either team. Here is Ulloa’s dynamic and effective distribution map for the game.

Victor Ulloa Distribution Map (via mlssoccer.com)

This use of the single pivot formation enabled the Orange & Blue to control possession and create fluidity from the back line through the midfield to the attacking third. Both of FCC goals were the result of double-digit pass sequences. The first goal was arguably one of the most patient, methodical team goals in FC Cincinnati history. Each field player gets a touch on the ball and contributes to the one-minute full field build-up resulting in Allan Cruz’s second goal of the season.

Shot Conversion

Over the first eleven matches, FC Cincinnati had a woeful shot conversion rate. Shot conversion rate is calculated as goals scored divided by shots attempted. Prior to Saturday’s contest, FCC had scored 8 goals over 112 total shots attempted, a rate of only 7.1%.

As noted by OptaJack before the game, no other MLS expansion team since 2015 had a season rate under 11.0%. Saturday’s two-goal haul over only six total shots translates to an efficient 33.3% rate for the game. By far the most productive goals per shot ratio of the season, thereby increasing their season average to 8.5%. Note, however, that FC Cincinnati only had 6 total shots.

Confidence in His Players

Possibly as important as the tactical changes unveiled on Saturday was the confidence the manager showed in his squad. Damet was both humble and effusive towards his players in his post match remarks. “The most important pieces are the players. We want to provide an environment that allowed them to express themselves, and the players showed tonight that they are capable of playing football.” He continued, “They deserve fully the credit for the performance of this afternoon.”

One result does not guarantee a continued positive trajectory, but the improved atmosphere and energy surrounding the team is evident.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of our fantastic supporters who are Moms!

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as FCC travels to Orlando next Sunday to take on former Louisville skipper James O’Connor and his Orlando City SC squad.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Montréal Impact

After a tumultuous week where FC Cincinnati fired head coach Alan Koch, the team attempts to regroup on home turf against the Montréal Impact

Design: CSDIV

After a tumultuous week where FC Cincinnati fired head coach Alan Koch, the team attempts to regroup on home turf against the Montréal Impact. Interim head coach Yoann Damet now leads the team, and interestingly, he was an academy coach with the Montréal Impact for three years prior to joining FC Cincinnati in 2017.

The Orange & Blue have lost five straight matches and have not scored a goal in that timeframe. Their most recent disappointment was in San Jose where they suffered a 1-0 defeat despite having a man advantage for most of the second half.

Montréal arrives in the Queen City buzzing after a 2-1 midweek win over the Red Bulls in New Jersey. They were without star playmaker Ignacio Piatti and rotated their roster, but still won. As a result, they occupy third place in the Eastern Conference. Further, they are tied on points with the two leaders in the East, but a -3 goal differential leaves them in a lower position. Piatti will also miss the match against FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

Greg Garza, Corben Bone, and Alvas Powell are all listed as questionable for this contest, although Garza did return to practice this week. Kickoff is at 1 pm Eastern Time.

Fast Facts

  • FC Cincinnati is second in the league in aerial duels won, with 19.4 per game. Only the New York Red Bulls can boast a higher rate.
  • FC Cincinnati and Montréal Impact have the second and third worst shots per game averages in MLS. However, Montréal at 10.6 shots per game have scored 14 goals and FC Cincinnati, at 10.2 shots per game have netted only 8.
  • The Montreal Impact have scored twice as many goals from open play, 10, as FC Cincinnati have, 5, this season. FCC ranks last in the league in this category.
  • The Impact lead MLS in successful dribbles with 148. In comparison, FC Cincinnati are 15th with 102 total. Keep in mind that Montréal has played one additional game at this point in the season.

All stats via mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com.

Montréal Insights

For some insights on this week’s opponent, we reached out to our friends in Montréal for perspective on FC Cincinnati’s new head coach, Yoann Damet and Saturday’s matchup.

Antony de Varennes, co-editor in chief of culturesoccer.com, shared the following on Damet’s philosophy as a coach.

“Yoann Damet is a coach that likes to be close to his players. He strongly believes that the human side of the players is as important as the tactical approach. On the pitch, he focuses on the players as a group and not as individuals as he thinks that a well-balanced group will enhance individual performance.”

For additional insights on Damet, check out the article below from Culture Soccer (you’ll need a browser translator if you don’t speak French).

Il était une fois Cincinnati E1 : Construire un effectif

Additionally, friend of the blog Hady Raphaël and co-editor in chief of culturesoccer.com, gave us some insights into Montréal’s squad rotation on Wednesday and who we might see line up on Saturday.


For Saturday, the lineup and formation all depends on our injured players. We had eight injured players on Wednesday, that’s why Garde changed his tactical system from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3.

If everybody’s healthy except Piatti, I’m pretty sure we’ll go back to our normal 4-3-3 (right to left):

Bush
Sagna-Diallo-Raitala-Lovitz
Azira-Piette-Taider
Novillo-Okwonkwo
Urruti

If we still have injuries we will keep our same tactical formation in 3-4-3 with Taider in the lineup for sure and I’m pretty sure we’ll see Sagna back in the lineup too.


Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus the Montréal Impact.

The Marks FC Cincinnati Must Hit to Reach the Postseason

With 20% of the season in the books, a look at the watermark FC Cincinnati must hit to make the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs.

Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati is already 20% through their inaugural MLS campaign. While they’ve spent the majority of the first six weeks in a playoff spot, they likely have to improve their average point totals to earn a place in the postseason.

FCC’s 34-game season breaks up nicely into five segments of roughly seven matches each. Now that they have completed the first seven-game stretch, it’s time to take an early look at the MLS Eastern Conference playoff picture. Playoff talk already? Why not?

MLS announced changes to the MLS Cup playoff format last December. In previous years, only six teams from each conference advanced to the postseason. In 2019, seven teams from each conference will make a playoff run in a single-elimination format. Additionally, each conference’s table leader will receive a first-round bye.

Historical Trends

Historical trends establish the waterline that FCC needs to reach to make the playoffs. This analysis takes the past four MLS Eastern Conference seasons (2015-2018) into consideration, representing the current MLS expansion era.

MLS Eastern Conference Historical Averages (2015-2018)

The seventh-place finisher in the East (highlighted in blue above) has averaged 1.30 points per game (PPG). This translates to at least 44 points over a 34-match season. Of note, the teams that compete for the final playoff spot are also earning roughly 31-33 points at home (1.80 to 1.95 PPG). A good rule of thumb is that FCC will need to earn at least two-thirds of the season’s points at home. The Orange & Blue will require a home record at Nippert of 8-3-6 (30 points) or similar. The rest they need to cover away from Cincinnati.

MLS Eastern Conference Table

MLS Eastern Conference Standings

FCC currently sits in seventh place after seven games in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today, they would make the 2019 playoffs and potentially play the Columbus Crew in a “Hell is Real” first-round match. Can you imagine? However, their 1.14 PPG places them on a current path to fall at least 6 total points short of the targeted waterline.

Although the early part of the season has had its share of encouraging moments, including two wins in their first four matches, let’s pump the brakes on the expectations. The early schedule has been challenging overall, but FCC’s two wins came against the last place teams in each conference, Portland and New England. To be fair though, two of their losses came against two of the best teams in MLS. Losing 1,900+ miles away to Seattle and LAFC is not a reason for concern, especially given the fight they showed last week at the Banc.

Foreseeable Challenges

FCC currently falls short on two key metrics, points per game (PPG) and Home PPG. Furthermore, keep in mind that:

  • The club’s primary Designated Player and target striker is currently suspended. Until the MLS concludes its SABH review, no one knows Fanendo Adi’s future with the team.
  • Over the next 7-match segment, four games are away from Cincinnati, including three-straight outside of the comfy confines of Nippert. Looking out to the end of June, FCC will play 7 of 11 games away from home.
  • The depth of the club will be tested with the potential of 13 matches over a 71-day window. This includes two hopeful 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games in June. That amounts to a game every 5.5 days.
  • Two Eastern Conference giants, currently beneath FCC in the table, are starting to stir — the 2018 Supporters’ Shield holders, New York Red Bulls, and the 2018 MLS Cup champions, Atlanta United.

The purpose of this article is not to dash your FCC playoff hopes, but to provide a realistic view of the marks FCC must hit to reach the postseason. Up to this point, the grit of the players and coaching staff has been admirable. They are a tough team to play against. However, from a macro perspective, after 1/5th of the season, they are trending just outside of the playoffs and close to where we predicted they would finish.

Look for more playoff updates as the season unfolds and stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of the 2019 season.

Deeper Cuts: FCC Doused by a Union Monsoon

FC Cincinnati’s attempt to extend its three match unbeaten streak yesterday evening at Nippert Stadium was doused by the Union Monsoon.

Image by Joe Craven

Saturday evening’s match doused the fans and FC Cincinnati’s three-match unbeaten streak. Before we take a peek under the hood and see what sputtered in last night’s 2-0 loss, let’s give due where it’s deserved. Shout out to the announced crowd of 25,867 for braving the cold, windy and monsoon-like elements. Having played and attended hundreds of games since 1972, last night had some of the worst conditions I’ve ever experienced. Well done, Orange & Blue fans!

On Their Heels

The stats and final score certainly matched what we witnessed on the soggy Nippert pitch, a complete performance by the Union. From the beginning whistle, Philadelphia dominated possession (56 to 44%), total passes (532 to 408), shots (16 to 5) and, of course, the score line (2 to 0).

The Union’s high pressing, creative 4-4-2 diamond midfield placed FCC back on their heels all night. The “bend-but-not-break” FCC defense finally capitulated early in the second half after going 312 minutes without conceding a goal. Considering they were under a deluge of shots (and rain), it’s not surprising the damn broke in the 47th minute. Here is Philadelphia’s shot chart last night.

Union shot chart

They peppered Spencer Richey and the back line with 16 total shots from all directions. Although only three were on target, two found the back of the onion sack.

Now in comparison, let’s view FC Cincinnati’s heat map illustrating where their possession occurred on the field.

FC Cincinnati heat map vs. Philadelphia Union, via WhoScored.com

Note the lack of yellow and green color to the right side of the field. The Orange and Blue didn’t come anywhere near the Union’s 18-yard box. The team spent the majority of the evening to the left of the screen scrambling to cover the attacking runs by Phily’s front six forwards and midfielders.

Fabian the Game-Changer

A major contributor to the Union’s success last night was Mexican central attacking midfielder Marco Fabian. Philadelphia completed a transfer in February for the two-time “El Tri” World Cup veteran with German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.

Although just 5′ 7″ in height, his stature was quite large and influence great throughout the match. Not including defenders, Fabian had the most touches on the ball of any player – 75. In comparison, Allan Cruz and Roland Lamah only combined for 68 touches total. Below is a map of his night’s work.

Marco Fabian’s touches vs. FC Cincinnati

In addition to his game-winning tally, he consistently drew the attention of two to three FCC players at a time. This resulted in the ability for the outside midfielders, Brenden Aaronsen and Ale Bedoya, to successfully combine with the Union forwards, Fabrice-Jean Picault and David Accam, and effectively and frequently penetrate FCC’s defensive seams and back line.

One-off or Trend?

What can we take from last night? Was the weather a factor? The line-up? Do we simply throw out the performance and reset for Sporting KC next Sunday? Before we do that, let’s look at last night’s game in perspective to the first four games this season. The following table summarizes multiple statistical areas from Saturday’s match in comparison to FCC’s average from the first four matches.

FCC statistical comparison between Union match and 2019 season average

Consider that FC Cincinnati has now played 15% of their inaugural 2019 MLS season. This should be enough games to consider trends of play. What stands out?

  • FCC is willing to concede the majority of possession, which leads to less touches and passes overall.
  • The Orange & Blue play a counter-attacking style looking to maximize their opportunities and shot selection in transition.
  • A by-product of this playing style results in additional pressure on the back line that forces them to make a formidable amount of clearances each match.
  • On average before last night, FCC out-performed its expected goals for and goals against numbers (+2.4 and +1.7 respectively). Last night, the law of averages caught up to them.

Yesterday evening’s performance did not vary from the team’s style of play, or in reality most of their season’s average statistical figures. However, it might be a warning light of sorts of what to expect when they face in-form high pressing opponents with talented and creative attacking front lines [see Seattle and Philadelphia results]. Don’t panic, but Sporting Kansas City placed a 7-spot on the Montreal Impact yesterday and are coming to town next Sunday. In summary, the margin of error in the MLS is razor thin between earning a result and suffering a loss.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for all your 2019 FC Cincinnati coverage.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Philadelphia Union

Orange & Blue Press’ Match program give you an infographic and the fast facts you need to ready for FC Cincinnati vs the Philadelphia Union this Saturday.

Graphic: CSDIV

FC Cincinnati returns to Nippert Stadium and will look to extend a three-game unbeaten streak against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. If the Orange & Blue win, they become the first MLS expansion team to take 10 points from their first five matches.

Both teams were slow out of the gates in 2019 and earned just 1 point combined during weeks one and two. However, both reversed their fortunes and come into this match on the heels of convincing wins. Jim Curtin’s Union thrashed the Columbus Crew 3-0 at Talen Energy Stadium last Saturday. On the same evening, FCC claimed a second consecutive win against the Revs in Foxborough.

Fanendo Adi (ankle) and Przemysław Tytoń (hamstring) are both listed as questionable for this match.

Fast Facts

  • Spencer Richey has a hot hand in goal and has conceded just one goal in three starts. He’s tied for second-best in MLS with a Goals Against Average (GAA) of .333 and has a save percentage of 89%.
  • Union forward David Accam earned a spot next to Kakuta Manneh as a forward on this week’s MLS Team of the Week. His 2 goals against the Crew decided that match before Ilsinho added an insurance goal in the 48th minute. Accam also assisted on Ilsinho’s goal.
  • Five players return from international duty, but will they be ready? Alvas Powell played the full 90 for Jamaica versus Costa Rica on Tuesday. Allan Cruz played 64 minutes and Kendall Waston played 78 minutes in the same match. Waston also left that match with an apparent calf injury.
  • Capturing a second clean sheet at home against Philadelphia will be difficult. However, if FC Cincinnati achieves that feat, their defense will have gone 355 minutes without conceding a goal.
  • Four FCC players have played every minute of FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season so far. Nick Hagglund, Mathieu Deplagne, Leo Bertone, and Vicor Ulloa have started every match and have played 360 minutes each.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus the Philadelphia Union.

2018 USL Cup Run: Orange & Blue Press Staff Predictions

The O&BP staff try their hand at predicting the thoroughbreds and dark horses for the 2018 USL Cup playoffs.

FCCvINDY-173
Image: Ryan Meyer

FC Cincinnati’s much anticipated 2018 opening-round playoff match has finally arrived. Having secured the most points in USL history to earn a playoff passage for the third time in three seasons, will the Orange & Blue right past inequities and grab their first-ever postseason victory?  Will FCC finally overcome Nashville and extend their unbeaten streak to 24 games?  Will we see a second-round match come October 27th?

As a lead-up to Saturday’s game, we invited the Orange & Blue Press staff to opine on several USL playoff questions and possibilities. Here are the results…

1. Which team is most likely to knock off FCC in the East?

Graphics by Connor Paquette

Michael Walker (Founder/Managing Editor):  Louisville City FC

As unpopular as it is for Cincinnatians to accept, Louisville City is still the next best team in the East, and now that John Hackworth has some games under his belt, they’re on a winning streak and banging in the goals.

Geoff Tebbetts (Writer/Editor):  Louisville City FC

Louisville City figured FCC out early and often this year, and that hurricane at Slugger really doesn’t count for much in my opinion. I still think FCC can get to Louisville keeper Greg Ranjitsingh a few times, but Lou City’s offense just looks harder to hold back now that Luke Spencer is healthy again. 

Stephen Buckeridge (Writer/Editor):  Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

The Riverhounds match up well against Eastern rivals Louisville City and FC Cincinnati. They are compact and stingy on defense, their keeper Daniel Lynd is healthy again, and they know how to effectively apply high pressure on the opposing backlines. Their secret weapon though may be their coach, Bob Lilley. He’s a USL playoff veteran and won the USL Cup with with the Rochester Rhinos in 2015.

Connor Paquette (Contributor/Graphics):  Nashville SC

FC Cincinnati earning the 2018 USL Regular Season Title was almost laughably easy. But FCC is not exempt from the Queen City “first-round-and-out” curse that has been plaguing local major league teams for more than two decades. Beyond our playoff curse, FCC failed to produce a win against Nashville all season. If the trend continues and another draw is the finale to this rivalry’s USL chapter, I fear facing Matt Pickens in penalty kicks to decide the match.

Joe Craven (Photographer):  New York Red Bulls II

New York Red Bulls II have a recent USL Cup title of their own. With a consistent finish to the regular season, I predict they will pose a hefty challenge for the Orange & Blue.

2. Which team from the Western Conference will FCC play in the USL Championship Game?

Graphics by Connor Paquette

Connor:  Sacramento Republic FC

One month ago, I would’ve said Phoenix Rising FC. However, though they were once on pace to finish the season as the West’s #1 seed, they dropped their final two games – usually a sign of a burnt-out squad. That in mind, I consider Sacramento Republic FC, who are undefeated in their final eight regular season matches, to be the team to beat in the West. They’re peaking heading into the most important part of the season.

JoeSacramento Republic FC

Sacramento Republic FC has a solid defense and a reputation for performing well during the playoffs, winning the USL Cup in their first season in 2014 under Preki. First-year head coach, Simon Elliott, will lead the Republic side back to the Cup Final.

StephenOrange County SC

Going against the OB&P grain it appears, I see Orange County muscling through the gauntlet in the West. They have a difficult path, even as a #1 seed. OCSC boasts a prolific attack led by Thomas Enevoldsen (20 goals, 9 assists) and former FCC player Aodhan Quinn (11 goals, 14 assists, and a league high 103 chances created). Not to be outdone by their offense, they have a more than adequate defense that is ranked in the top tier statistically. Hosting each game at home, where they are 10-3-4 this season, may be the clinching factor.

Geoff:  Sacramento Republic FC

I am hesitant to stick with my mid-season pick of Orange County SC, so I’ll go with the hotter team, Sacramento Republic. The team has gone undefeated in their last eight games, and Cameron Iwasa has scored 10 goals in his last 15 matches. Sacramento has also managed to beat Orange County twice this year, which helps if they go on the road against them in the conference final. Besides, don’t you want a Sacramento-Cincinnati rematch?!

Michael:  Sacramento Republic FC

The West is wild, and the #1 seed has gotten knocked out early the past two seasons, so don’t expect to see OCSC there necessarily. Sacramento Republic hasn’t grabbed headlines lately, but they are the two seed, have a great home field advantage, and their half of the bracket might be more manageable.

3. Who are your dark horse picks for the East and West?

Michael:

East: New York Red Bulls II. The Red Bulls always produce a steady stream of high-quality talent and have been to the Eastern Conference finals the last two seasons. They won the whole thing in 2016. They’re inconsistent, but when they’re clicking they can beat anyone in the USL.

West: Reno 1868 FC. They’re undefeated in their last 7 including 5 wins. But in truth, whatever Geoff Tebbetts says … he knows that conference better than I do. Can I cheat off of his paper? 

Geoff:

East: New York Red Bulls II. In the East, I still think Red Bulls II is a scary team. It’s hard to ignore what they pulled off last year in the playoffs, and coach John Wolyniec continues to stockpile high-octane pieces on offense.

West: Phoenix Rising FC. Well, I had Reno as my dark horse, but it appears there’s not enough room on this bandwagon. Phoenix, despite their last two games of the season, have a talented offense spearheaded by winger Solomon Asante. If Chris Cortez (17 goals) can remain hotter than the Sonoran Desert, I think they could give Didier Drogba a retirement present.

Joe:

East: Bethlehem Steel FC. I believe Bethlehem Steel FC may surprise people. Their path to an Eastern Conference title won’t be easy for them though.

West: Reno 1868 FC. Reno 1868 FC closed out their season well. Real Monarchs and Reno 1868 FC will be a good match-up in the Conference Quarter-finals.

Connor:

East: Louisville City FC. I’ve already discussed Nashville and the difficult first round playoff hump, so I’m gonna cheat a little and go with the #2 seed. Louisville experienced growing pains after losing Head Coach James O’Connor. However, they seem to be stabilized again after finishing the regular season with six straight wins. Oh, and their last loss? That would be against FC Cincinnati in the rain. Revenge in the eye of the defending champions vs. the 2018 Regular Season Champs in the Eastern Conference title match? Now that’s a finale worthy of the Dirty River Derby.

West: Reno 1868 FC. Reno is only a year off of setting the single season scoring record. Along with this, I’m sticking to my fear of teams who are hitting their stride heading into the playoffs. Reno is undefeated in their last seven games. They also capped off their season by thumping the #1 seed in the West, Orange County SC, 3-1. Ye be warned.

4. Who will be the FC Cincinnati MVP in the 2018 USL playoffs? 

Connor:  Forrest Lasso

Though FCC’s entire team has seen plenty of rotation in 2018, our stalwart central defender has remained the anchor securing Cincinnati’s elite defense. At 25 years of age, this is a perfect time for the young defender to hone his leadership skills and cement the defensive wall – just like he did against FC Cincinnati as a member of the Charleston Battery in the 2016 USL Playoffs. If Lasso struggles, you’ll notice. But he hasn’t and that’s a big part of why FC Cincinnati has the best goal differential in the entire USL.

Stephen:  Emmanuel Ledesma

Hard to not go with the most influential player on the team and the odds-on league MVP. Success in the playoffs is neither guaranteed nor straight-forward. A clever touch, a timely assist against the run of play, an “Olimpico” or a free kick golazo may be the elixir that sees a Cincinnati sports team win in the playoffs. Manu was the catalyst for this team all season; let’s continue that winning formula to the 2018 USL Cup.

Joe:  Forrest Lasso

Keen awareness, hardworking, and willing to sacrifice. Enough said. 

Geoff:  Corben Bone

Assuming that FCC can go far in the playoffs, I think you ride the Cinderella story that is Corben Bone. Team defenses are going to focus on Emmanuel Ledesma and Fanendo Adi so much that Bone will likely have runs at the goal like he had against Nashville in the final game of the season. It would be the perfect postscript to the season.

MichaelForrest Lasso

It’s cliché but defense wins championships. A lot of FCC’s recent success has required them to absorb shots and pressure but not concede goals. Remember that header he cleared off the line against Penn FC? Manu and Adi will provide FCC’s goals, but we’ll need heroic defending and Lasso’s aerial dominance to lift the cup.


Have your own thought on how the 2018 USL Playoffs will unfold? Share your opinions with us as you get ready for the “Blue Out” at Nippert Saturday at 4pm.

* Special thanks to all our Orange & Blue Press colleagues and friends for an enjoyable and fun season covering this team. In addition, thank you Connor Paquette for spurring us on to co-author this glimpse into the Orange & Blue staff’s USP playoff predictions.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for all of your FC Cincinnati coverage during their 2018 USL Cup playoff run.

FCCvINDY-173

Playoff Decision Weekend: Who Will FC Cincinnati Face in the First Round?

Photo by: Ryan Meyer

Although the four midweek USL Eastern Conference matches failed to clarify FC Cincinnati’s first round opponent, it raised the stakes for this weekend’s regular-season finale. Nashville SC was leading Toronto FC II 2-0 late in the second half Tuesday evening before relinquishing the lead. Inexplicably, the match ended in a 2-2 draw, unleashing the following ripple effect within the Eastern Conference playoff race:

  • Charleston Battery cemented the 4th Eastern playoff seed
  • Indy Eleven and New York Red Bulls II clinched a playoff berth
  • Nashville SC missed out on clinching a playoff berth
  • Nashville may now miss out on the playoffs entirely if the following occurs this weekend:
    • Ottawa FC beats Charleston Battery Saturday at 2:00 PM
    • FCC beats Nashville SC Saturday at 8:30 PM
    • Bethlehem Steel FC tie or beat Tampa Bay Sunday at 3:00 PM

Wednesday’s 1-1 draw in Atlanta between the Atlanta United 2 and the Riverhounds resulted in the top four Eastern playoff seeds being solidified:

  1.  FC Cincinnati
  2.  Louisville City FC
  3.  Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
  4.  Charleston Battery.

Following the midweek action, here is your updated USL Eastern Conference Standings, ranked by projected points. 

Graphic by Connor Paquette

Determining FCC’s First Round Playoff Opponent

The one remaining question of the 2018 regular season is this … which team will FC Cincinnati face on October 20th at Nippert?

Let’s review the six teams in contention and their potential paths to the postseason.

Indy Eleven

The Eleven currently sit in 5th place and have clinched a playoff spot. They are on the road at Louisville City Saturday evening. A win will cement fifth place for Indy and a playoff visit to Charleston. A draw or loss could drop them into the 8th spot, contingent on other results, and a return to Nippert next week. Indy are 1-0-1 vs LCFC this season.

New York Red Bulls II

The Baby Bulls are riding a five-match unbeaten streak as they host Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon. A win will solidify 5th or 6th place for NYRBII. A draw or loss could see them in Cincinnati on October 20th. New York lost 0-3 to the Riverhounds back in the middle of June but could be facing a Pittsburgh side content to rest tired legs before the playoffs.

Nashville SC

As mentioned above, Nashville holds the most interesting position of the remaining playoff contenders. They should have booked their playoff ticket earlier this week but now must beat FCC or seek help from others. A loss to Cincinnati, combined with a win by Ottawa and at least a draw by Bethlehem, sends them packing for the off-season. The “Fighting Six Strings” have played the Orange & Blue tough this season, earning two draws (home and away), but face a squad aiming for a USL record 23-game unbeaten streak. Here is your Match Program for Saturday’s influential contest.

Bethlehem Steel FC

The Steel control their own playoff destiny and host Tampa Bay at Goodman Stadium on Sunday. Bethlehem are 7-4-5 at home this season. They lost 0-2 at Tampa in the second game of the season; however, the Rowdies have been eliminated from the postseason and are only 4-9-3 on the road this year. Bethlehem is in an all-or-nothing scenario, as well. With a loss and an Ottawa win, they are eliminated. Should Indy, New York and Nashville all win in addition to the Steel, FCC would face Bethlehem at home October 20th. Bethlehem are able to finish as high as fifth with a win and ties or losses by Indy, New York and Nashville.

Ottawa Fury FC

Ottawa has been battling back into contention all season. After a dismal 0-4-1 start to the season, they are one win and some help from FCC or Tampa Bay in making the USL playoffs for the first time. The Fury host the playoff-bound Battery Saturday afternoon at TD Place Stadium, where they are 2-1-2 in their last five home matches.

North Carolina FC

The Dead Whales stumble into the final weekend with two losses in a row. They face their intrastate rival Charlotte Saturday evening in the North Carolina Derby. Not only do they need a win to take them to 47 points, they require Ottawa to draw or lose and Bethlehem to lose. That’s not all; they also need to overcome a plus-6 goal-differential with the Steel. NCFC has had the upper hand on the Independence this season, winning both matches with an aggregate 8-2 goal margin.

With many scenarios in play, what is your prediction of who FCC will play in the first round?

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press this weekend for updates to FC Cincinnati’s match vs Nashville SC and the latest regarding FCC’s first-round playoff opponent.

Midweek Scoreboard Watching: The Impact to FC Cincinnati’s First Round USL Playoff Opponent

With twelve matches remaining in the USL Eastern Conference regular season, the playoff picture is still unfolding. Specifically, we all want to know which opponent FC Cincinnati will host at Nippert Stadium on October 20th.

What We Know

Mathematically, there are multiple scenarios where FCC could play one of six different teams October 20th in the #1 vs #8 seed match. Here is what we know going into the final week of regular season action:

  • Four teams have officially clinched – FC Cincinnati, Louisville City, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and Charleston Battery.
  • The Orange & Blue have won the East, the League and will host 2018 playoff matches at Nippert, as far and long as the team continues to advance.
  • Six Eastern Conference teams have been eliminated – Charlotte Independence, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Penn FC, Atlanta United 2, Richmond Kickers, and Toronto FC II.
  • The remaining six teams are fighting for the last four playoff spots – Indy Eleven, Nashville SC, New York Red Bulls II, Bethlehem Steel, North Carolina FC, and Ottawa Fury.

Here is your current USL Eastern Conference Standings, ranked by projected points. 

Graphic by Connor Paquette

Other soccer leagues worldwide play their final matches on the same day and time. The USL schedule is different. The remaining 12 games are spread from Tuesday evening through Sunday afternoon. Ten of these matches have a potential impact in determining FC Cincinnati’s first round opponent.

What to Look for in the Midweek Matches

Let’s review three midweek matches that have a direct impact on the Orange & Blue’s first round USL playoff opponent.

Penn FC vs NYRB II, Tuesday 10/9 at 6:30 PM. News broke yesterday that Penn FC has decided to take a one-year hiatus before joining USL League One in 2020. This unexpected announcement may play perfectly into the Baby Bulls need for 3 points to solidify their playoff spot. New York currently sits in 7th place in the East with 1.44 points per game (49 total projected points). They will need to overcome their dismal 1-5-10 road record this season to stay in the top eight.

Louisville City FC vs North Carolina FC, Tuesday 10/9 at 7:00 PM. Since losing to FCC 0-1 in the rain-drenched multi-day affair four weeks ago, the “Boys in Purple” have won 4 straight games and are unbeaten in five. The defending USL Champions are rounding third and heading home (pun intended) into the playoffs under John Hackworth. Although a win Tuesday does not guarantee a second-place finish, it certainly moves them one large step closer. A tie or loss by NCFC makes it increasingly difficult for them to enter the 2018 playoff race. They would require a road win at Charlotte Saturday and a series of losses by NYRB II, Bethlehem, and Ottawa.

Nashville SC vs. Toronto FC II, Tuesday 10/9 at 8:30 PM. Nashville may be the most intriguing team left to clinch a playoff spot. They have an opportunity, with two wins and a Charleston loss this weekend, to capture 4th place overall. However, they could also fail to make the playoffs with two losses in their final two matches (and other results going against them). Don’t sleep on the last place team in the East. TFC II has surprisingly knocked off both Louisville and Charleston on the road in the past six weeks. In addition, NSC is only 1-2-2 in their last five matches in the Music City.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for updates to FC Cincinnati’s first-round playoff opponent and all of FCC’s 2018 USL playoff coverage.