Valencia Friendly: FC Cincinnati’s On-field Numbers Outweigh Goals Scored

FC Cincinnati lost to Valencia CF 2-0 at home on Monday night in international friendly play, but pitch time was the real takeaway for the Ohio squad.

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Photo courtesy JES Photography / Joe Schmuck

23,114 people turned out to see FC Cincinnati take on Valencia CF at Nippert Stadium. The end result was 2-0, but the real number to care about is 22. Coach Alan Koch knew Monday was about getting men on the field, twenty-two in total, not about the end scoreline.

“It was awesome for our men to play against a world class team,” said Koch. “There’s no shame to losing to them tonight; we knew it was an exercise.”

First Half

FC Cincinnati’s offense began early on with a corner kick from Jimmy McLaughlin in the first five minutes of the match, leading to a back and forth of defensive play. At the ten minute mark, Valencia headed a corner toward Mitch for his first save of the match, but allowing another corner. After a double header back toward the goal, Mitch denied again, and the Bailey made their onscreen appearance with chants of “Mitch Says No.” Mitch would spend only thirty minutes of the match on the pitch, but came away with multiple saves.

With momentum swinging back the other way, FC Cincinnati threaded the needle through the more skilled La Liga squad and Dacres pushed toward the goal. A scissor kick toward the upper-90 proved to be the first solid challenge from Cincinnati’s side but a last minute save gave way to a corner that went nowhere. Valencia’s defense showed great poise at the 18th minute as Cincinnati rapped a few times on their front door, only allowing a few passes in.

Mid-way through the first half, it became clear this game belonged to the midfielders. As chants from the Bailey heated up, offensive action on the pitch slowed to a few attacks resulting in turnover and retreat. At the 30th minute mark, Alan Koch made his first substitute at keeper, exchanging Hildebrandt for Jaye.

Five minutes before the end of the first half, Cincinnati got back on the offensive, pushing into Valencia’s box to no avail. Flipping the pitch, Valencia moved into Cincinnati’s territory and a quick breakaway forced Jaye to make a punching save, before being whistled for offsides. The players got a little rough with Cincinnati fouling on an aggressive slide tackle, and De Wit getting a yellow for his takedown of Zaza. Zaza continued to push the ball into Jaye’s box, only to be called for offsides.

At the half, Koch was “excited at the chance of playing all the men,” and was enjoying the pace of the game so far, admitting the talent gap between the two leagues. But FC Cincinnati had reason to celebrate more than just the international friendly, the retirement of Omar Cummings, a Jamaican native, MLS All-star, and FCC original, was honored during the halftime festivities.

Second Half

As the half began, Cummings took over at striker in his last professional game. FC Cincinnati drove an attack over the next several minutes, with no goal to show for it. Alan Koch brought on more fresh legs to try out against the Europeans, gaining valuable experience.

No goals came until about twenty minutes into the second half. Valencia with a breakaway right-center, sent Fernando “Nando” Puchades a pass out in front of Cincinnati’s Walker from the midfield. With three touches, Nando sent the ball past the line into the left corner, breaking the tie with the hometown boys. FC Cincinnati sprang right back into defensive mode sparring the ball back and forth across the midfield line with Valencia.

The game continued at this pace, with very little movement toward either goal except for a minor passing mistake or long pass, but never culminating into a result. Midfield play gave the substitute players on the pitch ample time to get some footwork and dribbling practice in, but didn’t allow FCC to break even.

As the minutes grew shorter, Cincinnati kicked into the last gear and pushed for offense in stoppage time. With time left for one more corner, Cincinnati brought Williams from his penalty area into Valencia’s, hoping an extra body may bring a lucky bounce, and a chance to draw even.

Instead, the ball bounced Valencia’s way and with a quick boot down field, Zaza beat Williams back to his box and popped the ball into the back of the net. The score was 2-0 but Zaza and Jaye exchanged a friendly hug. Shortly after the goal, the referee whistled for the end and Valencia came out atop Cincinnati, but the 2-0 score doesn’t matter.

The Takeaway

This game was all about 22. Twenty-two of Cincinnati’s players were able to take the field against a team in a higher caliber league in an elite region; minutes add up and thirty minutes against a more technically-sound squad equals better training for the games left to be played.

Cincinnati can beat big teams; they proved it with Columbus and Chicago, but international friendlies, like today’s against Valencia, are about getting boots on the pitch and minutes on the watch. If Cincinnati wants to take the league and the cup, they’ll need to spar in midfield with elite teams without dropping a pass or leaving a man open. The experience gained from Valencia will give them the confidence needed moving forward.

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Preseason Battles to Watch: Center Forward

The departure of Sean Okoli left a 16 goal hole in FC Cincinnati’s attack. Who will lead the line for the Orange and Blue in their second season?

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Daryl Fordyce scored the first preseason goal for the Orange and Blue.

FC Cincinnati’s preseason continues on Wednesday when they face the Chicago Fire in Bradenton, Florida. It’s the second of three games this week at the IMG Academy Pro Classic tournament. The Orange and Blue lost 3-2 to OKC Energy in their first game.

One of the most interesting preseason battles to watch over the next five weeks will be the competition for the center forward position. Both formations used on Sunday (4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1) featured a central striker leading the attack, so let’s take a look at those in contention for that role.

Djiby Fall – Veteran Senegalese front-man Djiby Fall signed with the Orange and Blue last week and will wear the number 9 shirt this season. There’s no doubt that the 31 year old has the credentials to lead the line. His last two seasons haven’t been as productive though, with just five goals in 44 appearances in Turkey and Kazakstan. Can he reproduce the good form that saw him star in Scandinavia?  Or is this one too many stops on his world tour? Given the profile of his signing, and a trophy case that features two golden boots, it’s Djiby’s job to lose. He’ll be pushed for that job early in the season by those that follow.

Victor Mansaray – The Seattle Sounders loanee has serious potential, but at age 20, isn’t the finished product yet. Vic has a lot of similarities with the 2016 edition of Sean Okoli. He is a confident and powerful young striker with Sounders roots and MLS potential. Okoli obviously won the center forward job last year and rewarded FC Cincinnati with a Golden Boot and MVP caliber performance. However, Okoli is four years older than Mansaray and didn’t have as much competition for the starting role. Mansaray looks very talented, but is still very raw. He can play wide right and may find a place there before securing a role as the go-to front man.

Daryl Fordyce – The thirty year old Ulsterman was the only forward to score in FC Cincinnati’s first preseason game, netting a well taken 60th minute goal. He is perhaps being overlooked by some due to FC Cincinnati’s more recent, more flashy signings. In NASL, he was also a consistent producer at FC Edmonton for four years. He has the size and skill for the role, and Fordyce has more goals over the past three seasons than any striker on the roster. He also has the highest goals per appearance ratio during that period. On Sunday, Fordyce played centrally behind Djiby, so Koch may fit him in elsewhere even if he doesn’t lead the line.

Omar Cummings – The Big Cat suffered a season-ending knee injury last August in a draw against the Rochester Rhinos. Although he’s attended the early February training sessions, he hasn’t been competing actively with the others. Omar started last season sidelined with injury as well. He demonstrated though that he’s capable of recovering and having a big impact once fully fit. He may factor at lead striker later in the season, but not on opening day. At 34, he’s likely to have the most influence in the locker room and off the bench.

Here’s a look at these strikers stats from the last three seasons, including cups.

Player Age Appearances Mins Goals Goals/Appearance Minutes/Goals
Djiby Fall 31 71 3478 14 0.197 248
Victor Mansaray 20 40 2524 7 0.175 361
Daryl Fordyce 30 83 6214 25 0.301 249
Omar Cummings 34 76 4348 18 0.237 242

Stats aggregated from Soccerway**

This all assumes that the team will be structured around a central forward. Depending on how these players perform in preseason, Koch may try to find space for more than one in the starting 11. The 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 are formations that are out of favor in many coaching circles, but could be an option for this group. Koch will have to identify his best eleven and right size them to a formation that fits their skills. Alternatively, he could settle on a formation that suits his tactics, and let that drive roster decisions. We still have a lot to learn about FC Cincinnati’s coach and players this preseason.

Andrew Wiedeman, Andy Craven, Casey Townsend, and Kadeem Dacres are all attacking options as well. One or two may also get a crack at playing central striker this preseason but are more likely to feature in other roles for the Orange and Blue.

What do you think? Who will start the season up top and what formation best accommodates these attacking options? Leave a message in the comments section below.

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** Some small discrepancies have been noted between stats from Soccerway and stats from league websites.  The same general pattern emerges however.

Casey Townsend Signed to Bolster FC Cincinnati’s Forward Ranks

FC Cincinnati signs striker from Wilmington Hammerheads in the wake of Omar Cummings’ injury.

FC Cincinnati announced the signing of striker Casey Townsend from Wilmington Hammerheads FC on Thursday afternoon.

The 27 year old Traverse City, Michigan native played collegiately at the University of Maryland and was selected 5th overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. He made 28 MLS appearances for Chivas USA and DC United before spending time with 4 different NASL / USL clubs. Townsend joined the Wilmington Hammerheads just this year and scored 2 goals and 1 assist in 12 appearances with the club.

Photos Courtesy of Wilmington Hammerheads FC

The move was made by FC Cincinnati in the wake of a serious knee injury to standout forward Omar Cummings on August 24th. See the article below for more information.

Cummings Out for “Several Weeks”, Could Miss Playoffs

FCC General Manager Jeff Berding made the following comments regarding the transfer:

“As we look towards the final four games of the regular season and the playoffs, we wanted to ensure we had a full roster available to us and Casey will give the club some depth. He has been with some good clubs and will be a great option to have in the attacking third.” [1]

As part of the transfer agreement, Townsend will not be able to play against Wilmington in the upcoming match in North Carolina on Sunday September 11th. Mr. Townsend looks mighty good in Orange and Blue and will be a welcome enhancement to FC Cincinnati’s attacking options.

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Cummings Out for “Several Weeks”, Could Miss Playoffs

FC Cincinnati issued a press release on Wednesday with more information about Omar Cummings’ knee injury.

FC Cincinnati issued a press release Wednesday with a little more information about the knee injury Omar Cummings suffered during the August 24th draw against the Rochester Rhinos. The injury occurred when Cummings collided with Rochester goalkeeper Tomas Gomez in the penalty box in the first half of the match. The FC Cincinnati forward had to be substituted out of the game, but was able to leave the field under his own power. Cummings underwent an MRI in the week that followed to assess whether any significant damage was done. FC Cincinnati’s press release does not report any specifics on the injury itself, but states that Cummings will be out for “several weeks.” The time frame stated is vague but brings into question whether he will be available for FC Cincinnati’s playoff run, which starts around the beginning of October.

Cummings has been a valuable part of FCC’s offense this season. He is the joint assist leader (along with Corben Bone at 5 assists) and has scored 3 goals for the Orange and Blue in 16 appearances. Orange and Blue Press and FC Cincinnati’s fans certainly wish Omar a speedy recovery and quick return to first team action.

Coach Harkes made the following comments about Cummings injury:

“Omar is an important player to our organization, both on and off the field. He has been tremendous for us in our inaugural year and we hope to see him healthy and back soon!”

FC Cincinnati is in action this evening at 7pm ET against the Charlotte Independence. For details on tonight’s matchup, see our cheat sheet segment.

FC Cincinnati at Charlotte Independence – Matchup

After Sunday’s controversial loss against New York, FC Cincinnati looks to rebound on the road against Charlotte.

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FC Cincinnati looks to rebound from their controversial loss to New York Red Bulls II with a Wednesday trip to Charlotte to take on the Independence. Charlotte currently sits in 7th place in the Eastern Conference but are only 4 points behind FC Cincinnati in the standings. Last Saturday the Carolina outfit had a 6 game unbeaten streak snapped by the Charleston Battery in a 1-0 loss away from home. The Independence are known for being tough to beat at Ramblewood and are looking to secure a playoff berth of their own. FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt will be suspended from this game based on the dubious red card he received against New York.

UPDATE: As of Tuesday evening, the USL has rescinded the red card for Mitch Hildebrandt and he will be available to play on Wednesday against Charlotte. While this reversal is clearly justified, it underlines how the refereeing errors on Sunday changed the course of FC Cincinnati’s match against NY Red Bulls II.

Omar Cummings is likely to miss the match through injury. This contest represents the 2nd leg of the Queen City Cup, a two-leg competition to determine which city calling itself the Queen City has the best soccer team. FC Cincinnati won the first leg 2-1 at Nippert in their 3rd match of the season last April.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for stats, analysis and color commentary on Wednesday’s result.

FC Cincinnati vs Rochester – Match Notes

Key events, photos, stats and quotes from FC Cincinnati’s 1-1 draw with the Rochester Rhinos on August 24th.

FC Cincinnati played to a 1-1 draw with the Rochester Rhinos on Wednesday in front of 14,157 at Nippert Stadium. The match represents the third 1-1 result FC Cincinnati has tallied in the past four matches. For play-by-play details of the game’s events, see the articles referenced in our recap roundup segment.

Twenty Five Photos

 

Four Numbers

These four numbers tell the tale of how this match unfolded.

3 – The number of defenders employed by FC Cincinnati in their new-look 3-5-2 formation. Both Kenney Walker and Paul Nicholson returned to full fitness for the match and the formation change was likely an attempt to make room for the team’s best players and adapt to frontman Okoli being absent due to yellow card accumulation.

9 – The number of first half shots by Rochester compared to FC Cincinnati’s 3. Many expected the Rhinos to come to Cincinnati and simply get behind the ball, try not to concede, and play on the counter. They actually did quite the opposite by possessing the ball, attacking, and creating more chances in the first half of play. For example, in the first 20 minutes possession was equal, and Rochester had 2 more passes, a 3-1 advantage in shots and a 4-1 advantage in corner kicks.

2 – The number of total shots on goal by FC Cincinnati in the match, equal to their lowest total of the year (and last seen in the 0-0 result vs. Louisville City on June 25th). Credit is due to Rochester and their coach Bob Lilley who pride themselves on having a stout defense. Lead forward Omar Cummings left the match after a 37th minute injury, and FC Cincinnati clearly struggled to create without Cummings and Okoli on the field. As mentioned before, the Rhinos also limited chances by controlling possession, especially in the first half.

30 – The number of seconds of playing time between the restart of play (following the Cummings injury) and Rochester’s equalizing goal. The Orange and Blue were playing down a man when Steevan Dos Santos thundered home the near post equalizer for Rochester in the 42nd minute. Some pointed to a gap of 4 minutes between the injury and the substitution as a reason for the goal. However, not having the lead striker on the field seemed to have little impact on the events leading up to Rochester’s goal. Perhaps Cummings could have provided ball pressure to prevent Rochester’s build-up, but two defenders were beaten on FC Cincinnati’s right and 3 defenders watched as Dos Santos found space to collect and shoot.

Quotable (from John Harkes who was upbeat in the press conference)

“How disappointed we are with getting a point (against the defending champions) is a great sign of our character…We have a great team in there.”

On Omar Cummings’ injury: “It looked like a hyperextended knee…We’re just hoping he’s ok and we’re looking to get him back as soon as possible. He’s a very important part of the team.”

On FC Cincinnati’s next game against NY Red Bulls II, a homecoming for Harkes (he also was an assistant coach for the Red Bulls’ MLS side): “I grew up playing 5-a-side games on the Harrison courts, literally 200 yards from the (Red Bulls) stadium…it brings back good memories of childhood and creates that passion for the game.”

Competition

FC Cincinnati’s next opponent, NY Red Bulls II, were also in action on Wednesday and defeated Toronto FC II away from home to pick up their 4th consecutive league win. That win creates a 10 point gap between the Eastern conference leading “Baby Bulls” and FC Cincinnati. It’s beginning to look very difficult for FC Cincinnati to have a chance at winning the Eastern Conference, but they could still secure a playoff spot this weekend depending on how results play out. The only other Eastern Conference match on Wednesday saw Pittsburgh defeat Wilmington by a score of 4-1.

The match against NY Red Bulls II is at 5:30pm ET on Sunday at Red Bull Arena. That contest will be followed by another Wednesday match as the Orange and Blue travel to Charlotte to take on the Independence on August 31st.

FC Cincinnati vs FC Montréal – Four Numbers

Four numbers that mattered in FC Cincinnati’s 2-0 victory over FC Montréal, plus key weekend USL results and what’s ahead.

The box score for this match was released a bit later than usual, so let’s have a brief look at how this match played out by the numbers. 

FC Cincinnati picked up valuable road points on Wednesday, defeating FC Montréal by 2 goals in Canada. For play-by-play details of the match’s events, see the articles featured in our recap roundup segment.

Four Numbers

11 – Ugo Okoli’s regular season goal total after the brace he netted in this match. This total is good enough to bring him into a tie for 3rd in goals scored this USL season. Only Jack McBean (15) and Chandler Hoffman (14) have scored more regular season goals. Okoli had 9 total shots in the game, a season high for him.

9 – Percentage of shots by FC Montréal that were on target. FC Montréal did create some chances in the offensive third, especially in the first half, producing 11 total shots. Unfortunately for the Canadians, all but 1 of those shots was off target. A lone effort on goal by Philippe Lincourt-Joseph in the first half was easily gathered by Mitch Hildebrandt.

3 – The gap in points between Eastern Conference leaders NY Red Bulls II and third place FC Cincinnati after Wednesday’s result. Since then, Louisville City FC eked out a win against Pittsburgh 2-1 to regain the top stop. Therefore, FC Cincinnati is now 4 points off the top with a game in hand.  See the full Eastern Conference standings at the USL website.

10  – Number of days between this match and FC Cincinnati’s next contest on Saturday, August 13th. Richmond recently moved into 4th place behind FC Cincinnati, after wins on Wednesday and Saturday. Richmond has won an impressive 6 matches in a row, with 4 of those 6 being earned on the road.

What’s ahead?

The Orange and Blue will need the rest on offer this week before turning their attention to a challenging schedule for the remainder of August. Their calendar includes four total matches. Three of those four matches are on the road. Two of those four matches are Wednesday matches. All of the matches feature opponents in the top half of the Eastern Conference.

  • Saturday, August 13 – @ Richmond Kickers (4th)
  • Wednesday, August 24 – Rochester Rhinos (6th)
  • Sunday, August 28 – @ New York Red Bulls II (2nd)
  • Wednesday, August 31 – @ Charlotte Independence (7th)

Return to Orange and Blue Press soon for more statistics, color commentary and analysis on Cincinnati’s favorite football team.

FC Cincinnati vs Charleston – Match Notes

Key events, statistics, quotes and photos from FC Cincinnati’s 1-1 draw with the Charleston Battery.

FC Cincinnati played the Charleston Battery to a 1-1 draw in front of a crowd of over 19K at Nippert Stadium on Saturday. For play-by-play details of the game’s events, see the sources referenced in our recap roundup segment.

Photos 

Special thanks to photographer Joe Craven for the images in this week’s match notes.

 

Match Notes

Don’t Fix It – The Orange and Blue lined up in the same formation they used with such success against Louisville City last weekend. One personnel change came in the form of Derek Luke starting at right back in place of Pat McMahon. Kenney Walker and Paul Nicholson were unavailable for the match due to injury.

Scoreless First – Both goalies came up with 1 big save in the first half to keep the score level at 0’s. The Battery had a very good chance to go up a goal in the 16th minute following quality combination play between Williams and Garbanzo, but Hildebrandt denied the opportunity. Andrew Wiedeman had a right-footed rocket from 25+ yards saved by Tambakis near the end of the first half.

Scoring at UC – Omar Cummings scored his first league goal at Nippert 6 minutes after the start of the second half. The the crowd erupted in approval for the former Cincinnati State and UC product.

No Delbo in Canada – Harrison Delbridge picked up a yellow card in the second half, his 5th of the season. Because of yellow card accumulation he will serve a 1 game suspension and be unavailable for Wednesday’s match against FC Montreal. Keep in mind that Paul Nicholson is also injured so we could see Evan Lee start against the Canadian club.

SMH – The goal FC Cincinnati conceded was one to forget frankly. It was a corner kick sent directly into the center of the 6 yard box (very close to goal). A couple of nearby defenders didn’t even jump for it and Mitch was beat to the ball by Cordoves.

Late Battery – Charleston had a glorious chance to equalize in the 83rd minute. Charleston substitute Tsonis connected with a point blank header in the box that rattled the crossbar and was scrambled off the line by Hildebrandt. The Orange and Blue were also extremely lucky that Harrison Delbridge was not called for a handball in the box during stoppage time following his sliding tackle. FC Cincinnati has been on the wrong end of some bad refereeing decisions but this one went their way, and was probably worth a point.

Hildebrandt hurt? – Mitch Hildebrandt has played every minute so far for the Orange and Blue in the USL regular season. Late in the game he suffered an apparent shoulder injury that didn’t force him to leave the game, but put him in some discomfort. Let’s hope he heals quickly and is fit to play in Montreal.

Interesting Stat

FC Cincinnati’s dominated many of the game’s statistics (shots, shots on goal, far fewer fouls conceded). One category they did not dominate however was corner kicks. Charleston had 8 corner kicks to FC Cincinnati’s 2, and the FCC lead was undone by one of those eight byline set pieces.

Quotable

“Once I saw Jimmy get the ball, I knew he was going to go for the cross. I knew I would have to anticipate where it would go, and once it was past Ugo, I just reacted.” –Omar Cummings on his goal

“One thing we keep telling our guys that there will be games where you feel you dominated the game, but it may not reflect in the score. We were a bit unlucky, we certainly could have scored the second goal to go ahead and lock it up.” –John Harkes

Standouts

The three offensive players behind Okoli were very good in this match. Omar Cummings was the bona fide scoring threat all match and converted in the 51st minute. Andrew Wiedeman and Jimmy McLaughlin worked hard to create all night, resulting in several quality chances. They couldn’t find the second goal though, a problem that has plagued the team at times this season.

Competition

A draw against Charleston is a decent result, but conceding the 70th minute equalizer and another nervy finish put a damper on proceedings at Nippert. The draw keeps Harkes’ men in 3rd place, above Charleston in the standings. Results away for Nippert were very favorable for the Orange and Blue. The top two teams in the Eastern Conference both lost allowing FCC to gain a point on each. Richmond moves into 5 place on goal difference over Rochester after their big win against NY Red Bulls II.

The Orange and Blue are now 4 points behind league leaders Louisville City with a game in hand. They are in prime position to make a run at the top of the table with 10 games remaining in the USL regular season. The Orange and Blue are back in action Wednesday as they head north of the border to face last place FC Montreal. No rest for the weary.