Deeper Cuts: Rotation Riches, Finishing Class, and Who’s Up First?

A deeper look at FC Cincinnati’s late-season victory over Indy Eleven including Rotation Riches, Finishing Class, and Who’s Up First?

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Danni König / Image: Ryan Meyer

The Orange & Blue emphatically finished their regular-season home schedule on Saturday with a 3-0 victory over I-74 rivals, Indy Eleven. The post-match celebrations of the USL Regular-Season Championship are now the stuff of local legend. Here are three deeper cuts on how the match played-out in front of 31,478 fans.

Rotation Riches

Alan Koch rotated his roster, changing 10 of 11 players from the team that defeated Richmond on Wednesday. With the Regular Season Championship won, Saturday presented a great opportunity to give some deserved playing time to members of FCC’s squad. Players like Sem de Wit, Russell Cicerone, Matt Bahner, Tyler Gibson, and Tomi Ameobi have been with the team since the start of the season. All are in the bottom ten in minutes played, but contributed to the 3-0 win. Expect to see more of this capable cast in the final two matches of the season.

Make no mistake though, the FC Cincinnati squad was not substantially weakened. The lineup morphed from its customary 4-2-3-1 into a conventional 4-4-2 with a flat midfield. Adi, König, Cicerone, and McLaughlin gave the starting 11 an attacking look. Imagine being the Indy Eleven defenders staring down Fanendo Adi and Danni König starting in a “rotated” FCC lineup.

FCC could have been excused for turning in a less than perfect performance on Saturday. The league was won and they couldn’t improve their playoff position. It was their third match in eight days, including two on the road. Add to that an hour-and-twenty-minute lightning delay on Wednesday, post-match celebrations in Richmond after claiming the regular-season crown, and flight delays returning home. Alan Koch’s team delivered again despite these obstacles. The team showed up for the fans, providing a convincing performance that pumped-up the crowd for the trophy ceremony that followed. It was a fitting end for their last home USL regular season match ever.

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Russell Cicerone started Saturday’s match and made the cross that led to the third goal. Image: Ryan Meyer

Finishing Class

While the final score wasn’t flattering for the visitors on Saturday, Indy Eleven was very much in this match for almost two-thirds of the contest. Indy Eleven managed a 60% possession advantage, and had more than twice as many shots as FC Cincinnati over the entire contest.

FCC’s next-level quality in the final third was the difference. Fanendo Adi struck first with a ferocious long-range strike. Indy pressed hard for the equalizer but were then undone by Danni König’s well-taken counter-attack goal in the 65th minute. An own goal for FCC’s third added insult to injury and the Orange & Blue walked away easy winners. Two goals from 8 shots (excluding blocked shots), produced a 25% FCC conversion rate in this match. Note that the third own goal doesn’t count toward conversion rate.

With two matches remaining, FCC leads the league in goals scored with 69 (2.2 per game). The Orange & Blue can claim 15 different goalscorers in 2018 and if Corben Bone scores one more goal, they will finish the regular season with four players with double-digit goal totals.

It’s fun to talk about offense, but one also can’t overlook the performance of Evan Newton (5 saves) and a bend-but-don’t-break defense that kept their 13th clean sheet of the season.

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Fanendo Adi opened the scoring in the 35th minute on Saturday. Image: Ryan Meyer

Who’s Up First?

The race for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference is very tight indeed, especially in spots 6 through 10. That’s important, of course, because FC Cincinnati will face the team that finishes eighth in the Eastern Conference in the first round of the USL playoffs. It’s difficult to predict right now just who that opponent will be. Currently, based on Orange & Blue Press projections, our first round opponent will be Nashville SC. But things can change quickly based on one or two results.

North Carolina FC continued their good late season form and picked up a 3-2 win against Richmond on Saturday. All of the rest of the teams in the 6-10 spots — Bethlehem, Nashville, NY Red Bulls II and Ottawa — tied and earned one point this weekend.

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Eastern Conference ranked by projected point total
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Both graphics via Connor Paquette

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press through the end of the regular season and we’ll keep you up to date on how thing are shaping-up as the October 20th date for the first playoff game approaches.

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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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Images: FC Cincinnati 2 – 0 Ottawa Fury FC

Images of FC Cincinnati’s victory over Ottawa Fury FC on Saturday, June 30th, at Nippert Stadium.

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Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s 2-0 victory over Ottawa Fury FC on Saturday, June 30th. When browsing the gallery below, for any given image, a high-resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.” Photographer credit is found on the watermark for each image. Images courtesy of Ryan Meyer and Joe Schmuck.

For more particulars of Saturday’s contest, turn your attention to the following article.
Ottawa 6.30_Match Recap
FC Cincinnati 2 – 0 Ottawa Fury: FCC Hits Two and is Top at Midseason

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

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

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

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

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

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 2-0 Ottawa Fury FC

Standings Update

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

Highlight of the Match

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

Stat of the Match

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

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

Quote of the Match

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

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

Who Started?

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

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

What’s Next?

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

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

Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Ottawa Fury FC

A six-pack of facts to get you ready for the matchup between the Queen City and “La Capitale du Canada”.

Design: CSDIV / Images: Ryan Meyer

With the annual trips to Canada already in the books, FC Cincinnati returns home to finish the week in front of another Canadian team, Ottawa Fury FC. The forecast is predicting a hot one at Nippert Stadium, and hopefully the temperature fuels the Orange & Blue’s offensive firepower.

FCC got out to a blistering start on Wednesday against Toronto FC II with goals (and assists) by Nazmi Albadawi, Emery Welshman, and Manu Ledesma in the first half. However, the team mustered only one shot in the second half and managed a 3-3 draw with the weakest team in the USL. Although they are still riding a five-game unbeaten streak, FCC needs to maintain the pace. Second-place Pittsburgh is only three points behind FCC after the Riverhounds’ 1-0 win at Louisville City.

Ottawa is returning to USL league play on a small three-match winning streak in all competitions. The Fury picked up a solid set of victories in the second round of the Canadian Championship, defeating AS Blainville on Wednesday 1-0 to advance to face Toronto FC in the next stage.

Forward Adonijah Reid also made team history last week by being the first Ottawa Fury FC player to score a hat trick in their five-year history. The current USL Player of the Week put three past New York Red Bulls II in a 3-0 victory on Saturday. Reid now shares the team lead in scoring with Steevan dos Santos and Kévin Oliveira.

The last meeting between these two teams saved the fireworks for the last 45 minutes. After a scoreless first half, FCC deposited three goals over a nine-minute span to run away with a 3-0 win. The win gave the team well-earned momentum to start a three-game winning streak, and gave us that memorable long-distance peach of a goal from Kenney Walker.

FC Cincinnati is getting closer and closer to seeing midfielder Tyler Gibson return to the pitch, as he works himself back into playing shape. The same might not be said for Richie Ryan—the midfielder could miss some time due to an apparent ankle injury suffered during the Toronto game.

Fast Facts

Here are some fast facts as FCC gets ready to welcome the Fury.

  • Saturday’s game will mark the midpoint of FC Cincinnati’s 34-game season. While the team is vastly improved from this point in 2017 (5-6-5, 21 points), the same cannot be said for the inaugural 2016 season. After 16 games, FCC’s 2018 record is identical to their record in 2016 (9-4-3, 31 points).
  • While Fury FC has shown to run chaud and froid in their games, the difference in Ottawa’s season has been goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau. Since taking over for Callum Irving after Week 2, Crépeau has given up only 11 goals in 12 USL games and delivered 7 clean sheets. The native of Quebec went the entire month of May (six games) without giving up a single goal, winning the award for USL Player of the Month.
  • After the three-goal output on Wednesday, FCC is now tied for the league lead in goals (33). The team is on pace to score 70 over a 34-game season. However, they are also on pace to give up 45 in the process, which is only a slight improvement over the 48 they gave up in 2017.
  • Nazmi Albadawi’s goal and assist on Wednesday puts three FCC players in the Top 20 for combined goals and assists. Manu Ledesma leads the league with 16 (8G, 8A), while Danni König (7G, 1A) and Albadawi (6G, 1A) have 8 and 7, respectively.
  • Ottawa is one of two USL teams that have given up three own goals this season. (However, the third won’t count until their suspended game against Atlanta United 2 resumes.)

Bonus Fact

If our calculations and expectations are correct, a big milestone is on the horizon. FC Cincinnati’s total attendance at Nippert Stadium should top the one-million mark on Saturday. Those numbers include 39 USL regular season and postseason matches, seven U.S. Open Cup matches, and two international friendlies.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for complete coverage of FC Cincinnati vs. Ottawa Fury FC on Saturday night.

Ottawa Fury FC 0 – 3 FC Cincinnati: Deeper Cuts

We dive deeper into FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 victory over Ottawa Fury FC (and that highlight-reel Walker goal).

Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati’s last game against Ottawa Fury FC in 2017 was an embarrassing 4-0 loss that almost knocked them out of playoff contention. Considering Cincinnati has undergone a sea change while the Fury remained relatively quiet in the offseason, the result had to be different this time.

With possession pretty much evenly split, but with shots in Cincinnati’s favor, this game again felt like two separate halves. Held toothless in the first, FCC broke through with three quick goals in the second half, including two beautiful distance shots from Kenney Walker and Manu Ledesma. In the end, both teams exhibited their preexisting strengths and weaknesses.

Ottawa’s Big Gamble

While Ottawa has given up 14 goals, the most in the USL for any squad, they tend to last a bit longer out of the gate than one might expect. So far, the Fury have not given up a goal in the first 30 minutes of a game, but they’ve collapsed by the end of it, having given up 11 in the last 30 minutes.

This makes Ottawa’s overall setup from Saturday perplexing. Going by their heat maps, Ottawa looked content with playing a high back line and a pulled-back attack line. Over the first 45 minutes, this appeared to be working—FCC was unable to break beyond the defense. When they did, either the offside flag went up (seven times!), or the faster Ottawa defense was able to catch the break from behind.

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Ottawa’s 1st-half (left) and 2nd-half heat maps. Note the midfield work and lack of box presence.

This pressure led to a more comfortable Ottawa attack, but FC Cincinnati’s defense was also unshakeable. While Ottawa took seven corner kicks to Cincinnati’s one over the course of the game, their drawn-back offense forced them to fire outside the box. Only one shot—a quick open-goal clearance by Blake Smith in the 43rd minute—was on frame and in the box for Ottawa. However, the high-playing defense forced FCC’s attack back as well—only two off-target shots were fired in the first half.

Cincinnati’s Big Payoff

With Lance Laing out with a hamstring issue, Alan Koch opted to forego any sort of left-wing presence. The team rolled out a midfielder-heavy 4-4-1-1 diamond formation with Richie Ryan pulled back in midfield, Corben Bone and Walker on the sides, and Nazmi Albadawi heading the middle.

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Average positions for FCC (green) and OTT (black)

While this led to deeper defensive play in the first half, it led to cleaner work in the second. If we view the number of times teams “recovered” on the field, both had the same amount of recoveries* in the first half (27-26). However, FCC rebounded better in the second, recovering the ball 42 times to Ottawa’s 22.

With better control of the ball in the offensive half, FCC’s attack got progressively stronger, while Ottawa saw their own chances fade. FCC hammered 12 shots in the second half, and all but two were taken from inside the box. The Fury, on the other hand, had only one off-target shot over a 30-minute span in the second half. Ottawa ended up with a generous 10 shots over the full 90 minutes, but only two were inside the box.

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FCC (green) and OTT (black) shots in the 1st half (left) and 2nd half (right).

Yes, Cincinnati may have been snake-bit in the first half. However, their typical second-half surge, combined with Ottawa’s late-game lethargy, produced the expected result.

That Walker Goal, Though

It’s hard to add much analysis to the wonder-goal that Kenney Walker hit from way downtown. It wasn’t the longest goal in USL history—this shot from Sacramento’s Rodrigo Lopez in 2015 has it beat—but it might be the prettiest half-field volley.

Goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau had been playing a fantastic game for Ottawa. Attacks from Danni König and Bone came down the center of the box, but Crepeau stayed forward and wide to absorb shots. However, the forward pull of the defense may have led to his downfall.

Crepeau had been playing further up in the box than Spencer Richey did, perhaps as a precaution for any plays that got by Ottawa’s defensive line. As a result, Crepeau may have been more ready for a closer challenge. A typical high volley from 50 yards could be caught or padded away, even at this distance. However, Walker’s shot was a flat volley screened by players that gave Crepeau little time to react.

The telestrator doesn’t lie. From the goal kick by Richey to the time the ball hit the net, the shot never hit the ground and even scraped the post on the way in. Chalk that part up to luck, but considering Ledesma’s later goal was also a distance chip-shot, Walker may have known what he was doing all along.

Up Next

FC Cincinnati’s road trip continues Wednesday with a return to the “scene of the crime” in Indy. With Walker back from his concussion, it will be interesting to see if this new look formation gets more play.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s next away game.

*Recovery – This is where a player wins back the ball when it has gone loose or where the ball has been played directly to him.

Ottawa Fury 0 – 3 FC Cincinnati: Walker’s Brilliant Volley Opens Floodgates

Graphic: Connor Paquette / Image: Joe Craven

After a fruitful second half in the new look shape that was used against Pittsburgh last Saturday, Koch returned to the diamond 4-4-2 away against Fury FC. With Evan Newton day-to-day with a minor hip injury, Spencer Richey received his first start of the regular season for FC Cincinnati. Blake Smith returned to the starting XI as the left fullback.

Although they controlled possession early, the Orange & Blue had a disappointing and sloppy first half. The Fury deployed a high, organized back line that caught FCC offsides on five separate occasions. This pinned FCC back into their half forcing them to defend mightily in their box at times.

Ottawa had the two best scoring opportunities and went into the locker room at half with the better metrics. The Fury out-shot FCC five to two (two shots on target versus none for the FCC) and held a four to zero advantage in corner kicks. In addition, Ottawa had 70% passing accuracy in FC Cincinnati’s zone as compared to FCC’s 60% passing accuracy in the home side’s zone.

Similar to last week’s match, FCC came out blazing in the second half. Danni Konig missed a tap-in two minutes into the half off an accurate feed by Corben Bone. Bone then had a dangerous shot of his own repelled in the 48th minute from a fine through ball by Emmanuel Ledesma. Through the first fifteen minutes of the second half, FCC tripled their first-half shot tally, placing all four shots on target. Ottawa attempted to slow down the Orange & Blue press by making back-to-back subs in the sixtieth and sixty-second minutes.

Then the goal of the season, and possibly the goal of the entire history of FC Cincinnati’s franchise occurred. Kenney Walker delivered an absolute laser of a volley from 45+ yards out that caught an in-form Maxime Crepeau standing at his penalty spot. To be fair, Crepeau may not have had a chance to save this brilliant heads-up strike as it caromed off the post and into the net. Let’s take a look at this phenomenal strike.


The floodgates in Ottawa opened as Bone headed in a pinpoint Ledesma cross one minute later. To finish off the scoring, Ledesma took advantage of a defensive mistake, grabbed a loose ball thirty yards out, and chipped Crepeau off his line (again) in the seventy-seventh minute. FCC delivered their most prolific half of the season, peppering twelve shots on goal, eight on target and converting three for goals. Whatever Koch is feeding this team at half, let’s start to make it part of the pregame meal as well. Final score from TD Place is FC Cincinnati 3 Ottawa Fury FC 0.

Key Events

50′ – YELLOW CARD – Forrest Lasso
55′ – YELLOW CARD – Emmanuel Ledesma
57′ – YELLOW CARD – Blake Smith
68′ – GOAL – Kenney Walker
69′ – GOAL – Corben Bone (Emmanuel Ledesma assist)
77′ – GOAL – Emmanuel Ledesma

Match Notes

The result takes FCC to eleven points and moves them up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference (before Saturday evening’s match schedule). Ottawa Fury FC remains in last-place with one point and a negative twelve goal differential.

As mentioned above, FC Cincinnati made a couple of tweaks to their roster, starting Spencer Richey in goal and Blake Smith returning to his starting left fullback position. New signee Michael Lahoud dressed as part of the squad’s substitute bench but did not see any action. Eighteen total players have seen the pitch this season for FC Cincinnati.

Starting XI (4-4-2 diamond midfield)

Ledesma (Haber 83′) – Konig (Welshman 90+1′)
Albadawi (McLaughlin 72′)
Bone – Ryan – Walker
Smith – Lasso – Keinan – Hotye
Richey

What’s Next?

The Orange and Blue head back to Lucas Oil Stadium on Wednesday for their second match this season versus Indy Eleven. It will be their fifth road match of the season in only seven outings. FCC has been stellar on the road keeping three clean sheets and picking up 10 out of a possible 12 points. Keep in mind they only tallied 16 points away from Nippert in all of 2017.

Check in tomorrow for our “Deeper Cuts” analysis of today’s result and more match coverage from Orange and Blue Press.

Audio: Back to Canada – Opportunity to Build on Recent Performance

Richie Ryan shares his thoughts on the club he captained in 2015 and Alan Koch talks preparations and injuries ahead of the match with Ottawa Fury FC.

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Image: Joe Craven

Orange & Blue Press checked in with Richie Ryan and Alan Koch at FC Cincinnati’s training session on Thursday. It was their third and final session of the week following an exciting second-half comeback draw versus the Riverhounds last Saturday at Nippert.

Richie Ryan

 

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Richie Ryan vs Pittsburgh / Image: Joe Craven

Richie is one of five FC Cincinnati players to log every minute (450) of the 2018 USL season so far. As highlighted by Orange & Blue Press recently, Ryan’s metronome-style distribution leads the team in passes (327), passing accuracy (86.2%), passes per 90 minutes (65.4) and passing percentage in the opponents’ half (82.9%).

In the audio below, Richie talks about his two years with Ottawa Fury FC in 2014-2015 and his thoughts on returning to play at TD Place Stadium. He states,”In the five games we’ve shown growth as a squad of players and I think the second half especially against Pittsburgh we showed a lot of positive signs.” He also provides his thoughts about the healthy competition within the team and having Mike (Lahoud) as an FCC teammate (2:17).

Alan Koch

We also spoke to Alan Koch, who is excited to go back to Canada. “I’m a Canadian citizen, so it’s always fun to go back and play against Canadian teams.” He added, “We want to build on our second-half performance against Pittsburgh”. In addition, FCC’s coach shared his thoughts on the recent adjustments to the squad’s shape, the upcoming fixture load and player depth, Michael Lahoud’s progress,  and provides a quick injury report (3:03).

For all the particulars of Saturday’s match away to Fury FC, be sure to check out our Match Program preview.

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Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Ottawa Fury FC

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for our coverage of the Fury FC match on Saturday.

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Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Ottawa Fury FC

Orange and Blue Press’ Match Program supplies the information and fast facts you need to prepare for FC Cincinnati vs Ottawa Fury FC on Saturday.

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Design CSDIV / Image Above: Joe Schmuck

FC Cincinnati travels north on Saturday to face last-place Ottawa Fury FC at TD Place Stadium for an early 2pm kickoff. The Orange & Blue most recently earned a comeback draw last weekend against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in a back-and-forth affair at Nippert Stadium. That result leaves FCC in sixth place in the Eastern Conference coming into this contest.

They’ll face an Ottawa side that has had a dismal start to their 2018 campaign. Fury FC has collected just one point in four matches played. That point came in a draw they earned in their most recent match versus North Carolina FC. It’s worth noting the NCFC match was the only fixture they’ve played at home so far this season.

Ottawa has a new head coach this season. Last year’s manager, Julian de Guzman, moved into a GM role in the offseason, and Nikola Popovic is now the man in charge. The Serbian-born Popovic managed Swope Park Rangers in 2017 and took that club to a fourth-place finish in the West and a playoff run that carried the team to the USL Cup final.

The Orange & Blue are 1-1-0 all-time against Saturday’s opponent. They cruised to a comfortable 3-1 victory against Fury FC at Nippert last August. However, they got shellacked 4-0 at TD Place last October in a match that could have secured FCC’s playoff berth. Those that remain on the roster from last season (not many) will be looking for retribution for that unpleasant day in 2017.

Fast Facts

Here are four fast facts to get you ready for FC Cincinnati’s first trip north of the border this season.

  • It’s a homecoming of sorts for FC Cincinnati’s #16, Richie Ryan. Ryan played for Fury FC during the 2014 and 2015 NASL seasons. He made 41 appearances for Ottawa and was the Fury FC captain in 2015, leading them to the NASL Fall Championship.
  • Ottawa’s 11 goals conceded is tied for second-worst in the USL, and they are worst in the USL in goals allowed per game (GAA) at 2.75. They did however only concede once in their home match against NCFC last week.
  • Emmanuel Ledesma has produced consistent offense for FC Cincinnati. He leads the team in shots (8) and chances created (10). He has created twice as many chances as any other player on the FCC roster.
  • Ottawa added some short-term reinforcements prior to this match. They signed center back Doniel Henry from Vancouver Whitecaps on a short-term loan deal. The Canadian international has played in MLS and the English Premier League, but he spent much of the past three years injured or loaned out.

Time Capsule

This same week in 2016, FCC played their first ever match in Canada. It was a 2-1 victory over TFCII that sent the Orange & Blue on an extended unbeaten run.

FC Cincinnati is undefeated on the road this season. Can they continue that streak and earn some style points against a struggling Fury FC side? Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for coverage leading up to Saturday’s contest.

Cheat Sheet: FC Cincinnati at Ottawa Fury FC

An information graphic provides the vital details for Sunday’s match between FC Cincinnati and Ottawa Fury FC.

Photo Credit: Ryan Meyer Photography
FC Cincinnati travels north of the border on Sunday to take on the Ottawa Fury at TD Place Stadium. A playoff berth is on the line for the Orange and Blue and things look good in that regard. A win on Sunday would clinch entry into the postseason, and maintain a small chance of a home playoff game.

These two teams last met in August at Nippert Stadium. FC Cincinnati cruised to a 3-1 victory in one of their better performances of the 2017 season. Danni König, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Sem De Wit all put their names on the score sheet before Fury FC responded with a single consolation goal.

After Friday’s results, Alan Koch’s side sits seventh in the Eastern Conference on 43 points. Orlando City B and NY Red Bulls II are hot on their heels though, and Bethlehem Steel FC moved ahead of them in the standings with a 4-2 victory over Toronto FC II. The Orange and Blue still need to produce some points in their final two matches to secure their place in the postseason. Ottawa Fury FC is currently in thirteenth position and has been eliminated from playoff contention.

UPDATE: FC Cincinnati is now 8th place in the Eastern Conference after a NY Red Bulls II victory on Saturday.

Assist-leader and co-captain Kenney Walker is suspended for this match after picking up two yellow cards in last Saturday’s win in Charlotte. Make note of the 2pm kickoff time for this Sunday matinee.

Four Fast Facts

Here are four fast facts to serve as a backdrop for Sunday’s match.

  • Ottawa hasn’t won a match since these two teams last met on August 23rd. In fact, Fury FC haven’t secured a victory in their last ten outings.
  • Ottawa Fury FC are draw specialists. They’ve drawn six of their last seven matches and their 13 ties this season is the highest total in the USL.
  • Jimmy McLaughlin has 34 key passes (assists plus chances created) for FC Cincinnati. That’s the second highest total on the team next to Kenney Walker. McLaughlin’s creativity will be especially important on Sunday in Walker’s absence.
  • Alan Koch has started three different combinations of strikers up front in the last three away matches. Who will lead the line on Sunday, and will we see some consistency in who starts heading into the playoffs?

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue press for more coverage of Sunday’s contest.