USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: Conference Finals

Which team left in the East will go to the USL Cup Final? The numbers (and our stats geek) never lie…


Don’t stop me, folks—I’m on my way to Vegas to blow my life savings on the craps table.

If the first week was beginner’s luck, then the second week must have been the work of a scientific genius. The numbers don’t lie, and they haven’t told me otherwise yet—I’ve hooked my horses to the cream of the crop since the start of the playoffs. Rochester may argue, and FC Cincinnati fans may gnash their teeth, but Louisville City FC and New York Red Bulls II have been the two best teams in the USL the past three years. It only makes sense that they get a pivotal rematch this year at Lou City’s home grounds, once again for the privilege to represent the Eastern Conference in the USL Cup.

It doesn’t even matter if Swope Park makes their own return to the championship or if Oklahoma City completes their own Cinderella run to the final. They shouldn’t even show up. Whoever wins this game in the East will win all the marbles. Write it down.

But just to make sure, let’s see what the numbers say this time…


Conference Finals Predictions

#1 Louisville City FC (20-8-6) vs. #7 New York Red Bulls II (15-5-14)

Head-to-head record:

New York leads the overall series (4W-2L-1T), but Lou City beat the Baby Bulls both times this year.

The story so far:

Louisville and New York played a scrapper of a game in last year’s Conference Finals, one that managed to produce almost everything but the kitchen sink, including a relatively sizable crowd of 2,700 at Red Bull Arena. Lou City hit the scoresheet early with a Paco Craig header in the 11th minute and managed to put pressure on the goal for most of the first half. However, things went bizarrely wrong for Lou City in the second half—after goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh was subbed off in the 51st minute from a groin injury, New York managed to build up their momentum. A set-piece in the 74th minute resulted in a header from Florian Valot to tie the game at 1-1.

The 30 minutes of extra time almost felt like a different game, as two players from Lou City and a player from New York were shown the door from red cards. The resulting penalty kicks gave the game to the Baby Bulls, as New York keeper Ryan Meara palmed away two shots, while substitute Lou City goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski couldn’t save any.

Past results:

Lou City honestly had a bit of a nail-biter last weekend, as Rochester’s rigid defense bent just enough for Louisville to come away with a 1-0 victory. Surprisingly, it was Rochester who controlled the first half to their liking, outshooting Louisville 7-2 over the first 45 minutes, but the score remained 0-0 at the break. However, Louisville used their substitutes well, bringing on speed and skill at the start of the second half. The gamble worked for Lou City, as substitute Brian Ownby played a long-distance give-and-go to scuttle past the defense and flick a shot over the approaching Rochester keeper in the 77th minute. The rest of the game, despite a late set-piece save by Ranjitsingh, was salted away, sending Louisville to the Conference Finals.

New York Red Bulls II had a much harder time getting this far with a tight road game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. A deflection in the 26th minute sent the ball inside the New York box, where Tampa Bay feathered it past goalkeeper Evan Louro for a 1-0 Rowdies’ lead. However, the Baby Bulls scrambled around the Rowdies’ goal most of the first 60 minutes, and a foul in the Rowdies’ box resulted in a 58th-minute goal by the Red Bulls’ Stefano Bonomo at the PK spot. Bonomo would give New York the lead early in extra time with a 92nd-minute deflection, and Louro repeatedly denied Tampa Bay for the 2-1 upset win.

Prediction:

Admittedly, the needle is pointing in Louisville’s direction. After losing five straight to New York over the last two years, LCFC has changed the overall momentum with two wins this year—a 3-0 drubbing at New York and a 2-1 squeaker at Slugger Field. While the stats skewed heavily in New York’s favor in the first game, all three of Lou City’s shots on frame went in, while New York’s offense was forced to take too many shots from outside the box. The closer game at Louisville almost resembled the 2016 Conference Final, but a Luke Spencer header was the difference maker in this closely-played game.

On paper, Lou City’s confidence should be at an all-time high. Ranjitsingh is lights-out automatic in the playoffs, as he has not given up a single goal in postseason play (442 minutes). The back line of Craig, Tarek Morad, and Sean Totsch has been steadfast and dependable all season, while Ownby has scored twice in two playoff games so far. This is a balanced, well-disciplined team that should give any team a run for its money.

However, it’s easier to suggest that the first game wasn’t a barometer of New York’s true strength. The Baby Bulls found their wheels spinning from a lack of offensive power the first twenty games of the season, losing half of them, but once the team got Bonomo back from a hernia injury and inserted Jordan Scarlett on defense, the team got immensely better. Check these numbers:

  • Without Bonomo: 27 goals scored in 19 games (1.42 gpg)
  • With Bonomo: 36 goals scored in 15 games (2.40 gpg)
  • Without Scarlett: 38 goals allowed in 16 games (2.38 gpg)
  • With Scarlett: 23 goals allowed in 18 games (1.28 gpg)

Both players can affect the game by a whole goal. With either Bonomo or Scarlett missing from the lineup, New York has a goal differential of -9. With both in the lineup, the goal differential is +11. That’s startling.

That’s also a statistic that is hard to ignore, even with the home-pitch advantage in Louisville’s favor. While the last matchup at Slugger produced a win and over 10,000 spectators, LCFC will need a packed and energetic house to rattle New York, but the talent that has returned to the Baby Bulls will be too good to deny. I’m predicting the Red Bulls II team to return to the USL Cup. New York 2, Louisville 1.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to catch that flight. Papa needs a down payment on a condo.


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

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati.

 

USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: Conference Semi-Finals

With FC Cincinnati bumped out of the USL Eastern Conference playoffs, what two teams will move on this week?

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Credit: Ryan Meyer Photography

Call it beginner’s luck.

It was easy to predict Louisville’s machine-gun mauling of Bethlehem at home and Rochester’s smothering defense taking the last breath of air out of a wounded Charlotte team. Perhaps even the mugging that FC Cincinnati received at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rowdies wasn’t that hard to see.

But the Red Bulls II marching into Charleston and dropping a four-spot on the Battery? The same Baby Bulls, who gave up 60 goals all season, held Charleston scoreless? While the prediction of a New York win was there, even I didn’t see that absolute demolition coming.

That leaves the USL Eastern Conference with two teams who have won the USL Cup and two teams who have demonstrated balanced squads all season. Considering the Western Conference has been left in a bloodbath from two stinging upsets, it’s not out-of-the-question to see any of these four teams left holding the Cup.

Still, two of these teams have to lose this round, so how will the conference semi-finals shake out? Let’s look into the crystal ball…


Conference Semi-Finals Predictions

#1 Louisville City FC (19-8-6) vs. #4 Rochester Rhinos (15-11-7)

Head-to-head record:

The teams are level in the seven matches they have faced each other (2W-2L-3T).

Past results:

Louisville and Rochester have been arguably the two best teams in the Eastern Conference since the beginning of 2015. Both have advanced past the first round the past three years. But while Rochester tasted gold in 2015, Lou City has yet to get to the USL Cup finals. The last time Rochester beat Lou City was in the 2015 USL Cup semifinals, but since then Lou City has won twice and drawn twice with the Rhinos.

Louisville rolled to a 4-0 whitewashing of Bethlehem Steel FC last week, hammering 12 shots on goal at the helpless Bethlehem goalkeeper. Defender Tarek Morad surprised the crowd with two goals in the first half, tripling his 2017 output. Then Luke Spencer and Brian Ownby put the game away in the second half. Considering Lou City led the conference in goals and had 17 players score them this year, the level of offense against Bethlehem is unsurprising.

Meanwhile, Rochester needed extra time to dispose of Charlotte 2-1. While the Rhinos stacked their back line with 5 defensemen to keep Charlotte’s attack at bay, a goal by Jochen Graf had the hosts up early, only for Enzo Martinez to knot it at 1-1 after 90 minutes. A deflection in extra time from Rochester’s Stefan Defregger and a late Charlotte red card spelled doom for the Independence, who lost their final six games of the season to crash out of the playoffs.

Prediction: Louisville City 2, Rochester 0.

There have not been many goals scored in this rivalry. Both teams played to a 0-0 draw at Rochester, but a late Luke Spencer penalty kick gave Lou City a 2-1 victory in the Derby City. While the match in Rochester was primarily one where both teams played not to get injured, the stats were mostly in favor of Lou City. They played disciplined and controlled soccer, while the Rhinos racked up 5 yellow cards in the contest.

If Rochester wishes to win this game, they’ll have to control the ball as much as possible. The longer the score can remain at 0-0, the better for the Rhinos. Goalkeeper Tomás Gómez must depend on his defensive line to keep the shot count as low as possible. But that’s been hard against a Louisville team that has taken 519 shots in 33 games, the most in the USL this year. In the matchup against Bethlehem alone, eight Lou City players took shots on target, which should speak volumes about their distributed talent. While Spencer has provided the scoring punch, the game should revolve around Oscar Jimenez, who led the Eastern Conference in chances created (73).

It might pain the Orange & Blue fans to say it, but expect Louisville to take their next step to the Cup.


#3 Tampa Bay Rowdies (15-11-7) vs. #7 New York Red Bulls II (14-5-14)

Head-to-head record:

The teams are level in the two matches they have faced each other (1W-1L-0T).

Past results:

While the rivalry between Tampa Bay and the New York Red Bulls’ USL affiliate has not been very deep, the Ghosts of Leagues Past may resurface. Tampa Bay’s stint in the modern-day version of the NASL had been haunted by the team’s inability to figure out the New York Cosmos. Not only did the Rowdies manage to win only twice in 11 games versus the Cosmos, but the Cosmos had won three NASL titles in that span to Tampa Bay’s one.

As FC Cincinnati fans can attest, Tampa Bay is a well-oiled machine at home, losing only once at Al Lang Stadium all year. Despite the overall numbers being close to even, Tampa Bay’s edge came from their ruthless efficiency on net—eight of the Rowdies’ 12 shots were on goal, with all three goals coming from the keeper’s right. Midfielder Marcel Schäfer pocketed a brace, and ace Georgi Hristov scored a banger off the crossbar to ice the game.

New York, however, seems more dangerous than advertised. Unsatisfied with simply handing over their 2016 championship stake, the Baby Bulls marched into Charleston and torched the Battery for a 4-0 beat-down. Forward Stefano Bonomo and midfielder Florian Valot were again amongst those who scored, and goalkeeper Evan Louro got his third clean sheet of the season. Considering that Charleston had a +23 goal differential at home this year, it could be safe to say that the Baby Bulls aren’t afraid of defenses on the road.

Prediction: New York 3, Tampa Bay 2.

It’s quite possible that New York’s offense is hitting its stride at the right time, as the team has not been shut out since July. The Red Bulls laid out the Rowdies 4-2 at home with three players picking up a goal and an assist, while Tampa Bay had arguably its worst passing game of the season (yet still scored twice).

The Rowdies hung on for a 3-2 win later in the season at home, scoring all three goals in the first half. Schäfer scored two smoking goals with his red-hot left foot. However, there is one glaring factor in the second game that might have given the Rowdies the win—New York picked up a debilitating red card in the second half. Had New York managed a full team for the final thirty minutes, could the game have been different?

That is just one reason why this game could turn into a potential upset. New York sports one of the youngest squads in the USL with their oldest player at the age of 28. Meanwhile, ten players on the Rowdies’ squad are over the age of 30. The average age gap is striking between these two teams, and still a bit of that 2016 Red Bulls II championship team is in place, so experience isn’t something they lack. Expect Junior Flemmings to be the thorn in Tampa Bay’s side—the forward scored in both games against the Rowdies this year.


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

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati.

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USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: First Round

O&B Press’s stats junkie tries his hand at predicting the winners in the first round of the 2017 USL Eastern Conference Playoffs.

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Credit: Ryan Meyer Photography

It took two more weeks than last year, but the 2017 USL regular season is finally in the books. While only three of the eight qualifying teams in the Western Conference have returned from last year’s playoffs, the Eastern Conference saw quite a bit of parity. Six of last year’s eight teams in the East are back to try again, including New York Red Bulls II, the 2016 USL Cup Champions.

Considering the lack of turnover in the East, familiarity should breed contempt. Louisville City is finally the #1 seed after two years as the bridesmaid and gets to host the Eastern Conference finals if they get that far. However, considering how Charlotte, Charleston, and Tampa Bay also spent time at the top of the table, nothing appears to be a guarantee.

So how will the first-round matchups shake out? Let’s look into the crystal ball…


First Round Predictions

#1 Louisville City FC (18-8-6) vs. #8 Bethlehem Steel FC (12-8-12)

Last playoffs performance:

Louisville – Lost 1-1 (3-4 in penalties) to New York in the 2016 Conference Finals.

Bethlehem – First appearance.

Over the past three years, Louisville City has played superior soccer at Slugger Field, losing only seven times in 48 home matches since their 2015 debut. However, having never been the #1 seed, Lou City has failed to get past the Eastern Conference finals, losing to the champion Red Bulls II squad in penalties last year. Finally the “Big Men on Conference” this year, Lou City has avoided the Baby Bulls in the first round and is the favorite to march to the USL Finals.

The reality is harsh for opponents—Coach James O’Connor’s squad has improved in wins, points, and goal differential since 2015 and, on paper, has the edge in every game from now on. While the team hasn’t had a go-to goal-scorer this year like a Matt Fondy back in 2015, forward Luke Spencer has had a stellar season, leading the team with 10 goals.

Bethlehem Steel FC walks into their first playoffs as one of the most improved squads from the past year, seeing vast improvement in goal production (from 32 to 46) from more consistent pressure. Forwards Seku Conneh and Corey Burke have been given the keys to the souped-up offense, enjoying healthy and complete seasons that made Bethlehem surprising challengers this year. As FC Cincinnati has learned three times this season, the Steel will try to beat you with pressure, but their defense hasn’t seen a big improvement, giving up around the same amount of goals as 2016.

Prediction: Louisville City 2, Bethlehem 1.

Neither of the games played between Lou City and Bethlehem this year had a clean sheet, so Lou City goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh is going to have to return to his 2016 postseason form. Ranjitsingh performed well in a terrific 3-1 win at Bethlehem, but had a shaky game at home in a 2-2 tie. Considering Lou City has had three shutouts in three home playoff games since 2015, Bethlehem getting a goal would be a moral victory, but expect Louisville to press hard and hammer shots on net all night.


#2 Charleston Battery (15-9-8) vs. #7 New York Red Bulls II (13-5-14)

Last playoffs performance:

Charleston – Lost 1-0 to Louisville in the 2016 Conference Semifinals.

New York – Defeated Swope Park Rangers 5-2 in the 2016 USL Championship.

Typically, the defending champion should be a dangerous team to play, but the New York Red Bulls II this year seem to lack the horns that carried them to a record-setting championship last year. Yes, their offense is still high-caliber—even though the 57 goals is surprisingly a drop in production from the 61 they scored last year, the Baby Bulls were still second in scoring in the conference. Forward Stefano Bonomo led the team in goals, scoring 10 goals despite playing only the last 13 games of the season, and forward Florian Valot has kept pace, scoring 8 goals over his past 8 games. However, on the other side of the coin, New York’s rotating goalkeeper position has given up 60 goals this season, the worst in the conference.

Charleston, on the other hand, has proven their mettle in the USL Playoffs ever since their championship run in 2012. The Battery enjoyed the second-highest goal differential in the conference with the balance of solid goalkeeping from mainstay Odisnel Cooper (10 clean sheets) and potent offense from Jamaican striker Romario Williams (15 goals over 22 games) and super-sub forward Heviel Cordovés (8 goals over the past 8 games). Charleston lost a lot of their firepower in midseason when Williams was either on international duty or serving suspensions, but the team has proven to be strong at home, giving up only 11 goals at MUSC Health Stadium and losing only once.

Prediction: New York 3, Charleston 2.

My first draft actually had Charleston taking this game, but there’s something about New York that has me thinking they’re not finished. While New York has not performed well on the road with its only road clean sheet being a midseason win over Richmond, I find a wounded animal to be the most dangerous. It may be a coin flip to some, but if New York’s back duo of Hassan Ndam and Jordan Scarlett can do just enough to counter Charleston’s attack while New York maintains a constant barrage of shots on Cooper, I think an upset is in the making.


#3 Tampa Bay Rowdies (14-11-7) vs. #6 FC Cincinnati (12-10-10)

Last playoffs performance:

Tampa Bay – Won the 2012 NASL Championship over the Minnesota Stars.

Cincinnati – Lost 2-1 to Charleston in the 2016 Conference First Round.

After failing to get to the second round as the #3 seed last year, FC Cincinnati has the chance to come in and defeat their own #3 seed to move on in the 2017 playoffs. Say what you will about the team’s inefficiency away from Nippert Stadium and the seven shutouts suffered on the road—Cincinnati went 4-3-1 in the last eight games of the season, so general momentum is still on their side. Midfielders Kenney Walker and Corben Bone are playing their best soccer of the season down the stretch, and the front line was solid on offense in the finale. The defense has been threadbare though, giving up 48 goals on 152 shots—only the Red Bulls are worse.

Tampa Bay’s first year in the USL has been relatively successful compared to their flat 2016 NASL campaign where they finished 9th out of 12 teams. Over the same number of games, the team’s goal differential improved from -1 to +15, and the squad has given up only 9 goals in 16 home games. The discipline in the defense has led to 12 shutouts this season, while the offense has been led by Georgi Hristov’s 13 goals and Joe Cole‘s solid midfield play. Surprisingly, while the team has led the Eastern Conference in yellow cards (78), Tampa Bay has had only one red card all season.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 2, FC Cincinnati 1.

Random play has diverted the Orange & Blue from having to face Charleston again, but let’s not forget that Tampa Bay also has the experience of eliminating FCC from U.S. Open Cup play in 2016. While Hristov has been the productive scorer and Cole has been the bane of Cincinnati’s existence at Al Lang Stadium, Tampa Bay’s X-factor is likely forward Martin Paterson. The journeyman’s play helped the Rowdies escape their 7-game winless funk at home against FCC the last time the teams met, so they’ll need him to do the same sort of voodoo on Cincinnati’s defense. It’s hard to envision FCC infiltrating Tampa Bay’s home fortress, but do you remember the last time Cincinnati went to Florida?


#4 Rochester Rhinos (14-11-7) vs. #5 Charlotte Independence (13-9-10)

Last playoffs performance:

Rochester – Lost 3-3 (4-5 pen.) to New York in the 2016 Conference Semi-Finals.

Charlotte – Lost 3-1 to Rochester in the 2016 Conference First Round.

It’s practically deja-vu all over again for the Rhinos and Independence, as both teams are near their levels from 2016 and faced each other as the #4 and #5 seed last year. Rochester has turned on their defensive prowess again in 2017, giving up a conference-low 28 goals over the entire season. That’s a far cry from the 15 goals they gave up during their 2015 championship season. But the team’s goaltender Tomas Gomez has continued his lock-down numbers from 2016, collecting 11 clean sheets in 22 appearances, while the defense allowed the fewest shots on goal in the conference (94). However, the team’s offense has only scored 36 goals this year, the fewest of the Eastern Conference playoff teams.

Charlotte has demonstrated some of their worst soccer down the stretch of the season, losing their last five games (albeit all to playoff teams). However, let’s also not ignore the fact they’ve enjoyed the longest undefeated stretch in the Eastern Conference this year (a +18 differential over 12 games) and have a high-impact scoring tandem in forwards Enzo Martinez (16 goals) and Jorge Herrera (12 goals). The duo combined for 17 goals during Charlotte’s unbeaten run, but both have been shut out over the last five games.

Prediction: Rochester 1, Charlotte 0.

Considering Charlotte’s recent woes and Rochester’s season-long stinginess, it’s hard to expect the Independence to break their recent scoring drought, but Rochester also needs to prove they can score as well. While midfielder Wal Fall and forward Jochen Graf have been the muscle for Rochester, they’ll need the resurgence of winger Christiano Francois to get the ball to them. Despite missing half the season due to injury, Francois led the team with six assists, collecting two in the massive 4-0 win over Charlotte at home earlier this season. It may go to penalties in this expected low-scoring affair, but Rochester likely dooms Charlotte again in the playoffs.


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

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati.

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FC Cincinnati 2 – 3 Rochester Rhinos: Talking Points from a Controversial Loss

FC Cincinnati fell to the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday in a USL league match embroiled in controversial refereeing decisions.

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Photo Courtesy Ryan Meyer Photography

FC Cincinnati suffered a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Rochester Rhinos at Nippert Stadium on Saturday. Jimmy McLaughlin and Danni König scored the goals for Alan Koch’s side in a losing effort. The Orange and Blue played the majority of the match shorthanded after striker Djiby Fall was issued a second yellow card in the 42nd minute of play. The match was littered with controversial refereeing decisions, and the match official was booed by Cincinnati fans throughout the contest.

Talking Points

Slow Start

Rochester surprisingly started as the aggressor in Saturday’s contest. Much of the possession and several early chances were created by Bob Lilley’s Rhinos side. The visiting team’s dynamic start paid dividends in the twelfth minute. Striker Jochen Graf banged an early goal in off the post, after a header by Rochester’s Sofiane Tergou deflected off the legs of Justin Hoyte. Graf reacted quickly and Mitch Hildebrandt had no chance of stopping the forward’s low strike. The shot graphic below shows Rochester and FC Cincinnati’s shots through 28 minutes of play. Rochester is represented on the left side and had the clear advantage. Alan Koch shifted to a formation with a four man back line later in the first half to counter Rochester’s early tactics.

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Shots Graphic Courtesy of USL Match Center

Alan Koch said the following about his team’s first half play.

“Did we play well for 90 minutes? No, we didn’t start the game the way that we needed to. In this league, you have to play a full 90 from the beginning of the game to set yourself up for success.”

Djiby Sent Packing

Jimmy McLaughlin’s equalizer in the 29th minute got the Orange and Blue back on track. They nearly took the lead shortly thereafter but Corben Bone’s low strike from distance was well stopped by Rhinos goalkeeper Gomez.

The complexion of the match changed seven minutes later though. FC Cincinnati forward Djiby was issued a second yellow for a tackle on a Rochester player, after being booked already in the 27th minute. Djiby was challenging Wal Fall for a bouncing ball outside Rochester’s penalty area. Djiby stretched his leg across Fall to block his clearance. The Rochester player kicked the ball and then kicked into Djiby’s out-stretched foot. Both decisions were judged to be fouls, but referee Guido Gonzalez Jr.’s decision to issue yellow cards for each foul incensed the crowd. The decisions left FC Cincinnati playing a man short for the majority of Saturday’s contest.

Captain Austin Berry said the following about the yellow card incidents after the match.

“We put ourselves in a bad situation. When you’re playing with a yellow, you have to be so careful. In those situations, you have to play smarter. I still think we gave ourselves a chance to stay in the game and get something out of it.”

Phantom Handball?

A major point of controversy occurred in the 82nd minute of play. Rochester had regained the lead after Wal Fall converted a penalty kick four minutes prior. The Rhinos were then awarded a second penalty kick for a handball in the box against FC Cincinnati substitute Kevin Schindler.

Replays of the incident seem to show the ball bouncing off of Schindler’s chest, rather than any part of his hand or arm. Check out the this screen capture on Twitter and decide for yourself. Despite protests from captain Austin Berry, the call stood and Fall converted a second penalty kick. The decision had a large bearing on the outcome of the match. FC Cincinnati was able to get a goal back late in the contest (also from the penalty spot), but it was too late to salvage a point.

Match Photos via Ryan Meyer

Photos via @[487854267910Ryan Meyer Photography] on July 29th

Posted by Orange and Blue Press on Sunday, July 30, 2017

 

Rhinos Leapfrog Lions

The loss breaks FC Cincinnati’s three game winning streak. It also represents only the third regular season loss at Nippert Stadium in FC Cincinnati’s short history. FCC retreats to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings, still on thirty points. The Orange and Blue are seven points off the top of the Conference, a position still held by the Charleston Battery. Rochester advances to fifth place, having played two fewer matches than FC Cincinnati.

Miami on the Horizon

Alan Koch’s side will need to put Saturday’s loss in the rear-view mirror quickly. The Orange and Blue travel to Florida on Wednesday for a rescheduled US Open Cup quarterfinal match against Miami FC. The original match had to be postponed due to severe storms that swept through the Miami area on the night the match was originally scheduled to be played.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more news, analysis, and color commentary on FC Cincinnati.

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Cheat Sheet: FC Cincinnati vs Rochester Rhinos

An information graphic provides the vital details for Saturday’s match between FC Cincinnati and the Rochester Rhinos. Plus, four fast facts.

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Photo for header and information graphic courtesy of Ryan Meyer Photography

FC Cincinnati hosts the Rochester Rhinos in USL league play at Nippert Stadium on Saturday July 29th. Alan Koch’s side comes into the match on a high note following Monday’s international friendly against Valencia CF. That occasion provided a memorable night out for both the fans and the players, despite the losing result.

These two teams last met in early June, and a heavily rotated Cincinnati lineup fell to the Rhinos by a 1-0 scoreline at Capelli Sport Stadium. Rochester has been a bogey team for FC Cincinnati. The Orange and Blue have never beaten Rochester and are 0-2-1 all-time in this series.

Bob Lilley’s Rhinos currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference on 29 points. FC Cincinnati slots in one place above them in fifth. FCC has earned one more point than their opponent, but has played two more matches.

Rochester hasn’t been beaten in their last five outings. They’ve won two and drawn three over that stretch. They just played a match on Wednesday, July 26th, and earned a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC II. FC Cincinnati should therefore have a slight advantage in terms of rest entering this contest.

Keep an eye on the health of FC Cincinnati’s defense. Tyler Polak is still recovering from a foot sprain he suffered against Louisville City. Also, Justin Hoyte and Josu Currais were held out of the Valencia friendly as they both recovered from minor injuries.

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Here are four fast facts to set the stage for this Eastern Conference showdown.

  • FC Cincinnati is the only team in the USL’s Eastern Conference to have won their last three league matches.
  • Rochester has secured nine clean sheets during the 2017 season thus far. That’s second best in the USL. However, they’ve only kept a single clean sheet away from home.
  • Jamaican playmaker Kenardo Forbes is Rochester’s creative spark in midfield. He leads the team in passes (973), passing accuracy (85.6%) for players with over 100 passes, shots (32), and assists (4). He’s also scored two goals during the Rhinos’ 2017 campaign.
  • Harrison Delbridge continues to rack up the defensive stats for FC Cincinnati, despite missing three league matches. He leads the team in clearances (75), interceptions (65), duals won (114), and aerial duels won (62). He also has two league goals this season.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of Saturday’s contest.

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Rochester Rhinos 1 – 0 FC Cincinnati: Rotation Result

FC Cincinnati lost to the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday in a match heavy on squad rotation, and light on offensive opportunities.

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A 65th minute goal by Rochester’s Bradley Kamdem Fewo handed FC Cincinnati a 1-0 loss on Saturday. Alan Koch made extensive changes to the starting eleven for this match, deciding to rest key starters in light of his team’s recent action-packed schedule. FC Cincinnati struggled to create meaningful chances against Bob Lilley’s Rhinos, who are known for being a stout defensive unit that’s hard to beat at home.

Talking Points

Roster Rotation

Alan Koch elected to change eight players from the lineup that started in the last USL league match against Toronto FC II. Many of the regular starters didn’t even travel to Rochester for the match. Kenney Walker returned from a knee contusion injury to start and play for 75 minutes. New signing Josu Currais joined the team for this match and came on as a substitute for 15 minutes of action.

“Today was our sixth game in 21 days, it’s impossible to play the same group of players. We did today what we know was best for the team. We left several players behind in Cincinnati and gave them a few days off. They should be rested for next week. We gave other guys the opportunity to play. The guys that played have been working very, very hard to get themselves ready for opportunities like this.” 

–Alan Koch

Some fans may be understandably disappointed by the team not putting out its strongest roster for this match. Koch is clearly taking a long-term view, and saved his heaviest rotation for a challenging away match where a result was not guaranteed for the first eleven.

Offense Not Firing

FC Cincinnati was limited to one blocked shot in the first half of the match, and three total shots through 80 minutes. A brief flurry at the end saw them generate three additional shots, but it wasn’t enough to get a result from the game. FC Cincinnati has only scored three goals away from home this season in six matches played.

“It’s a positive that we looked dangerous in the last little bit of the game, but you’ve got to play that way for the full 90 minutes, and we didn’t do that today.” 

–Alan Koch

It’s not surprising that the Orange and Blue were not firing on all cylinders offensively. They were away from home and playing with a rotated squad, but you’d still like to see more from a group that’s pushing for first team positions. Rochester is a worthy opponent and credit is due there as well. A lot of the preseason narrative around FC Cincinnati was about the great depth of the squad. A question could be raised about whether that depth is delivering, but there is still over half of a season to be played.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference

FC Cincinnati falls from fourth place to seventh place in the Eastern Conference with the result. That puts them right in the middle of a logjam of five teams with a total of fifteen points. Conference leaders Charleston Battery played Louisville City to a 4-4 goal-fest draw. Louisville City now occupies fourth place in the East. NY Red Bulls II and Orlando City B both earned away victories, leaving them ahead of FC Cincinnati in the standings. Second place Tampa Bay plays Charlotte on Sunday and has the opportunity to draw level on points with leaders Charleston if they win.

June Home Stand Ahead

FC Cincinnati heads back to Nippert Stadium for a four game home stand that starts next Saturday against the Charlotte Independence. The series includes a US Open Cup derby match against Columbus Crew SC on June 14th, and lasts all the way through the end of month. Djiby Fall has completed his six game suspension and will be available going forward. Alan Koch’s side will again try to climb above the pack of teams stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference table, riding the energy of the Bailey and FC Cincinnati’s fans.

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Cheat Sheet: FC Cincinnati at Rochester Rhinos

An information graphic provides the vital details for Saturday’s match between FC Cincinnati and the Rochester Rhinos. Plus, five fast facts.

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Image for header and information graphic courtesy of Ryan Meyer Photography

FC Cincinnati heads to Rochester this weekend for a single game on the road after five straight at Nippert Stadium. They will face the ninth place Rochester Rhinos at Capelli Sport Stadium on Saturday for a 6pm kickoff.

FC Cincinnati now sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference after back-to-back league victories against Bethlehem Steel and Toronto FC II. They are three points clear of the Rhinos, but have played four more games overall than their opponent. Rochester has played seven games this season compared with FC Cincinnati’s eleven.

FC Cincinnati will again be without leading goalscorer Djiby Fall who is serving the last game of a six game suspension.

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Here are five fast facts to serve as a backdrop for Saturday’s contest.

  • The Rhinos Jamaican midfielder #11 Kenardo Forbes is a player to watch. He’s scored two goals this season and leads the team in chances created (13), and passing accuracy (84.2%) for players with over 100 passes.
  • The Rhinos got thumped early in the season 5-0 by league leaders Charleston, but have been stingy in defense recently. They have only conceded one goal in their last three matches played.
  • FC Cincinnati midfielder Kenney Walker has been out of the lineup for several weeks recovering from a knee contusion injury. He did, however, get a few minutes at the end of Wednesday’s US Open Cup match. Check the starting eleven on Saturday to see if this key component of FC Cincinnati’s midfield returns to the lineup.
  • Jimmy McLaughlin now leads the team in chances created* with 16 after two impact performances in USL play.
  • FC Cincinnati left-sided defender / midfielder Josu Currais, who’s signing was announced on May 15th, in now in the US and will join the team for the match in Rochester.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of this weekend’s match.

Love ? O&B Press is looking for contributors in writing and design for the 2017 season. Contact us at orangeandbluepress@gmail.com for more information.

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*Chances Created are assists plus key passes where a key pass is the final pass or pass-come-shot leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal without scoring. See more at: http://optasports.com/news-area/blog-optas-event-definitions.aspx#sthash.LMx5JuZ8.dpuf

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 1 Rochester Rhinos 1 – Recap Roundup

Recaps summarizing FC Cincinnati’s 1-1 draw with the Rochester Rhinos on Wednesday August 24th.

FC Cincinnati played to a 1-1 stalemate with the Rochester Rhinos at Nippert Stadium on Wednesday evening. Team captain and Cincinnati native Austin Berry got the Orange and Blue on the board in the 28th minute with a headed goal, his 3rd of the season. Rochester equalized 14 minutes later when Cape Verdean midfielder Steevan Dos Santos scored with a near post drive from 12 yards. The Rhinos goal came just moments after a lengthy delay resulting from what appeared to be a serious knee injury to FC Cincinnati forward Omar Cummings. FC Cincinnati were playing a man short due to this injury when Rochester equalized. Cummings was substituted but left the field under his own power. This result represents the 3rd 1-1 draw for FC Cincinnati in their past 4 games.

For play-by-play details of the game’s events, see the following worthy sources:

FC Cincinnati Official
Cincinnati Soccer Talk
Enquirer
USL

The Orange and Blue now turn their attention to a challenging two game road trip that spans the next 7 days. On Sunday August 28th they will face Eastern Conference leaders NY Red Bulls II at Red Bull Arena. That game will be followed by a Wednesday contest against the Charlotte Independence. The latter is a replay of a game that was cancelled earlier in the season due to severe weather and poor field conditions.

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

FC Cincinnati vs Rochester Rhinos – Cheat Sheet

FC Cincinnati’s Wednesday, August 24th matchup with the Rochester Rhinos is summed up in one page.

FC Cincinnati returns to action at Nippert on Wednesday to take on the Rochester Rhinos at 7pm. The Orange and Blue will be looking to avenge their 2-1 July 6th loss to the Rhinos in Rochester. This game is the first of 3 games over a rigorous 8 day stretch for Harkes’ men. Orange and Blue Press offers our one page cheat sheet to break down tomorrow’s matchup.

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Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for our recap roundup and additional stats, analysis, and color commentary following Wednesday’s result.