FC Cincinnati’s Top 10 USL Moments

In honor of the FC Cincinnati’s time spent in the USL, we’ve decided to share our favorite 10 moments.

MLS is on the horizon for FC Cincinnati. We all, together, made this happen. However, it wasn’t always this way. Only three years ago, in 2015, an ownership group led by Cincinnati magnate Carl Lindner III announced the USL expansion club. Since then, the United Soccer League has served as the humble home for America’s latest (and greatest) soccer story.

In honor of the club’s time spent in the former Division 3 league (upgraded to Division 2 in 2017), we’ve decided to gather our favorite moments. Since we’re focusing purely on FC Cincinnati’s time in the USL, we’ve omitted all moments relating to MLS, U.S. Open Cup, and International Friendlies. Those are the rules. Let’s get started!

10. Stevenson’s Playoff Rocket

Underrated, especially in terms of context, Eric Stevenson’s top-right rocket took the breath away from the 30,000+ in attendance for FC Cincinnati’s first-ever playoff match. This bullet was a fantastic way to kick off the club’s postseason history. Unfortunately, the team eventually fell 1-2 against the Charleston Battery, dropping this moment to the bottom of the list.

9. Greeting the New Neighbor

Image: JES Photography

For those who are unaware, just last year there was another Division 2 soccer league in the United States, the NASL. The Indy Eleven, less than two hours from Cincinnati, played in that league making it impossiible for the two teams to cross. That changed when Indy joined the USL in 2018. They hosted FC Cincinnati for their first-ever home game in not only the USL, but the Colts home, Lucas Oil Stadium. Thousands of FCC supporters flooded into the heart of Indiana to greet them. Big crowds have traveled to other away matches, but nothing quite reaches the level of Orange & Blue that traveled to Indy that day.

8. Origin Goal

https://twitter.com/ConnorWPaquette/status/1054214569638481920

Surely, there’s a metaphor here. When FC Cincinnati first began to sign players, the names Corben Bone, Kenney Walker, and Jimmy McLaughlin were among the few. Three years later, the city has fallen in love with these guys. It’s extremely fulfilling to see men who joined FCC as foundation pieces for their journey in the USL also become the definitive factors for their final USL goal.

7. Djiby’s Spectacular Debut

Djiby Fall was a strange man in all the right ways. His 2017 season was an enigma. It almost doesn’t feel real looking back. He showed up out of nowhere, dominated, and then disappeared into the abyss. It might have been an odd year, but it kicked off with a four-goal epic by the man himself. Thanks, Djiby.

6. Okoli’s Scissor Kick

The first FC Cincinnati home game. The club’s first goal at Nippert Stadium. One of the greatest goals that a man in Orange & Blue has produced. How does this not make the list?

5. 14,658

FC Cincinnati set the USL attendance record a record number of times. But we’ve heard of those accomplishments before. Yet it would be a disservice to ignore the literal game-changing support from Cincinnati and its effect on soccer in America as a whole. Thus, I’ve decided to honor the first ever home game attendance for FCC. It was this moment where a record wasn’t yet broken, but everyone seemed to stop and ponder for a moment, “hey, this could be something special.” The rest is history.

4. Goal-to-Goal Bomber

I’m biased. I don’t care. This landed at #1 on SportsCenters Top 10 plays for good reason. This is the 2018 USL goal of the year. This is the single greatest goal in FC Cincinnati history. The crowd was quiet, the game was frustrating, and then Kenney Walker breaks down our door, drinks our beer, and steals our significant other. The ball doesn’t hit the ground.

3. Undefeated Playoff Finale

It lasted five months and it took the USL by storm. 24 games undefeated will headline FC Cincinnati’s USL Book of Records. And such a historic streak culminated in Cincinnati supporters’ worst nightmare, the first round of the playoffs. For the third time in three years FCC qualified, this time up against fellow future MLS entrant, Nashville SC. Having never conquered their new rival, it took FC Cincinnati a goal in extra time, a moment that also made this list, just to make it to PKs. Ten successful PKs later, Nashville finally popped a shot over the top that let Kenney Walker blast in the winner on the next kick. Cincinnati won a playoff game. How ‘bout that?

2. The Announcement

I debated putting this at #1. Cincinnati has always been a smaller city; a two-sport city is how many described it. But it wasn’t, yet the people had been convinced of that for years. Soccer, hockey, and basketball are all sports that never quite took off in the city like football and baseball. Why would FC Cincinnati be any different? I really don’t know.

Perhaps it was better operations, a more interesting identity, or just quality soccer? Maybe all three? No matter, this is in the past. But this moment is still absolutely crucial for any other moment on this list to happen. FC Cincinnati has only played three seasons, and I’m convinced that without these three years in Divisions 2 & 3 that there would be no talk about MLS here today. FC Cincinnati needed USL. And we learned later on, the USL, to be where it is now, needed FCC. Something like this will not happen again.

1. Regular Season Champions

Image: JES Photography

Shocking, right? If there’s one thing even bigger than announcing your team, it’s winning the most prestigious prize – a Cup/Shield. There are so many teams playing right now that have been around for decades and haven’t won anything. This is what it’s all about. So, for FCC to not only earn the shield, but to do it in the most Cincinnati way – record-setting fashion – we’re reassured of the greatness to come based on what they’ve been through. We’re also reminded that time flies, so worry not about the small things, enjoy what you’ve got. Cincinnati has a lot to enjoy. Thanks USL.

#MLS2Cincy Hall of Fame – The Players Who Got Us Here

In an enthusiastic take on Cincinnati’s top flight ambitions, Connor Paquette takes a look at the FC Cincinnati players who earned the privilege of being recognized for epitomizing #MLS2Cincy.

It’s over. It’s going to be announced. Cincinnati will host a Major League Soccer team. While the massive effort by the front office and supporters has taken center stage, it’s still incredibly important to remember the local legends that have risen to the occasion for our city. Certain players have been the catalysts that sparked the unrivaled juggernaut that is Queen City soccer.

With that in mind, come with me as I take a look at the most intrinsic players behind one of the Midwest’s worst kept secrets: the blossoming powerhouse known as Cincinnati soccer.

Due to my focus on listing the “Hall of Fame” players who contributed the most, ensuring Cincinnati’s rise to Major League Soccer (and for the sake of avoiding petty drama), this list will only feature players who have played for the team during the 2016 and/or 2017 season(s), as new signings simply haven’t played long enough to really make a sincere impact.

And now! Without further ado . . . my list for the FC Cincinnati players who have earned the privilege of being recognized for epitomizing #MLS2Cincy for all eternity.

Honorable Mentions

Give a humble thank you to these men who’ve joined us to lift this incredible city even higher. We are grateful for every ounce of effort contributed.

  • Matt Bahner (D), 2017 – Present
  • Austin Berry (D), 2016 – 17
  • Omar Cummings (M), 2016 – 17
  • Josu (D), 2017 – 18
  • Danni König (F), 2017 – Present
  • Justin Hoyte (D), 2017 – Present
  • Paul Nicholson (D), 2016 – 17
  • Tyler Polak (D), 2016 – 17
  • Eric Stevenson (M) 2016 – 17
  • Andrew Wiedeman (F), 2016 – 17

5. Jimmy McLaughlin (M), 2016 – Present

Mr. McLaughlin is a peculiar case because he’s not consistently in the starting eleven, let alone a stats machine earning Player of the Year honors. However, he does have one attribute that has simply taken the Queen City by storm. What Jimmy has that sets him apart, something that can’t be taught, is an absolute ruthless love for the game of soccer and all who adore it.

I hear it whenever I’m in the stands at a game “We want Jimmy! We want Jimmy!” This is always followed by a standing ovation when he enters the field (or even when he’s subbed off). No matter what insanely amazing move, goal, save, etc. a new member of the 2018 season accomplishes, they will simply never get the cheers that “Pennsylvania Messi” does.

To not be the best scorer, not have the highest stats, and sometimes not even play, but still be one of the biggest draws for the game is mind boggling. I can’t wrap my head around it – until I’m reminded why. Whenever there’s a run to a deep corner in the opposition’s territory, running as though his life depended on it, Jimmy is tracking the ball down and juking an opponent into oblivion.

In an instance of casual keep-away, Jimmy creates game changing chances that take the audience’s breath away. When he’s on the field the game becomes an intense drama. His lively fervor is naturally contagious and raises the spectators in a unanimous symphony of roaring support. When a goal is scored you can bet your house there’ll be a ridiculously silly dance he’d been practicing in the mirror for a week. Perhaps his natural quirks are what make him so relatable: so human. He’s a performer on the stage, but a hero in our hearts. There has simply been no one else like him.

The first real FC Cincinnati soccer star, Jimmy McLaughlin was surely one of the most important pieces required when attracting supporters. We’ve fallen in love with the kid, and his commitment to us is showing off.

4. Harrison Delbridge (D), 2016 – 2017

I think for many reading this, you’ll agree with me when I say that, arguably, Harrison Delbridge is the best pure soccer talent to have donned the Orange & Blue. Starting nearly every game that he’s been on FC Cincinnati’s roster next to captain Berry in central defense, it was Harrison who always anchored the back line with incredible tackling precision and rugged but thoughtful challenges.

While many (including myself) were extremely disappointed to see him sign with Melbourne City FC after the 2017 season, this was a good thing. Let me explain. There is never a finish line when it comes to sports. The game is always changing and evolving. When one legend dies, another is born. Harrison Delbridge, just like any other player when it comes to the sport, is another spoke on the wheel.

But Harrison’s journey didn’t end when he left FCC, he began a new chapter. Harrison’s aspirations were to represent his home of Australia on the national stage, and he made strides in his journey by joining a top team there. This only proves to soccer analysts, that when players join FC Cincinnati, they grow.

Whether it be due to the supporters aggressively asking for just a little more from the team, our coach’s ability to guide each player to be the best they can be, or just top talent demanding a player rise to the occasion every day, FC Cincinnati is a hub for evolving soccer talent to its next level.

This is absolutely essential to be considered one of the top teams in the country. The best soccer players sign here because Cincinnati is a breeding ground for unlocked potential. So as soon as we rise to division one, players will think twice when signing elsewhere. Harrison Delbridge’s success is a reminder of that, and we continue to wish him the best on his journey.

3. Djiby Fall (F), 2017 | Sean Okoli (F), 2016

Be honest, do you remember who Sean Okoli is? If you were one of the original seven thousand or so season ticket holders, I’m sure you do. The Golden Boot winner with 16 goals in FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season, Okoli was voted the league’s MVP. He scored the team’s first home goal in breathtaking fashion when he scissor-kicked a pass out of nowhere into the back of the net. His dominance in the game helped FCC finish in third place in 2016. He was so good that many supporters called for the team to go after him in 2018 to help bolster the attack after a lackluster 2017 season. But similar to Harrison Delbridge, Cincinnati lifted him higher and Sean has enjoyed plenty of professional success ever since – he signed with MLS’s New York City FC in 2017.

Djiby Fall, while similar in success, was quite different as a person. Very quiet in his day-to-day life, his actions were loud on the field in comparison. While some moments were controversial, Djiby’s intoxicatingly odd field presence caught the attention of every FCC supporter. He set a franchise record in a single game by breaking the 2017 home schedule open with a four goal performance. But his most important contribution came in the earth shattering 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run.

Djiby set records on his way to being named one of the tournament’s top players. He scored four game winning goals in total, most of which came against a variety of top opponents including: 2017 USL Champions Louisville City FC, 2017 NASL Conference finalist Miami FC, and 2017 MLS Conference Finalist Columbus Crew. All of his efforts culminated into one of the most incredible tifos I have ever witnessed, unveiled by The Bailey in the Open Cup semifinals against MLS’s New York Red Bulls.

Image: JES Photography

As I’ve mentioned, the success of this team is without a doubt one of the most compelling reasons to attend one of their matches. Without Djiby and Sean Okoli, you have to wonder where this team stands and whether they might have missed the playoffs otherwise. What if the U.S. Open Cup run ended in the 120 minute marathon against NPSL side AFC Cleveland? America and the rest of the soccer world took notice of FCC directly because of the impact these two players made. For that, I recognize them in the Top 5 most important players that contributed in making Cincinnati a division one soccer city.

2. Kenney Walker (M), 2016 – Present | Corben Bone (M), 2016 – Present 


The crucial field presence like Okoli and Djiby; the conductors catapulting the team to new heights like captain Berry; the irrational and insane dedication to the game they love like Jimmy; arguably the best this team has to offer like Delbridge; all of this while only dedicating the spotlight to their teammates and supporters, Corben Bone and Kenney Walker are two of the greatest minds to ever take the field for the Orange & Blue.

I have little to say about these two originals because you simply need to watch their games to fully grasp how much FC Cincinnati became because of them. Frustrating me at times, it’s only because they’ve eclipsed all my expectations, causing me to raise them further game after game. Yet, they continue to surprise me. I genuinely believe these two men are among the three individuals essential in creating the FC Cincinnati of Major League Soccer quality that we know and love today. However, there is still another who went above and beyond even them…

1. Mitch Hildebrandt (G), 2016 – 2017

Hot take: Cincinnati would’ve failed our endeavor for this round’s expansion bid if Mitch Hildebrandt never stepped on Cincinnati soil. The 2016 USL Goalkeeper of the Year had one very distinct moment that shouted defiantly into the ears of all neigh-sayers that “CINCINNATI IS A MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER CITY!” It came over the course of about 10 minutes on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, broadcasted live to the entire nation on ESPN’s flagship channel.

Never in my life have I nearly suffocated due to my own stubbornness of refusing to take a breath. I couldn’t; I wouldn’t allow myself. Mitch needed all the support he could get. I had to keep yelling; I had to be loud. Or so, that’s what I thought when we went to penalty kicks against the Chicago Fire in the Round of 16 of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup.

We missed our first penalty kick. I thought it was over. We weren’t supposed to win, and I had even convinced myself long before of it being just fine if we didn’t. Having the opportunity for our humble little team to go against top soccer squads in the state locale was enough. But then we made it to overtime. And then we made it to penalty kicks. And then, well, see for yourself…

Here’s the bottom line. Of all the FC Cincinnati players to take the pitch at Nippert, Mitch Hildebrandt is far and away the most important of them all. After all, what hasn’t Mitch accomplished in the city of Cincinnati? “Mitch says no!” Will go down in history as the most iconic dialogue of all the lore in the Orange & Blue bible. Simply put, without Mitch Hildebrandt’s life changing contributions in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup, I don’t believe Cincinnati would, at the very least, be considered so early for an MLS expansion team. His titanic performances destroyed the floodgates revealing Cincinnati’s enormous love for the game to all in the nation. For all he has done, he’s earned my #1 spot atop the #MLS2Cincy Hall of Fame.

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FC Cincinnati Ends Season on a High

FC Cincinnati closed their regular season campaign on a high note and now know their first playoff opponent.

FC Cincinnati played the last regular season match of their inaugural campaign on Saturday evening against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. They finished with a 1-0 victory against their Eastern Conference rivals. Sean “Ugo” Okoli scored the lone goal of the match from the penalty spot in the 31st minute. That strike will almost certainly secure him the USL’s Golden Boot award. The Orange and Blue had already secured third place and a playoff berth prior to the match, and could not improve their seeding with this result. Coach John Harkes still opted to start a strong lineup with an eye on going into the playoffs with momentum and a win.

Based on other results in the Eastern Conference, FC Cincinnati’s playoff matchup became clear. They will face the Charleston Battery at Nippert Stadium on October 2nd in the first round of the USL playoffs.

For more details of the games’ events, see the following sources.

FC Cincinnati Official
USL
Enquirer
Cincinnati Soccer Talk
Pittsburgh Soccer Report

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for news, insights and analysis leading up to FC Cincinnati’s first ever playoff match.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

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FC Cincinnati Dispatches Playoff Hopeful Wilmington

FC Cincinnati made progress toward improving their playoff seeding with a victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads on Sunday.

Photo courtesy Wilmington Hammerheads FC

FC Cincinnati made progress toward improving their playoff seeding with a 2-0 victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads on Sunday. Sean “Ugo” Okoli scored the first goal in the 30th minute when Wilmington goalkeeper John Smits spilled a difficult cross from his left side. Okoli knocked the ball into an open net from close range, tallying his 15th of the season (tied for 1st in USL). Andrew Wiedeman added another for the Orange and Blue in the 64th with a great individual effort. He evaded a defender and the keeper’s challenge to find space behind and slot the ball home from the left side. Both goals featured noteworthy skill from FC Cincinnati but were aided by less than perfect goalkeeping by their opponent. The game was disjointed at times, with possession changing frequently, and suffered from play under hot and humid conditions in the Carolina sun.

For blow-by-blow details of the game’s event, see the following sources.

FC Cincinnati Official
USL
Cincinnati Soccer Talk
Enquirer
Wilmington

Team captain Austin Berry left the match with an injury after 52 minutes. FC Cincinnati continues their road trip on Wednesday and continues their search for maximum points when they face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for coverage of this week’s action.

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI): Check out the feature article “John Harkes Looking Forward” on the Last Word on Soccer website.

FC Cincinnati Rights the Ship, Targets Home Playoff Games

A deeper look at FC Cincinnati’s victory over Saint Louis FC and what it means for their home playoff prospects.

FC Cincinnati earned a hard fought but well deserved victory over Saint Louis FC at Nippert Stadium on Monday afternoon. For play-by-play details of the games’ events, see the articles featured in our news post from Monday. This article intends to delve deeper into the cookie jar and see what treats are hidden underneath the top layer.

Photos

 

Four Numbers 

The following four numbers help to tell the tale of how this match unfolded.

89 – The temperature in degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff. After a week of lovely weather in the true Queen City (as evidenced by the Queen City Cup), Monday’s match against Saint Louis FC was played under scorching conditions at Nippert Stadium. The official air temperature may have been 89 degrees but it was much hotter on Nippert’s field turf surface. While on the field taking match photos, my iPhone literally stopped working because it was too hotFans on the sunny East side of the stadium were leaving their seats during the match and retreating into the upper shade to find respite from the swelter. FC Cincinnati continues to pack the house this season despite a notable lack of support from Mother Nature. 17,145 showed up. Kudos Cincinnati.

2 – The number of key starters that Saint Louis FC was missing due to international call-ups. Leading goalscorer Irvin Herrera and starting goalkeeper Ryan Thompson were both absent from this match, representing El Salvador and Jamaica respectively. This was a quality win for FC Cincinnati but it’s important to understand the diminished strength of the opponent coming into the match.

11 – The jersey number of Álvaro Anton Ripoll, who had an impactful performance in Monday’s victory. Ripoll has started the last 2 matches in the place of injured Omar Cummings, playing on the right side of FC Cincinnati’s front three. The 22 year old native of Madrid, Spain was involved in everything the Orange and Blue did offensively and played with a passion that will soon make him a fan favorite.

9 – STAT CORRECTED: The average number of shots taken by FC Cincinnati in their 3 games against the Charlotte Independence, NY Red Bulls II, and Rochester Rhinos. FC Cincinnati had 16 total shots in Monday’s game against Saint Louis FC, emphasizing their improved offensive productivity. Of those 16, only 4 shots were on goal though (including the 2 actual goals). The offensive effort was much better overall, but FC Cincinnati will need to be more ruthless in front of goal come playoff time.

Quotable [Press Conference]

John Harkes:

“We created so many chances today. In the first half that was some of the best soccer I’ve seen all year.”

“The fan base actually pushed us on today. It’s unlike anything else in the league. It doesn’t matter about the quantity but about the quality of the fans. It drives the guys. It is fantastic. It really is.”

Ugo Okoli:

“To be honest after the first half that I had, I knew I was gonna get one.” (You’ve got to love that striker’s confidence)

Álvaro Ripoll:

“It felt amazing to play in front of this crowd. I was worried about my fitness, but I could have played 3 games in front of this crowd.”  (I highly recommend that you watch Ripoll in the press conference, the genuine excitement in his eyes to be starting and performing comes through in an amazing way).

Playoff Picture

FC Cincinnati has reclaimed their 3rd place position in the Eastern Conference after this result. With four games left in the season, earning the right to play at Nippert in the postseason must be the focus for the Orange and Blue.

The bad news is that last week’s poor results put a big dent in FCC’s chances of catching the top two. Overtaking second place Louisville City FC is possible, but it will take a perfect season’s end and some help.

The good news is that all of the remaining opponents are in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings, so FCC has a good opportunity to maximize points. They will have to contend with pressure from the chasing pack though. There are four teams just behind FC Cincinnati poised to overtake them if they slip up. Negative results in the final stanza of the season could leave the Orange and Blue seeded fifth through eighth, which would mean no home playoff game.

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Charlotte Independence 3 – FC Cincinnati 2 – Recap Roundup

FC Cincinnati was dealt a heartbreaking road loss at the hands of the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday evening.

Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Independence

FC Cincinnati was dealt a heartbreaking road loss at the hands of the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday evening. The game was tied at 2-2 in the 85th minute when a Charlotte free kick delivered by Jorge Herrera was redirected into the Orange and Blue’s own net by FC Cincinnati defender Paul Nicholson. Adding insult to injury, the Independence were playing with only 10 men at the time the goal was scored. Charlotte defender Bilal Duckett had been sent off earlier in the second half for a second yellow card offense. Andrew Wiedeman and Sean Okoli scored the two goals for FC Cincinnati. Both FCC goals came as equalizers after Charlotte had taken the lead.

For play-by-play details of the game’s events, turn your attention to the following sources:
FC Cincinnati Official
USL
Cincinnati Soccer Talk
Enquirer
Charlotte Post

Despite the loss, FC Cincinnati claimed the Queen City Cup on away goals. The trophy was awarded to the team with the best results over the two legs played between FC Cincinnati and Charlotte this season. FC Cincinnati defeated the Independence by a score of 2-1 at Nippert on April 9th. The cup win seems like a small consolation for FC Cincinnati after losing two matches in a row for the first time in the club’s short history. Harkes’ men will return home to Nippert on Monday for a Labor Day fixture against the Western Conference’s Saint Louis FC. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more analysis, stats and color commentary on Wednesday’s result.

 

FC Cincinnati Defeated in New York Amid Controversy

FC Cincinnati lost to NY Red Bulls II on Sunday evening in a match marked by refereeing controversy.

Images courtesy of New York Red Bulls II

FC Cincinnati was defeated 2-0 by the Eastern Conference’s first place NY Red Bulls II in Harrison, New Jersey on Sunday evening. Both of New York’s goals came from the penalty spot. The first penalty kick was awarded in the 14th minute and was accompanied by a red card dismissal for FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt. New York’s leading scorer Brandon Allen converted the penalty. The early red card reduced the Orange and Blue to 10 men and dramatically changed the complexion of the game.

Sean Okoli had a gilt-edged chance to equalize in the 63rd minute. In a rare FC Cincinnati attack that was started by Okoli’s own good hold-up play, Andrew Wiedeman delivered a delicious cross into the heart of the box from FC Cincinnati’s right. Okoli beat his marker and lunged to toe poke the ball home but could not connect.

New York’s Derrick Etienne Jr. added an insurance goal from the penalty spot in the 91st minute after FC Cincinnati had battled valiantly for 77 minutes to keep the match at 1-0. 

Both goals were accompanied by controversial refereeing decisions. The penalty call leading to the first goal was reviewed by VAR (Video Assistant Referee), an experimental USL video replay system installed for New York Red Bulls II home games. The play leading to the foul had initially been called offside by the assistant referee before the foul and penalty were awarded. After VAR review, the referee overturned the offside call, awarded the penalty and issued a red card to Hildebrandt. When the penalty was called initially, no card was issued. The video seems to show forward Brandon Allen in a clear offside position when Tyler Adams shoots (see 8th minute).

The second penalty kick was awarded to New York based on a Sean Okoli slide tackle challenge in the box on Derrick Etienne Jr. Okoli appeared to get the ball first, despite Etienne’s dramatic fall and subsequent tumble. Astonishingly, VAR did not appear to be used to confirm the penalty decision and Etienne converted the penalty to ice the game.

Despite the result, FC Cincinnati stamped their ticket to the USL playoffs over the weekend. On Saturday, the two teams that could have potentially displaced the Orange and Blue for a playoff spot, Bethlehem and Wilmington, had negative results. These results mathematically confirmed that FCC would be part of the 8 teams that qualify for the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Omar Cummings missed the match due to a knee injury sustained during last Wednesday’s match against the Rochester Rhinos. There is still no official prognosis on Cummings so stay tuned for information on the extent of his injury. Interestingly, center back Harrison Delbridge was omitted from the starting lineup for tonight’s contest. He did enter the match in the 54th as a substitute in place of Paul Nicholson. One assumes his absence was likely a combination of fatigue and minor injury and the coaching staff opted to rest him given the 3 match gauntlet FC Cincinnati is facing over an 8 day period.

Stand Outs

Sean Okoli – FC Cincinnati’s target man battled hard as the lead forward all night. He did his best to hold up play and take pressure off the defense despite New York’s relentless attack after Hildebrandt was sent off.

Dallas Jaye – FC Cincinnati’s backup goalkeeper saw his first action of the season, entering the match after Hildebrandt’s dismissal. Although he couldn’t stop either penalty kick, he acquitted himself very well overall. He made two fine saves from close range in the first half to keep the game at 1-0 and give FCC a chance.

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Interesting Stat

The stats from this match are more depressing than interesting from an FC Cincinnati perspective. The early red card allowed New York to dominate possession and offensive opportunities as expected. Despite being a man up, the Baby Bulls managed to commit twice as many fouls as FC Cincinnati, 16 to 8. New York substitute Noah Powder was also issued a straight red in stoppage time for a dangerous tackle on Corben Bone.

Looking Forward

The loss drops FC Cincinnati from 3rd to 4th place in the Eastern Conference with 6 games remaining. The Richmond Kickers now occupy 3rd place on goal difference but have played one more match. There won’t be time for Harkes’ men to dwell on this result. They must now turn their attention to an away game against the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday, August 31st. That match is make-up tie for a game cancelled earlier in the season due to severe weather and poor field conditions.

Return to Orange and Blue Press for more analysis and color commentary on FC Cincinnati leading up to the Charlotte match.

 

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.