Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Nashville SC

FC Cincinnati are the favorites but Nashville SC has been a thorn in their side this season, can the Orange & Blue progress to round two?


Design: CSDIV

The USL Playoffs are here and FC Cincinnati begins their campaign for the 2018 USL Cup against Nashville SC in a 4pm matinee this Saturday at Nippert Stadium. The Orange & Blue, of course, are the USL regular season champions. That means they hold the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and also have the benefit of home-field advantage throughout the single-elimination postseason tournament.

Their first-round opponent is a familiar foe indeed. FCC and Nashville played to a 3-3 draw last Saturday in Tennessee. Nashville conceded a lot of possession but created more chances in the first half, and took a 1-0 lead into the break. FC Cincinnati stormed back in the second half scoring three goals, but conceding two, including a last minute equalizer to Bolu Akinyode. The match ended at 3-3, and the result ultimately translated into a first round postseason rematch in the Queen City.

FC Cincinnati has played Nashville SC three times this season, and each match has ended in a draw. Even the preseason encounter at Gettler Stadium in March ended in a 2-2 stalemate. There’s been nothing to separate them so far in 2018, but something has to give this weekend.

Alan Koch’s side finished 28 points ahead of a talented but inconsistent Nashville SC squad during the regular season. The Orange & Blue carry a USL-record 23 game unbeaten streak into this first playoff match. They’re in impressive but slightly less-sizzling form of late. After a USL-record ten game win streak, they finished the season with two draws against Pittsburgh and Nashville.

Nashville, the #8 seed, clinched their playoff berth last Saturday, when Ottawa Fury lost and mathematically guaranteed Nashville a playoff spot. They are unbeaten in their last six but only have two wins during that stretch and both were against non-playoff teams.

The FC Cincinnati squad is in good health, and even saw long-time absentee Richie Ryan return to action last weekend. Emery Welshman should also be available after missing last weekend’s match while on international duty. He started in an impressive international call-up for Guyana, where he bagged a hat trick in the CONCACAF Nations League.

Nashville SC can’t report the same good bill of health. The Tennessee outfit is likely to be without South African midfield-star Lebo Meloto, who left a match against the Charleston Battery injured on September 22nd, and hasn’t played a minute since. Moloto leads the team in shots, shots on target, and is tied for the team lead in assists (5). He’s also tied for second on Nashville’s squad in goals (7) and chances created (51).

Interested in Eastern Conference playoff predictions for all of this weekend’s matches? Be sure to check out Geoff Tebbetts article that looks at ALL the matchups, and gives his take on the most likely outcomes.


2018 USL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: First Round

Fast Facts

Here are four fast facts to get you ready for FC Cincinnati’s second-ever playoff match at Nippert Stadium.

  • FC Cincinnati has a clear offensive advantage in this contest. They scored 30 more goals than Nashville SC during the 2018 regular season, 72 to 42. They earned that advantage by taking only 13 more shots, 431 to 418.
  • Nashville is instead known for their defensive prowess, led by standout goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Their 31 goals against is tied for second fewest, and their 15 clean sheets is tied for third most. FCC, however, plays close to their high standard. By comparison, the Orange & Blue only allowed 34 goals against and had 14 clean sheets in 2018. 
  • Nashville SC only has 4 wins on the road this season. FC Cincinnati has 12 wins at home this season. On paper, that appears to be a hefty home field advantage for the Orange & Blue. Anything can happen in a single-elimination playoff match though.
  • The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. The Reds haven’t won a playoff series since 1995. It goes without saying that a win in this playoff match would mean a great deal to Cincinnati sports fans.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s playoff match versus Nashville SC.

Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Nashville SC

The USL Regular Season comes to a successful close with a momentous match between FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC.

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Design: CSDIV / Image: Ryan Meyer

At the end of its third and final USL regular season, FC Cincinnati has captured an elusive mark. With the regular-season title and the highest seed in the Eastern Conference locked up, the Orange & Blue have an opportunity to head into the playoffs with rested players and a historic record. The only obstacle standing in their way is Nashville SC, who are desperate for a point for a playoff appearance. The two teams clash in the regular-season finale at First Tennessee Park on Saturday.

FC Cincinnati’s 22nd straight game undefeated was no easy task in Pittsburgh. The team needed every bit of their 90 minutes to end the game with the Riverhounds in a 0-0 draw. While Pittsburgh put heavy pressure on the squad, outshooting their opponent 18-4, FCC rode a solid defending line and Spencer Richey’s fifth clean sheet to take home a point. While this broke FCC’s 10-game winning streak, the draw helped FC Cincinnati match the undefeated run set by Richmond in 2013.

FC Cincinnati may have a record in sight, but Nashville SC still has to work to do. Despite early goals by Matt LaGrassa and Brandon Allen, Nashville gave up two goals to Toronto FC II in the final 15 minutes for a 2-2 draw on Tuesday. This leaves the Music City club in 7th place with one game left and at risk of missing the playoffs. If Ottawa or Bethlehem lose this weekend, Nashville is in. However, if Ottawa wins and Bethlehem gets at least a point, Nashville must avoid a loss.

Despite being two bricks in FC Cincinnati’s wall, Nashville has not lost to the Orange & Blue this season. Both teams played to a scoreless draw back in July at Nissan Stadium, while they drew 1-1 at Nippert in August. In that game, Danni König scored in the first minute, but Nashville equalized on an 85th-minute strike from Tucker Hume. Since that draw, FC Cincinnati has gone 10-0-1, while Nashville has been a flat 4-3-5.

While Alan Koch hasn’t shown all his cards, the team will be without one player, but will welcome back two. Forward Emery Welshman will be off on international duty to play for Guyana in a CONCACAF Nations League qualifier. However, König should return from a yellow-card suspension, while midfielder Richie Ryan is likely to play for the first time since suffering a stress fracture in June. In fact, the entire team should be healthy before Saturday’s match.

Fast Facts

Here are five facts for FC Cincinnati’s final regular-season match in the USL.

  • If Corben Bone plays on Saturday, it will be his 100th game for the Orange & Blue over all competitions. In 2018 alone, he has scored more goals in the USL (9) than his previous four seasons (3). If Bone can score his 10th on Saturday, FC Cincinnati writes another record. It will be the first time in the USL’s short eight-year history that one team has produced four 10+ goal scorers.
  • Goalkeeper Matt Pickens has arguably been Nashville’s best signing. Despite facing 109 shots over 30 games (3rd in the East), he has allowed only 25 goals. That’s an astounding 77.1% success rate. The only goalkeeper in the East to play in at least 20 games and have a higher success rate? That would be Cincinnati’s Evan Newton (56 saves, 16 goals, 77.8% success rate).
  • Because of Pickens and his magic hands, Nashville barely allows any goals at home. Manager Gary Smith’s squad has conceded only 11 home goals (2nd in the East) and has 9 clean sheets at home. However, their 24 home goals are 5th-worst in the East. That +13 goal differential at home is decent, but Cincinnati has a +16 goal differential on the road from 31 goals scored.
  • Ever since his late equalizer against FC Cincinnati, forward Tucker Hume has experienced a second life with Nashville. Hume started only one match the first 20 games, but since then he has started 11 of the last 13 matches and scored 6 goals. Perhaps the “Big Bird” nickname has wings?
  • How does Cincinnati’s 22-game unbeaten streak stack up against Richmond’s? FC Cincinnati has more wins in the same period (17-13) and has scored more goals (49-42). Then again, Richmond’s schedule in 2013 was more strenuous—they had an 8-game road trip during their streak that took them from Orlando to Vancouver over the span of a month. Richmond also had three pairs of games that were played on back-to-back days.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of the regular-season finale in Nashville.

FC Cincinnati 1 – 1 Nashville SC: Adi Era Begins in the Queen City

FC Cincinnati played to a frustrating 1-1 draw with Nashville SC at Nippert Stadium. Marquee signing stole the show with his 73rd minute debut for the club.

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Design: Connor Paquette / Image: Ryan Meyer

Marquee signing Fanendo Adi debuted for the Orange & Blue on Saturday, but FC Cincinnati could only manage a frustrating 1-1 draw against future MLS rival Nashville SC. A crowd of 27,426 piled in for a weather-delayed match at Nippert Stadium, and they had a goal to celebrate less than a minute after the first whistle.

From the middle of the park, Nazmi Albadawi released Danni König down the right with an angled through ball. The Danish striker dribbled at Nashville’s defense, and pushed his solo run into the 18 yard box. The defender took away König’s right-footed side, so he gladly pivoted to his left and launched an accurate strike into the top left corner.

Nashville took control of proceedings shortly thereafter, claiming sixty percent possession at one point and creating several scoring opportunities. FCC’s defense clung to the early lead, and went into the break leading by a single goal.

At halftime Alan Koch said “we need to do a better job at possessing the ball. . .we’re sagging way too much, giving them too much space, and allowing them to play in our half.”

Possession evened out after halftime, but Nashville was still the aggressor. They attacked relentlessly down the left, delivering cross after cross into the box. FCC’s defense held on long enough for a special moment to occur in the 73rd minute.

Fanendo Adi entering the match for his FC Cincinnati debut. Image: Ryan Meyer

Fanendo Adi, freshly signed from the Portland Timbers, entered the match and made his debut just five days after his transfer was announced. It was nearly a dream start for the striker, as Adi’s head connected with a Ledesma cross in the 81st minute. Nashville keeper Matt Pickens was up to the task though, and tipped the shot over the bar and safely out of play.

Nashville SC then got a reward for a match full of chances created. Lumbering striker Tucker Hume slotted an 85th minute strike past Evan Newton to level the contest. The Orange & Blue pushed for a late goal, but there wasn’t enough time, and the match ended in a stalemate.

Final Score: FC Cincinnati 1 – 1 Nashville SC

Standings Update

Despite the disappointing performance, the Orange & Blue added a point to their total and remain in first place. FC Cincinnati is undefeated in eleven games, and five points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh is lurking closely behind in second place. They dispatched the Richmond Kickers 3-0 at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night. FCC’s current unbeaten run now matches the team’s record unbeaten streak accumulated by John Harkes’ team in 2016.

Highlight of the Match

Danni König’s strike was the fastest goal in FC Cincinnati’s short history; just 28 seconds after kickoff.

Quote of the Match

Alan Koch said the following in the post match press conference.

“We’re a team. We have been a team since the first day in preseason. . .This week was an emotional week for the group, for the club, for the fans, for everybody. It’s somewhat fitting that it ended up being an emotional night. We focus on the collective, . . . It was great to see Adi make his debut tonight.”  

Stat of the Match

Nashville SC limited FC Cincinnati to just four total shots in the match. That’s FCC’s lowest total of the season by far. Prior to that their low on the season was 8 total shots, which happened on three occasions. It happened once against Indy Eleven in April and twice against New York Red Bulls II thereafter. FCC has only produced 5 on-target shots over the last two games at home, but still has a win and a draw from those two fixtures.

Who Started?

FC Cincinnati made four changes to the rotated lineup that featured in their last USL match at home, when they defeated NY Red Bulls II 2-1. However, they started the exact same lineup Saturday that featured against Nashville SC when these teams met just under a month ago at Nissan Stadium.

Ledesma – König (73′ Adi)
Albadawi (76′ McLaughlin)
Bone – Walker (67′ Gibson)
Lahoud
Smith – Lasso – Keinan – Hoyte
Newton

What’s Next?

Next up is game number five of a six game USL home stretch. They will face Penn FC at Nippert Stadium for one of the two home Sunday matches this season. Note the 6pm kickoff time. Adding intrigue to that match is the return of former FC Cincinnati player Tommy Heinemann. The 31-year-old striker was controversially released by the club during preseason for medical reasons and makes his first return to Cincinnati since preseason.

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