The kickoff temperature of 76 degrees meant Saturday night was a perfect night for soccer. 15,000+ pre-sold tickets and approximately 5,500 walk ups packed into the lower bowl of Nippert Stadium. In The Bailey, The Pride and Die Innenstadt were busy leading the supporters in chant after chant. Pregame, the Sheakley Lawn was packed with kids playing soccer and the club did its homework from the first match smoothing out issues with ticket, merchandise, and food lines. Thankfully rival factions made their way peacefully into section 104 for the start of the game. From the moment the fans arrived you could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air that something special was going down in Cincinnati.
The experience Saturday night in some ways was almost romantic. Even though the final score line was not what the club wanted, the crowd was screaming and shouting at every play filled with passion as if they grew up cheering for this club. FC Cincinnati clearly captured the American soccer populace’s attention by not only setting the USL Regular Season attendance record at 20,497 but by showing this is our team, our sport, and we want this here, badly. Nothing, not even the sting of a 3-2 loss in the first match of the River Cities Cup vs Louisville City FC, could take the shine off an otherwise immensely successful night.
— Cincy Soccer Talk (@cincysoccertalk) April 17, 2016
FC Cincinnati Starting Eleven
Coach Harkes trotted out the same starting 11 that featured in the first 3 games of the USL season.
FC Cincinnati Substitutions
64′- Omar Mohamed (for McLaughlin)
70′- Antoine Hoppenot (for Tomaselli)
78′- Derek Luke (for Polak)
79′- Eric Stevenson (for Walker)
Louisville City FC Starting Eleven
The LouCity starting eleven took the formation of a 4-5-1 with Chandler Hoffman as the lone forward.
Goalkeeper: 1-Scott Goodwin
Back Line: 24-Kyle Smith, 6-Tarek Morad, 15-Sean Reynolds, 2-Ben Newnam
Midfielders: 36-Paolo DelPiccolo, 4-Aodhan Quinn (c), 7-Kadeem Dacres (70’ 22-George Davis IV), 11-Niall McCabe (43’ Conor Shanosky), 77-Andrew Lubahn (83’ 20-Enrique Montano)
Forward: 17-Chandler Hoffman (60’ 9-Cameron Lancaster)
After dominating the opening minutes of play, FC Cincinnati got off to another dream start when Austin Berry caused Nippert to erupt when he headed in a Tyler Polak free kick in the 6th minute. The free kick was set up when Corben Bone was brought down just outside the LouCity penalty box. Unfortunately this awakened the Purple and Gold as they seemed to control play for the rest of the half. LCFC got on the board in the 17th minute off a penalty kick after Berry was called for a questionable handball in the box. Chandler Hoffman calmly slotted the PK past FCC keeper Mitch Hildebrandt. Hoffman got his second goal on the night after an assist from Cincinnati native Kyle Smith in the 24th minute. He was left unmarked on the back post and had a wide open net to move LCFC ahead 2-1. In the 34th minute Hoffman capped off his hat trick with the best goal of the night. Left Back Ben Newman made a great run up the left side and found the forward in the middle of the box where he struck a rocket into the right side of the net.
Players from both sides knew this was the beginning of a huge rivalry and they played like it. In a highly entertaining and extremely physical first half, there were 11 fouls and 4 cards issued including a Red on LouCity CB Sean Reynolds. He was cautioned twice in the 28th and 41st minutes which put FC Cincinnati up a man for the final 50 minutes. LCFC dominated possession for most of the half and had much of that success up the FCC left side. Kadeem Dacres pace caused trouble for Polak and McLaughlin. Offensively FCC was stymied by the 5 man midfield for LouCity. They also employed the “Hack Okoli” defense. The LCFC back 4 continuously fouled/pushed/shoved Sean when he received the ball and in turn forced the FCC midfield to beat them.
FC Cincinnati finished the first half with 6 total shots to Louisville’s 3. FC Cincinnati led the way in corner kicks with 3.
With the loss of CB Sean Reynolds after he picked up his second yellow, LouCity had to insert defender Conor Shanosky into the game for Niall McCabe. Coach James O’Connor shifted to a 4-4-1 formation that conceded possession to FCC but clogged up space on a narrow Nippert pitch.
Even though FC Cincinnati was up a man, LCFC packed it in and forced the home team to try to get the ball up the sides of the pitch and send crosses into the box. That allowed FCC to earn 6 corners and 10 shots in the second half but ultimately that final touch was missing. Coach Harkes searched his bench for answers and made 4 subs in the half though his best change came from an unlikely source. With 10 minutes to go, CB Harrison Delbridge was moved to a forward position and provided some much needed help to free up Okoli. Delbridge was able to win several headers that led to dangerous second chances. The Orange & Blue were finally able to break through in the 90th minute when Pat McMahon headed in a Corben Bone corner. FCC had one more chance before the whistle but the shot sailed clear and left the club a game down in the River Cities Cup.
FC Cincinnati out shot Louisville but were only able to get 7 on target. Sean Okoli had 2 shots on goal while Chandler Hoffman had 3. Kyle Smith was active on the defensive side of the ball and led the game with 4 fouls.
10′- CIN, Sean Okoli – Yellow
28′- LOU, Sean Reynolds – Yellow
32′- CIN, Delbridge – Yellow
41′- LOU, Sean Reynolds – Red
88′- LOU, Enrique Montano – Yellow
What does it all mean?
The defense that we were worried about at times finally reared its ugly head on Saturday. FC Cincinnati has had lapses at times during the season where they lost their shape and defensive responsibilities. Case in point is Chandler Hoffman’s second goal. Austin Berry and Tyler Polak were caught too far up the pitch leaving Harrison Delbridge and Pat McMahon with too many bodies to guard and Hoffman with a wide open net.
The midfield, which tends to be one of the strongest parts of the team, had a rough night. Walker, Tomaselli & Bone were unable to consistently navigate the 5 man midfield and get the ball to one of the offensive weapons. Unforced turnovers and long passes led to dangerous counter attacks for Louisville. On the defensive side of the ball the midfield was unable to interrupt the LCFC attack. The away side was able maintain possession way too easily and connected 12 consecutive passes leading up to the 3rd goal.
A bright note for FCC came in the 64th minute when Omar Mohamed was brought into the game for Jimmy McLauglin. Mohamed once again showed that he has the raw talent and foot skills to compete at the professional level. He was able to maintain possession and used his speed to get up the left side and make some dangerous plays for FCC.
Even though the team was outperformed in a lot of facets during the game, they never gave up and were looking to snatch a point from the match. Andrew Wiedeman put in another solid shift and late in the game was looking to do anything possible to claw a goal back.
What a huge credit to Jeff Berding and his organization to get 20,497 people to their 2nd home game setting the USL record that the Sacramento Republic held since 2014. Just to see how big that number really is, I wanted to provide some context.
- 20,624- USMNT vs Guatemala- World Cup Qualifier in Columbus, OH- 03/29/2016
- 16,715- Columbus Crew vs. NYC FC- 04/17/2016
- 3,369- Average USL Home Attendance
Not only was the crowd large but it was very loud and supportive of the crowd. In a special moment after the final whistle, the stadium broke into a tremendous “FCC, FCC, FCC” chant. This support was not lost on the players.
— Andrew Wiedeman (@awiedeman3) April 17, 2016
2/2: That support got us 2nd goal. Important that y’all know how much it means to the players. Keep it up- this is something truly special.
— Andrew Wiedeman (@awiedeman3) April 17, 2016
On the record crowd, Coach Harkes said after the game “The crowd was incredible. The fans and the families that are here clearly shows that Cincinnati is easily ready for this market for soccer.” Those on social media seemed to echo his sentiments.
— USL (@USL) April 17, 2016
— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) April 17, 2016
Highly impressive. https://t.co/K4gEQ6CRFR
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) April 17, 2016
Here’s a look at the crowd of 20K+ fans in Cincinnati tonight for a USL match. Very impressive: https://t.co/GtsFWEILJY
— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) April 17, 2016
Toronto FC II finished 11th of 12 teams in the East last season but has gotten off to a much better start taking points in each of their first 3 matches this season.
This week they drew the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2-2 in heartbreaking fashion. The Baby Reds allowed an equalizer in stoppage time in front of 2,000 fans in a sold out Ontario Soccer Centre.
Players to watch: FC Cincinnati should face former Xavier standout Nick Hagglund. A Defender, Hagglund has spent most of the last two seasons in the MLS with Toronto FC. With three goals in three games, TFC II is paced offensively by twenty year old striker and Toronto native Raheem Edwards.
Look for Cincinnati Soccer Talk’s match preview this week.
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