FC Cincinnati defeated FC Montréal 2-0 at Complex Sportif Claude Robillard in Montréal Canada on Wednesday afternoon. Ugo Okoli netted both goals for the Orange and Blue in the match.
Coach Harkes made two lineup changes for this match. Center back Evan Lee started in place of Harrison Delbridge who was serving a one game suspension due to yellow card accumulation. Additionally, Ross Tomaselli started in midfield in place of Eric Stevenson. Kenney Walker again missed the match through injury.
Goalkeeper: Mitch Hildebrandt
Back Line: Tyler Polak, Evan Lee, Austin Berry, Pat McMahon
Midfielders: Jimmy McLaughlin, Corben Bone, Ross Tomaselli, Andrew Wiedeman
Forwards: Ugo Okoli, Omar Cummings
FC Montréal played the match without some of their key players because their parent MLS side, Montréal Impact, plays an international friendly with AS Roma of Serie A later Wednesday evening. This match was moved from its original 7pm start time to 2pm to accommodate the friendly. Notable FC Montréal players Ballou Jean Yves Tabla, Allesandro Riggi, and Maxime Crépeau all missed this match in order to be with their MLS side.
FC Montréal got off to a good start, but it was the Orange and Blue that almost scored first when Jimmy McLaughlin played a cross into Ugo Okoli just outside the 6 yard box for a free header. Okoli’s connection with the ball was not true though and Montréal goalkeeper Paulmin saved easily.
FC Montréal’s young squad was lively in possession and threatened at times with passing moves on either side of the 18 yard box. Those moves didn’t produced high quality chances though and the home side was held goalless in the first half.
FC Cincinnati grew into the game after struggling to keep possession early and made a breakthrough in the 33rd minute of play. After turning FC Montréal over in possession, Harkes’ men countered down the left side. Jimmy McLaughlin played a well weighted diagonal pass to Andrew Wiedeman who was running unmarked on the right side of the box. Wiedeman played a clean one-touch square ball across goal to an un-marked Okoli who tapped in from close range. The goal came only moments after McLaughlin spurned a 1 on 1 opportunity with the keeper, missing wide right.
Ugo Okoli had a very active first half and was involved and effective in hold-up play with the other offensive players. He was justly rewarded with a goal for his efforts.
Francisco Narbon entered the match after the break, replacing Ross Tomaselli in central midfield. Tomaselli had received a yellow card for a handball just outside the box earlier in the first half.
Both sides had a hard time finding a passing rhythm or create meaningful chances in the early minutes of the second half. FC Montréal struggled in particular and Mitch Hildebrandt had little to do but watch until after the 60th minute.
The front four for FC Cincinnati found their rhythm again as the match approached 65 minutes and were rewarded with a second goal. As Montréal increasingly pushed forward looking for an equalizer they left large areas of space open for counterattacks. After a failed FC Montréal attack, McLaughlin found Cummings, who was breaking on the right, with a long well-weighted aerial ball. He and Okoli were 2 versus 1 with a Montréal defender allowing Cummings to play Okoli through for a 1 on 1 with the keeper. Ugo settled the ball and finished low and right past Paulmin. The goal followed two other high quality chances which the Orange and Blue should likely have taken.
The final 20+ minutes of the match saw a variety of substitutions for both sides and a couple ejections. Harkes and the coaching staff found playing time for several familiar names. Derek Luke, Omar Mohomed, Eric Stevenson and Luke Spencer all received minutes and helped to close out the game.
Montreal made a small push toward the end of the game and created two quality chances through substitute Hekeil Jarras, but the FC Cincinnati defense held firm. Any chances of a comeback were squashed in the 81st minute when Montréal midfielder Janouk Charbonneau was sent off for a second yellow he earned for dissent toward the referee. The struggling MLS 2 side also saw their frustrated coach, Philippe Eullaffroy, ejected from the match in the closing minutes, also for dissent toward the referee.
One could say that FC Cincinnati probably should have been more ruthless in front of goal and won the match by a larger margin. However, Harkes’ men got the clean sheet and got the job done against an opponent they were expected to beat. The win brings the Orange and Blue to within 3 points of the Eastern conference leaders NY Red Bulls II with 9 games remaining.
FC Cincinnati gets a week and half break before their next road match against the Richmond Kickers on August 13th. Harkes’ men will be looking to prove their superiority against the 5th place side, who stole a 1-1 draw in the dying minutes of the match at Nippert in June. This short time off will provide an opportunity for the squad to get some rest and get bodies healthy for the final set of matches in the USL regular season.
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Stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk for player ratings from the FC Montréal match.