With playoff seeding on the line, FC Cincinnati (13-6-7) headed to Wilmington, NC on a hot Sunday afternoon to face the Hammerheads (7-11-9). The match was not exciting but rather clinical as the away team took 3 points with a 2-0 win. Sean Okoli scored in the 30th minute and Andrew Wiedeman netted an insurance goal in the 64th. The win puts the the Orange & Blue on 49 points and back in 3rd place with 3 games to go.
Starters (4-2-3-1): GK: Hildebrandt (78′); (R-L)McMahon, Berry (53′), Delbridge, Polak; Bone, Walker; Ripoll (45′), Wiedeman, McLaughlin (70′); Okoli
Subs: Jaye (12′),Lee, Luke, Mohamed, Nicholson (37′), Stevenson (45′), Tomaselli (20′)
Coach Harkes ran out the same Starting XI from Monday’s win at home against Saint Louis FC. A lot was on the line for both team as a win for FC Cincinnati would put them solidly in the drivers seat for a first round home game in the playoffs while 3 points would bump Wilmington into the 8th and final playoff spot.
The Orange & Blue controlled the game from the opening whistle employing a high press not allowing the Hammerheads to possess the ball. After a couple dangerous chances, Sean Okoli opened the account for FC Cincinnati in the 30th minute. Jimmy McLaughlin sprinted up the right side and crossed the ball into the Wilmington box. Wilmington goalkeeper John Smits was first to get to the ball and deflected it straight into the path of the hustling Okoli. The Cincinnati striker was able to tap the ball into the goal for his 15th of the year putting him tied for first with Jack McBean of LosDos. McBean’s tally is complete for the season as he was loaned out to Coventry City of English League One.
In the 64th minute Andrew Wiedeman netted the insurance goal for FCC taking advantage of a miscue by Wilmington. John Smits stepped out of goal as Wiedeman battled a Wilmington defender for the ball at the top of the box. Smiths and the defender collided leaving Wiedeman with the ball, calmly depositing it in the goal.
There was a scary moment for the Orange & Blue as starting goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrant went down on his own in the 74th minute as a Wilmington opportunity went far wide. The training staff examined the net minder and looked to be stretching out a cramp and massaging his hamstring. Play continued shortly after, but the decision was made in the 78th minute by Coach Harkes to pull Hildebrandt even though he signaled he thought he could continue.
Early in 2nd Half stoppage time, Wilmington nearly clawed back into the game as Michael Mecham ended up with the ball in the FC Cincinnati box. Dallas Jaye was caught out of position and was rounded by the Hammerheads defender. Luckily for the away team, Mecham struck the ball off the post and out of harms way.
The win puts FC Cincinnati in 3rd at 49 points with 3 matches to go. Their schedule sets up quite favorably with 2 matches against 13th place Pittsburgh and 1 with Orlando City B.
The simplest way to clinch a home match is on Wednesday night. A win in Pittsburgh and a Charlotte win or draw against Richmond secures at worst the 4th seed for the Orange & Blue.
If that doesn’t occur, the magic number is 54. Richmond (7th Place) could catch them with a max number of 53 but the road is difficult as they play both Charlotte and Charleston. Any dropped points and FCC win secures a home game for the Orange & Blue. A win in one of our final games puts FCC at 52 points and out of reach of Charleston (5th Place) and Rochester (6th Place) for a top 4 spot.
Charlotte (4th Place) is 1 point behind FCC with 3 matches to go. They are on a 3 game winning streak but have the toughest schedule of them all with matches against @Richmond, Rochester, and @Louisville.