Matchday #32: FC Cincinnati at Toronto FC II
Ontario Soccer Centre – Attendance: 1,119
The Orange & Blue received a good result for their playoff seeding as Rochester dropped New York 2-1 earlier in the day and capitalized with a 4-3 result over Toronto FC II. Three points in Ontario saw Cincinnati jump into sixth place in the USL Eastern Conference table with one match remaining for Bethlehem Steel in the final weekend of USL regular season action. Quite a few FC Cincinnati fans made the trip up north and were treated to one of the highest scoring matches in the 2017 regular season.
FC Cincinnati Head Coach Alan Koch ran out a 4-4-2 formation which featured some tactical changes from recent matches. Early on forwards Djiby Fall and Danni Konig pressured the Toronto FC II defense, which led to some chances for the visitors.
TFC II featured several MLS loanees, including defender Ashtone Morgan and Tsubasa Endoh (125 combined MLS appearances). The MLS veterans made their presence known early on through smart play and organization of the Toronto squad.
Ten minutes in, Morgan sent a perfectly weighted ball to streaking midfielder Luca Uccello. Uccello was able to hold up play and sent a cross to Ben Spencer. Spencer’s header was parried away by Mitch Hildebrandt, but the ball landed at Endoh’s feet. The TFC man smashed it into the back of the net, putting the hosts up 1-0.
The rain and windy conditions fouled up the FC Cincinnati attack during the half. Tactically, Cincinnati tried to switch the field many times in the half allowing Djiby and Konig to drift into dangerous positions. Many of the opportunities came up the right side through Justin Hoyte, but the wind and conditions led to difficulties finding targets in the box.
Things looked to be going terribly for FCC in consecutive matches off another cross into the box from Toronto. Left back Justin Hoyte lost his mark Ben Spencer, who judged the ball accurately and sent a soft header to the feet of Endoh. Endoh’s strike deflected off captain Austin Berry and past Hildebrandt for the hosts second of the match. The ball seemed to hold up a bit in the wind with both Hildebrandt and Hoyte allowed Spencer the space to send the ball to the scorer Endoh.
While down two, FC Cincinnati seemed far from out of the match. Left winger, Jimmy McLaughlin set up the first score by making a run to the end line just outside the box. That allowed a free kick to the visitors and a pacey inswinger sent by Kenney Walker found Danni König as he sent it home to bring the guests within one.
Minutes later Corben Bone made a great run down the left flank and crossed to Djiby at the top of the box. The Senegalese international’s shot was guided to the far side and clanged off the post. The ball found its way to König, but the forward was ruled offside. Momentum was in the guest’s hands as the game reached halftime.
The wide play early from FC Cincinnati allowed space in the middle of the field near the top of the box for the FC Cincinnati to attack. König took advantage of this space early in the second half when he received a great ball from Bone. The Dane smoked his chance which deflected out for a corner and continued the momentum for FCC.
A minute later McLaughlin made a great run down the left and unleashed a shot which nearly beat the TFCII keeper Pais. The deflection was cleared but Cincinnati would strike seconds later. Kenney Walker found space just outside the top of the box and played a give-and-go with Corben Bone. The pass back to Walker was perfect and allowed Walker enough space at the top of the box to beat Pais for Cincinnati’s second goal.
The 2-2 scoreline would not last as TFCII struck moments later in the 53rd minute. Defender Brandon Onkony sent a perfect ball over the top of the FCC defense which released Shaan Hundal on goal. Hundal outraced both Tyler Polak and Harrison Delbridge just right of the center of the field and Hundal found himself one-on-one with the Cincinnati keeper. Hildebrandt tried to close in on Hundal but the Canadian youth international chipped the keeper for Toronto’s third.
You could tell both sides wanted to end the regular season on a high note as the game was very chippy after Toronto’s go-ahead goal. Delbridge, König, and Djiby all got into skirmishes with TFCII players. Two events saw both FCC forwards lay a Toronto player on the ground. Luckily both instances did not result in cards for the up-front men.
The game once again turned on its heels as McLaughlin made a wonderful run off the left wing in the 66th minute. The winger completed a 30-yard dribble beating his mark to the end line. McLaughlin would forego a shot and instead crossed to an awaiting Djiby. Cincinnati’s leading scorer put it home at the back post to lock the game at 3-3. That goal marked Djiby’s 16th through all competitions, tying Sean “Ugo” Okoli for the lead in goals scored in FCC history.
The match opened up even further leading to a track meet for the teams. One would think this would traditionally hurt an FC Cincinnati side that has struggled maintaining possession and dictating play all season. However, that was not the case. Late in the second half, Cincinnati would begin to pile on chances, as they created a total of 24 shots on the night. Several looks by McLaughlin and a penalty shout from Greig could have seen the guests go up one goal.
That moment came in the 86th minute as Hoyte put FC Cincinnati up for good. Hoyte began the play out on the right looking to cross into the box. Instead, he laid the ball off to Kenney Walker and sprinted right toward the near post. Walker saw Hoyte the whole time and dropped a dime to his feet. Hoyte sent the ball into the net and clinched at least a seventh seed for FC Cincinnati in the USL playoffs.
Got The Job Done – While their playoff lives were clinched on Thursday, FC Cincinnati still had a bit to play for as three points could get them as high as 6th in the USL Eastern Conference table. This looked hard to achieve as Cincinnati would go down 2-0 early. The Orange & Blue fought for 90 minutes and ended up getting all three. Coming back from down two should give the squad confidence going on the road for the playoffs. Unbeaten in seven out of their last eight is nothing to be ashamed of at the end of their season which will mark the second straight time FCC will reach the playoffs.
Tactical Approach – Formation does not equal tactics but there is something to be said for feeling more comfortable in a given shape. Coach Koch ran out a 4-4-2 with the approach to press the TFC defense and play down the wings early. Toronto had to compensate for the outside runs and allowed Djiby, König, Bone, and Walker to all have space in the middle of the park. Whether intentional or not, Koch seemed to get the offensive approach correct Saturday. The play wide opened up opportunities later in which FCC cashed in. I’m sure he will be disappointed in conceding three times, but moments of brilliance coupled with questionable decisions by Hildebrandt led to at least two of the goal.
Some of the Best Supporters in the USA, eh? – It’s no surprise that FC Cincinnati supporters would travel to the Great Northern Territory. If you watched the match, you knew the supporters of FCC made a difference. The traveling crowd willed the team on and will be called on to do that again next weekend in Charleston or Tampa Bay. Great on all of you that traveled. You were the 12th man in the hostile territory.
Fan Reaction of the Night: Chris Marshall
Eureka an identity!
— Chris Marshall (@ChrisMarshall_) October 15, 2017
FC Cincinnati Starting XI (4-4-2): Hildebrandt (GK), (L-R) Polak, Delbridge, Berry (84′) Hoyte; McLaughlin, Bone, Walker, Wiedeman (68′); Djiby (81′), König
Subs: Jaye (GK), Bahner, Josu, de Wit (84’+), Dominguez, Dacres (68’+), Greig (81’+)
Toronto FC II Starting XI (3-4-3): Pais (GK), (L-R) Morgan, Taintor, Onkony; Endoh, Uccello, Fraser, Romeo; Campbell (75′) Hundal, Spencer
Subs: Cavalluzzo (GK), Eckenrode, Okello Ayo, A. Osorio, Daniels (75’+), Johnson, Srbely
10’ Endoh (TOR)
31’ Endoh (TOR)
41’ Konig (CIN)
49’ Walker (CIN)
53’ Hundal (TOR)
66’ Djiby (CIN)
86’ Hoyte (CIN)
27′ Spencer (TOR)
29′ Delbridge (CIN)
90+’ Onkony (TOR)
90+’ Taintor (TOR)
Next Up: USL Playoffs – Round 1
Saturday 10/21 – at TBD – 7:30 p.m. EST – TBD
FC Cincinnati will find out on Sunday where they will be traveling to in the first round of the USL Playoffs. Bethlehem Steel FC host Saint Louis FC at Goodman Stadium Sunday at 3 p.m. If Bethlehem should win, that will see them tied with Cincinnati on points at 46. Steel FC’s two wins vs. FCC will see Steel jump the Orange & Blue to take the sixth spot. In that scenario, Cincinnati would travel to Charleston as the 7th seed. Should Steel FC draw or lose, they will finish at 44 points and Cincinnati would head to Tampa Bay as the 6th seed. The seeding is a big deal pending upsets for a home playoff match.
Should the 7th seed upset the 2nd seed and the 6th upset the #3, the #7 would travel to the #6 in the second round of the playoffs. So cheer for Saint Louis FC on Sunday.