Match Day 4: FC Cincinnati vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, PA
Result: FC Cincinnati: 1 – Bethlehem Steel FC: 1
On a cold, wet Sunday in Pennsylvania, Alan Koch handed Nazmi Albadawi, Matt Bahner, and Daniel Haber their first starts of the 2018 season as FC Cincinnati faced Bethlehem Steel. With 3 changes to the starting XI, Koch looked to get the offense going with high profile offseason acquisition Albadawi getting the start in the attacking midfield. With Kenney Walker out with a concussion, Koch opted to drop Corben Bone into the holding midfield role which he played so well in 2017.
Koch’s changes looked to take effect as FC Cincinnati came out on the front foot with several early dangerous chances. The Orange & Blue controlled play for the first 10 minutes but it was the home side that got on the scoreboard first. In the 15th minute, Midfielder Anthony Fontana found the ball at the top of the box and hit a low shot/pass that Corey Burke flicked past Evan Newton. You can’t fault Newton on a play that would resemble something that would occur in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but I’m sure Koch would like to see his defense not give up as much space to the opposition. The midfield gave Fontana too much time on the ball and Dekel Keinan allowed Burke to get in front of him to get a touch for the goal.
The goal seemed to give Bethlehem a little pep in their step and they started to control the game. The FC Cincinnati defense continued to concede too much space allowing Santi Moar and Anthony Fontana among others room to get in on goal. Fontana nearly gave his side a 2 goal lead if it weren’t for the left post’s plans in the 35th minute to deny the midfielder a goal. Moar had a couple chances late in the half but last minute defending by Dekel Keinan and Forrest Lasso kept the lead at 1.
Things seemed to switch up in the 2nd half as the Orange & Blue were able to tighten up space they were allowing Bethlehem to have in midfield. After conceding 11 shots in the 1st half, the Cincinnati defense held the Steel to 3 shots the rest of the way. Not only did the defense step up but the offense did as well. At one point the Orange & Blue were holding nearly a 2-1 margin in possession in the 2nd half on the way to 11 shots.
After coming close in the 1st half, Nazmi Albadawi was able to net an equalizer for the Orange & Blue in the 72nd minute. Justin Hoyte played a ball from the right wing to the top of the box into the path of Emery Welshman. Welshman was able to chest the ball to a streaking Albadawi whose shot found the back of the net. While it might not have been the prettiest goal, it showed off Albadawi’s knack for being able to play in tight spaces centrally.
Albadawi almost got a winner in the 81st minute when CB Brandon Aubrey slipped on the pitch leaving Naz 1v1 with Bethlehem’s keeper. Albadawi tried to chip John McCarthy but the shot didn’t have the height and was easily saved. Although his missed chip will otherwise shadow a nice first performance for the Orange & Blue, Naz had a solid game and gives the Orange & Blue attack another option going forward.
Both team’s had a couple chances in the end but neither found the net ending in a 1-1 draw. The point leaves FC Cincinnati on 7 points in 7th place after 4 matches. They sit just 3 points from 2nd place with a game in hand over half their rivals in the East.
7 Points- I’d imagine if you asked Coach Koch, he would have taken 7 pts in his first 3 away matches and ran. You can not underestimate how difficult it is this year to go on the road and get a result in a tightly packed USL Eastern Conference. In a week that saw Indy knock off Nashville 2-1, and NYRB2 demolish Tampa 5-0, an FC Cincinnati point was critical. Add to that the squad the Philadephia Union sent down to play FC Cincinnati (Corey Burke, Marcus Epps, Derrick Jones, Eric Ayuk, Anthony Fontana and Joshua Yaro) and you have to be pleased. Supporters of FC Cincinnati are completely justified in asking for the attacking flair we were promised but getting off to a good start in the standings allows FCC to not have to play catchup like they had to all of last season.
#FreeNaz- The #FreeNaz movement on social media got their wish this match when Nazmi Albadawi was named to the starting XI and he awarded them with the game-tying goal. In addition to the goal, he added some nice touch play in tight spaces that has been lacking. When the Orange & Blue get players forward, Naz is another player that defenses have to pay attention to and that takes pressure off Emery Welshman. With Naz in the #10 role, it allows Corben Bone to drop to holding-mid and be dangerous from deep. He had a couple crackers that scared the keeper and will keep defenses honest if they leave him unmarked at the top of the box. Today was one match but especially after the stout 2nd half, FC Cincinnati supporters can see that promise we were hearing about all offseason.
Finishing Woes- FC Cincinnati and Alan Koch will rue the missed chances in the 2nd Half that would have let them leave Bethlehem with 3 points on the evening. Having outshot Steel FC 11-3 in the half, Manu Ledesma & Nazmi Albadawi missed critical sitters in front of goal that you’d expect players of their caliber to finish. Add these to some of the missed opportunities last week and this becomes a trend. With Pittsburgh and their strong defense on the horizon, FCC will need to clean up these chances. With the offense still struggling to find a rhythm, the club needs to capitalize off these golden opportunities when they occur.
15′ – Corey Burke (BST), Asst. Fontana
72′- Nazmi Albadawi (CIN), Asst. Welshman
FC Cincinnati Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Evan Newton (GK); Justin Hoyte, Dekel Keinan, Forrest Lasso, Matt Bahner (62′); Richie Ryan, Corben Bone; Daniel Haber, Nazmi Albadawi, Emmanuel Ledesma, Emery Welshman (76′)
Subs: Spencer Richey (GK); Sem de Wit, Danni König (76′), Lance Laing (62′), Jimmy McLaughlin (80′), Will Seymore, Blake Smith
Bethlehem Steel FC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): John McCarthy (GK); Prosper Chiluya, Brandon Aubrey, Joshua Yaro (45′), Matthew Mahoney; Derrick Jones, Anthony Fontana; Santi Moar, Brenden Aaronson (23′), Marcus Epps (80′); Corey Burke
Subs: Tomas Romero (GK), Brandon Allen (80′), Aiden Apodaca, Eric Ayuk (45′), Mike Catalono (23′), Chris Nanco, Drew Skundrich
FC Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – Sat. April 21st. 7:00 p.m. – Nippert Stadium.