When: Saturday April 30th, 7pm ET kickoff
Where: Nippert Stadium, on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
Radio: ESPN 1530 (iHeartRadio)
FC Cincinnati defeated Toronto FC II away from home last Sunday by a score of 2-1. The win improved their record to 3-2-0 and elevated the team to 4th place in the USL Eastern Conference standings. Omar Cummings scored the game winning goal in the 84th minute following a pivotal double save by goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt.
Opponent: Wilmington Hammerheads FC
Wilmington currently sits in 7th place in the USL Eastern Conference standings on 7 points, three places behind FC Cincinnati. Both teams have played 5 matches.
The Wilmington Hammerheads boast an impressive 20 years as a professional soccer franchise. They’ve been part of several incarnations of the third tier of American professional soccer leading up to the formation of the USL PRO in 2011. Four years ago they reached the finals of the USL playoffs, but lost to the Charleston Battery 1-0. They are also known for their supporters group, The Port City Firm, who boast “We chant, we cheer, we drink lots of beer!”
Last year, the Hammerheads had a season to forget. They finished at the bottom of the USL’s Eastern Conference and managed only 3 wins all season. Their USL low 19 points, were 10 points less than Western Conference cellar-dwellers Real Monarchs. Wilmington revamped its squad after last season, hired a new coach and have retained only 7 players that were on their roster last season. FC Cincinnati starting midfielders Corben Bone and Ross Tomaselli were with the Hammerheads last year and made a combined 52 appearances for the club.
Wilmington has gotten off to a better start in 2016. In their most recent two matches, they defeated FC Montreal 2-0, then lost to a strong New York Red Bulls 2 side by a score of 1-0. Both matches were played at their home field, Legion Stadium in Wilmington, NC.
The Hammerheads have been the affiliate of MLS side New York City FC since 2015. Although loans were made from NYCFC to Wilmington in 2015, there are no current loans from the parent club. The affiliation was extended for a second year in February of 2016.
Although he hasn’t made much of a splash statistically this year, it’s hard to look past the resume of 35 year old Irish midfielder and team captain Liam Miller. Miller has over 100 starts in the Premier League with QPR, Sunderland, Leeds and Manchester United. With composure on the ball and a great range of passing, everything Wilmington does in midfield flows through Miller.
Bruno Perone is a towering 6’4” Brazilian center back that has played at the top level of Brazilian soccer for Figueirense FC. He also spent a year in the English Premier League with Queens Park Rangers. Perone anchors the defense and is a danger from set pieces. In a last minute loss away to the Charleston Battery, he scored Wilmington’s only goal .
Also look out for left back Josu Currias. The 23 year old Spanish midfielder spent time at Barcelona’s La Masia academy. He’s a midfielder by trade but has started at left back the past two games and played all 90 minutes.
What to expect from FC Cincinnati
Expect continued stability in FC Cincinnati’s starting eleven and formation. The exception to this may be Ross Tomaselli after he left Sunday’s match against Toronto with an injury in the first half. If he is unable to go, options to replace him include Antoine Hoppenot (who replaced Tomaselli last Sunday), Eric Stevenson and Paul Nicholson. It’s important to note that Hoppenot also came off in Sunday’s match and may still be injured as well. Wilmington has not been very threatening offensively this season, so Harkes may opt for a more offensive replacement for Tomaselli.
Harkes used several substitutes to good effect last week. He’s likely to continue to more heavily leverage the talent on this bench based on last week’s results.
This match is shaping up to be a classic offense versus defense battle. Over 5 games, FC Cincinnati has amassed twice as many total shots (70 to 30) and shots on target (32 to 15) as Wilmington. FCC has scored 8 goals to Wilmington’s 5. The Hammerheads will settle in defensively and make themselves difficult to break down, looking to catch FC Cincinnati on the counter. FC Cincinnati will need to be patient and persistent to break down this Wilmington side.
The weather could also have an impact on this game. The current forecast is calling for rain so we could see sloppy conditions. Resulting mistakes could play a role in the outcome of Saturday’s match.
What would be a good result?
A win. FC Cincinnati should have taken a lot of confidence from the road win against Toronto FC II last weekend. John Harkes and his squad will also be looking to make up for their disappointing loss two week’s ago in front of a record-setting crowd at Nippert. They have the more talented squad on paper with more offensive firepower. Those combined should be enough to take all three points. They will need to minimize defensive lapses seen in previous matches to get that result. It’s also important that FCC secure a win on home turf before heading back out on the road for two away matches in the 8 days that follow this match.
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