FC Cincinnati drew 1-1 with the Wilmington Hammerheads at Nippert Stadium on a soggy Saturday evening in Cincinnati. Center back Paul Nicholson, who started in place of an injured Austin Berry, scored the lone goal for FC Cincinnati. Goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt made key saves to earn man of the match honors.
The first half was relatively even with both teams creating chances but only Wilmington capitalizing.
Wilmington opened the scoring in the 24th minute of play when 6’4” Brazilian center back Bruno Perone scored from a corner kick. The corner was hit low to the near post by Mael Corboz. Perone eluded his markers and connected with the ball for a low drive that soared into goal from close range. The goal came immediately after FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt brilliantly saved a Wilmington penalty kick from Qudus Lawal.
FC Cincinnati had a great chance to equalize in the 35th minute when good combination passing saw space open up for Tyler Polak on the left. Polak delivered a ball for Corben Bone who was unmarked at the right side of the six yard box. Bone opted to head the ball down for Okoli rather than go for goal. Wilmington keeper John Smits intervened just before Okoli could make contact, and snuffed out the chance.
The Orange and Blue nearly equalized again in the 45th minute. The opportunity came from a free kick that was given when Andrew Wiedeman was hacked down by Wilmington captain Liam Miller. The free kick was poorly cleared by the Wilmington defense and fell to Jimmy McLaughlin. The Pennsylvania native wriggled free of his defenders on the right side of the box and shot on goal from an acute angle. Smits blocked the ball down and Okoli had a half-chance to poke it into net, but could not convert.
FC Cincinnati earned a 10-7 advantage in shots at half and forced 4 saves from Wilmington goalkeeper John Smits.
The Orange and Blue equalized just after the beginning of the second half when an unlikely goalscorer netted for the hometown team. Substitute Paul Nicholson, who replaced injured center back Austin Berry as a starter, scored from a FC Cincinnati set piece. Tyler Polak delivered a free kick into the box from the right side. The ball found Ugo Okoli who struck on goal forcing a save from Wilmington goalkeeper Smits. The ball fell to Nicholson who volleyed it home with his right foot. The goal was initially disallowed as offside, but after a conference by the officials, the goal was awarded to FC Cincinnati.
Mitch Hildebrandt secured his man of the match honors in the 65th minute when he made double-save for the second week in a row. Following a Wilmington throw-in the ball was crossed into the box from deep on the right side of FCC’s defense. Nicholson found himself on the wrong side of Lawal who collected the ball and attempted to toe-poke past Hildebrandt. Mitch stopped that effort and a follow up by Justin Moose before the ball was cleared.
Shortly after that passage of play, the skies opened up in Cincinnati and heavy rain continued for the rest of the second half. Derek Luke, Omar Mohammed, Omar Cummings and Luke Spencer were all introduced into the game in an attempt to break the deadlock. FC Cincinnati created several chances in the final minutes of play, but could not convert.
Harkes’ men had a claim for a late penalty when Wilmington goalkeeper John Smits wrapped both arms around Harrison Delbridge after fumbling his catch on a corner kick. Despite the apparent foul, Delbridge got off a right footed shot that looked destined for the back of the net until Mael Corboz’s head intervened. There was also suspicion of a Wilmington hand ball on the same play. Despite protests from the players, fans and coach Harkes, a penalty was not awarded for the contact on Delbridge.
The rains continued as time expired and a 1-1 draw was the result.
FC Cincinnati led the game in several statistical categories, producing 18 total shots and forcing 7 saves from Wilmington keeper John Smits. The eighth save for Wilmington was Mael Corboz’s headed block of Harrison Delbridge’s stoppage-time shot. FC Cincinnati produced 9 shots on target to Wilmington’s 5.
64′ Derek Luke (for Tyler Polak)
69′ Omar Mohammed (for Andrew Wiedeman)
71′ Omar Cummings (for Ugo Okoli)
88′ Luke Spencer (for Corben Bone)
75′ Zev Taublieb (for Liam Miller)
76′ Austin Martz (for Justin Moose)
80′ Matt Barnes Homer (for Qudus Lawal)
90′ Kyle Parker (for Logan Miller)
40′ Jeff Michaud, WIL – Yellow Card
45′ Liam Miller, WIL – Yellow Card
57′ Ashani Fairclough, WIL – Yellow Card
What does it all mean?
This match saw a lot of offensive opportunities with few conversions. The two teams produced 30 shots combined but only two found the back of the net. The goalkeepers for both clubs were selected as Man of the Match by their respective clubs. The Orange and Blue generated almost twenty shots again, and led in all other offensive categories. Needless to say, they need to be more clinical in front of goal and convert their opportunities.
The Wilmington goal came from a set piece right after Hildebrandt’s big penalty kick save. The timing of that goal is not going to help with criticisms about FC Cincinnati’s defense, and their need to maintain focus and not concede cheap goals.
Had Harrison Delbridge’s stoppage-time attempt gone in or had a penalty been called, the dialogue following this match might be very different. Last week FC Cincinnati capitalized on key moments in a close contest with Toronto. This week those opportunities were offered but not captured and the result is a somewhat disappointing draw.
It appears the “word is out” that you can contain Ugo Okoli by fouling the crap out of him. That strategy has been employed by Louisville, Toronto and Wilmington in 3 consecutive matches and unfortunately Okoli has been held scoreless in those contests.
Austin Berry missed the match due to a thigh strain suffered in training on Friday. Although Nicholson played well in his absence, Berry is the team captain and is critical to their success. Let’s hope he finds his health quickly before the busy schedule of games ahead.
There are still several positives to take away from the match. The team is still creating quality chances on a regular basis. They showed character in the second half after going down a goal and fought their way back into the game. Nicholson had a good performance filling in for Austin Berry and paired well at center back with Harrison Delbridge. The attendance number of 11,318 was fantastic considering the inclement weather and the fact that Wilmington (with due respect) is a small market team.
All of that said, this does feel like an opportunity missed for FC Cincinnati. Given the week ahead, there will be little time to dwell on that before action resumes.
Orlando City B (OCB)
FC Cincinnati goes on the road and will play two matches in the next 7 days. The first stop is in Florida on Wednesday May 4 where they will face another 2016 USL expansion club, Orlando City B. They will then head to Pennsylvania for a meeting with the Harrisburg City Islanders on Saturday May 7. Those two clubs sit 12th and 10th respectively out of 14 clubs in the Eastern Conference. These games represent a good opportunity for FC Cincinnati to pick up points. Stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk for our Orlando preview and coverage of this week’s action away from home.
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