FC Cincinnati (8-2-4, 28 pts.) will host 9th place Bethlehem Steel FC (4-4-6, 18pts.) on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Nippert Stadium. FC Cincinnati will close out a stretch of 6 of 7 USL matches at home. Check out the 7 things we feel you should know going into the match.
Different Looking Steel FC – Bethlehem Steel FC will have a different look from when FC Cincinnati faced them in week two. Key contributors Walter Restrepo (6 games), Leo Fernandes (8 games), Joshua Yaro (3 games) and goalkeeper John McCarthy (8 games) have all found their way into the Philadelphia Union’s weekly 18. Steel FC midfielder Cole Missimo, was also called up to the Union team sheet for Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory over NYRB in US Open Cup play.
Eric Ayuk – Ayuk returns to Steel FC after a successful run in U-20 CAF African Championship qualifying for Cameroon. The speedy winger scored a goal in Cameroon’s 3-0 win over Zimbabwe’s U-20 squad to clinch their spot in the next round of qualifying. The “Bafoussam Bomber” featured in 28 games including 14 starts for the Union in 2015, but has not received any time with the senior squad this year. The 19 year old scored the lone goal in their defeat to FC Cincy back in April. While Ayuk has been an offensive threat, the biggest knock on the youngster is repeatedly getting beat in defensive situations. Look for Harkes to have his wingers play toward Ayuk’s right side of the field.
Defense – Through their last four USL matches, Steel FC has conceded two goals. The addition of Union center back Anderson Conceicao to the back four last week would have thought to make things more difficult for Richmond as they posted 16 shots. Keeper Samir Badr was called into action quite a bit last week having to grab 8 saves on his way to USL team of the week honors allowing 0 goals. Steel FC was thought to have lost the match in the 90’ but the Richmond goal was disallowed for offside. Captain Ryan Richter has provided solid coverage from the right back position including two saves off the line vs. Richmond. Rookie Tyler Washington should be in his usual left back position.
Where will their offense come from? – Forward Seku Conneh has received the majority of the starts in the forward position when Union players are not loaned down to Bethlehem. Through 11 matches, Conneh has only 1 goal and no assists. Backup forward Corey Burke has made some strides of late and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got the nod. The big Jamaican international put pressure on the Richmond defense and has been drawing some praise of late. I think it is a low chance that we see Fabian Herbers of the Union this weekend. He was not in the 18 on Wednesday night, but did start on the weekend vs. Vancouver in MLS action.
Road Trip – Saturday’s match marks game four in a five game road trip for Bethlehem Steel FC. They are unbeaten on the road trip to date and must travel to Toronto for a quick turnaround on Wednesday. I am not sure that last week’s play vs. Richmond was indicative of a bunker and counter attack strategy, but I could definitely see that for the game in Nippert. Bethlehem relies on their defense to stay in games. If FC Cincinnati can grab an early goal, I think it will spell doom and hand Steel FC their first loss of the road trip.
No Derrick Jones – Steel FC will be without one of their best players in midfielder Derrick Jones. The 19 year old was Steel FC’s first signing after graduating from the Union’s MLS academy. With 2 goals and 1 assist, Jones leads the team in points, but more importantly was a key operator in transitioning to attack. Recently Jones’ name has been discussed to replace Vincent Nogueira who departed the Union for personal reasons. FC Cincinnati will be glad that they won’t have to face him, but this is someone who could be playing if not starting in MLS soon. Click HERE for more information about Jones.
Bethlehem Steel MF Derrick Jones will not play Saturday vs. @fccincinnati as he serves 1 match suspension. Leads club with 5 points.
— Tom Gelehrter (@Tommy_G) June 29, 2016
Impressive Streak – John Harkes’ squad has been able to put together quite an impressive unbeaten streak through the last 10 matches. To put this streak in perspective, the 2015 Rochester Rhino’s had a 19 game unbeaten streak and followed up with an 11 game streak that lasted through the finals. The second best streak on the season was 9 games unbeaten by Oklahoma City Energy FC. In 2016, only one team has put together a better stretch. Louisville City stands on 14 games unbeaten while Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 had their 10 game unbeaten streak snapped on June 4th vs. Real Monarchs. This is no doubt an impressive feat to date.
FC Cincinnati will be challenged to maintain the streak as a difficult run of matches as they travel to 6th place Rochester on Wednesday and then head to St. Louis (6th place Western Conf.) next Saturday. Both teams have impressive home records with the only loss coming at Rochester as they faced LouCity.
Also, another great presale:
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) June 28, 2016
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Stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk for staff predictions on Friday and more news and analysis leading up to this weekend’s match.