FC Cincinnati (9-2-4) kicked off the 4th of July weekend in style, defeating Bethlehem Steel FC 1-0 in front of 17,380 fans at Nippert Stadium. This is the 9th straight USL match with over 10,000 fans. Steel FC (4-5-6) almost shocked the crowd early as Mitch Hildebrandt was called into action on a long, back post shot from midfielder James Chambers. Hildebrandt only recorded two saves on the evening from two shots on goal. Chambers long strike was indicative of the chances Bethlehem would receive throughout the whole game. Most chances in the first were from long distance with both squads probing for weakness.
In the 13th minute, left back Tyler Polak delivered a great cross into the box where forward Sean Okoli directed it just inches wide. Polak may have had his best game in an Orange & Blue uniform. The left back pushed high all game, but made several great defensive stops either changing possession or killing a Steel FC counter.
From the start, it looked like FC Cincinnati was the more dangerous of the two squads. To go with Okoli’s header, center back Harrison Delbridge just missed on a header to get FCC its first goal. Bethlehem’s defense was content staying behind the ball for most of the match. In the first half, their defense would drop back to clog the middle. Steel midfielders would slide even further back to make a back 5 or 6 on deep chances. Long shots by midfielders Andrew Wiedeman and Kenney Walker did not find their mark allowing both teams to enter halftime 0-0.
The second half saw FC Cincinnati come out with a clear attacking advantage with 9 shots to Bethlehem’s 5. FC Cincinnati had two early chances fizzle after FCC turnovers. The Orange & Blue did break through in the 69th minute from a Jimmy McLaughlin goal. Corben Bone played in a corner kick to a waiting Omar Cummings who directed the ball perfectly to McLaughlin who was waiting at the back post. It could be said that McLaughlin snatched Cummings goal which seemed to be on frame, but you always need to be sure of the finish. That goal was McLaughlin’s 3rd USL goal of the season.
VIDEO REPLAY: #FCCincy up 1-0 over @BSteelFC pic.twitter.com/m1qmA5PR3d
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) July 2, 2016
Steel FC did have a one-on-one chance vs. Hildebrandt, but forward Corey Brown heard steps coming on him and release a weak shot too early. FC Cincinnati wasn’t finished peppering Badr with shots just yet. Walker almost doubled the tally with a rocket that was just tipped over and Paul Nicholson released a near post chance from the following corner where Badr made a phenomenal save. Fans in Nippert Stadium thought they were about to see another heartbreaking draw as Steel FC had a chance go just wide near the end of time.
The win marked FC Cincinnati’s 11th consecutive USL match without a loss. Their last defeat was on April 16th vs. LouCity. The club now will embark on a two-game road trip to the Rochester Rhinos (6-4-4) on Wednesday night at will go to Western Conference opponent Saint Louis FC (6-6-4) on Saturday.
Hildebrandt (GK): 8 – Hildebrandt was not called into action much throughout the night, but he did make two big saves and owned the box on any crosses.
Polak: 9 – Easily his best game for the Orange & Blue. He continued to press the whole game and had chances for several assist. Just looked like a different player. Polak was extremely physical and made Steel FC attackers notice him on a tough tackle to change possession on the endline.
Delbridge: 8 – Another solid game. Wins a majority of headers in the box. Has been a great leader of the back 4.
Nicholson: 8 – Solid game for the centerback. His offensive presence on corners could be missed if Berry returns to the starting XI.
McMahon: 7 – Good game, but could have contributed a little more on the offensive side. Had to stay back due to Polak going up field. He is great at seeing out games and is underrated at being a good outlet option for our attack.
Walker: 8 – A good 90′ for the captain, stifled many chances up the middle and had two shots on goal.
Bone (87′): 8 – Continues to reward Harkes’ trust as an integral player. Delivered a great ball in on the McLaughlin goal. Had 2 shots and combined as a good defensive midfield tandem with Walker.
McLaughlin: 8.5 – Three shots, one goal. Worked ball well with Polak in second half. Did switch sides with Wiedeman in first half to find different channels. Emotional game for former Union player
Stevenson (77′): 6.5 – Was limited due to clogged middle. Did have some good play with Okoli, but needed to be better in first.
Wiedeman (66′): 6.5 – Struggled to find space in first but did attempt two shots on the evening. His early substitution with Cummings may have been a product of saving legs for the upcoming stretch of matches.
Okoli (90’+): 7.5 – Only one shots, but his movement was better. Sometimes the wingers play in crosses a little to soon and to the opposite post wasting Ugo’s run. His header was just inches wide.
Cummings 67′ (Wiedeman): 8 – the Jamaican international made an impact right away off the Bone cross. Made some good runs including an endline attempt where his cross was just grabbed by Badr. Seems comfortable wide.
Luke 78′ (Stevenson): 7 – Was a defensive sub that played further wide in the midfield once he came on. Wins balls, not too flashy. Saw out the game well.
Tomaselli 88′ (Bone): NA – Defensive sub for Bone. Once game seemed that a 1-0 result was inevitable, Harkes subbed on his defensve stalwart.
Lee ET (Okoli): NA – Last second sub.
Man of the Match:
Tyler Polak – The leftback had the most complete 90′ game of any player. Should had at least 1 assist.
Who’s up next: Rochester Rhinos (6-4-4, 6th place)
The Rhinos are coming off a 0-0 draw in Red Bull Arena. The reigning USL champions are a shell of last year’s squad. Through their last five games, they have 2 wins, 2 losses and a draw. The Rhinos are tied for the second fewest amount of goals allowed for the year with FCC.
@bryanjweigel for @cincysoccertalk