FC Cincinnati traveled roughly 500 miles to western New York and faced the Rochester Rhinos Wednesday night. Cincinnati fans, like this pundit, found the first half difficult to view. Streaming issues limited viewing to the last couple minutes of the first half. Coach Harkes went with his recent starting eleven, running out the Orange & Blue in a 4-2-3-1 formation. FC Cincinnati did welcome back youngster Omar Mohomed to the eighteen, who is returning from Ramadan fast.
Starting XI – Hildebrandt (GK), (R-L) McMahon, Nicholson, Delbridge, Polak; Walker, Bone; Wiedeman, Stevenson, McLaughlin; Okoli
Subs – Jaye (GK), Berry*, Cummings*, Lee, Luke*, Mohomed*, Tomaselli
Rochester coach Bob Lilley ran out his 5-3-2 formation with wing backs giving FCC a tough back line to break down. Through the first 15′ both teams were trying to figure each other out. FC Cincinnati pressed high on the Rhinos, but the home team was able to control possession and apply pressure in the FCC half. Cincinnati right back Pat McMahon was welcomed back to NY with a tough tackle from former teammate Marcos Ugarte. FC Cincinnati had a couple of early chances including a Sean Okoli attempt that went off the crossbar.
Rochester started their first half scoring move from an Ugarte cross. The ball was shot by Steevan Dos Santos, but after the ball scrambled around the box, Captain and recently married Michael Garzi sent it into the net for a 1-0 lead. FC Cincinnati continued to push and was rewarded with a couple of corners, but the Orange & Blue could not capitalize.
FC Cincinnati started the second half with some outstanding pressure and created several chances on goal. Sean Okoli found some space in the top of the box and drilled an attempt just wide. Shortly after, Harkes used his first substitution in replacing Paul Nicholson in the 62′ with Austin Berry. Berry who was injured in a practice on April 29th had not seen the field since April 24th vs. Toronto FC II.
Two minutes later, Rochester sent a counter at the heart of FC Cincinnati’s defense. A long ball was played deep into FCC’s defensive third and center back Harrison Delbridge was ruled to have brought down Dos Santos. The Rhinos were awarded a PK and Dos Santos sent Hildebrandt the wrong way, bringing the score to 2-0.
Forward Omar Cummings was brought on in the 70′ to replace Eric Stevenson. Cummings put pressure on the Rochester defense and began to turn the tide back in FC Cincinnati’s favor. In the 74′ Corben Bone played a ball over the top to midfielder Andrew Wiedeman who was brought down by Rhino keeper Tomas Gomez for a PK. Sean Okoli stepped up to the spot and slotted home his attempt in the 75′.
Derek Luke replaced Pat McMahon in the 82′ with FC Cincinnati pushing forward for the equalizer. Omar Mohomed replaced Wiedeman in the 86′ and also contributed to the attack. Okoli looked to be through on goal in the 91′, but was denied by an amazing defensive effort. Cummings, Mohomed and Okoli continued to run at the Rhinos defense, but were rebuffed as the middle of the field became clogged by the home team. As extra time ran down, FC Cincinnati’s tired legs showed. However, in the 94′, Ugo Okoli was denied again by Gomez on the goal line on a near post effort. A corner kick and a clearance brought the end of the game and the end of FCC’s 11 match unbeaten streak.
FC Cincinnati created several opportunities, but Lilley’s defense bunkered well and exposed FC Cincinnati on counter-attacking opportunities. The Orange & Blue dictated much of the play, but the two chances were a product of preventable opportunities. This was a battle of two good teams and the return match on August 24th should be an enticing affair.
MOTM: Sean Okoli – Okoli tried every trick in his arsenal to get shots on target. He finally broke through on the PK and could have equalized several other times.
Omar Cummings: I hate to say that another lineup change is in order, but Omar Cummings continues to impress me. His crosses could be a little stronger, but he works well with the rest of the team in offensive combinations. I’m not sure who you take off, but it seems to me that he deserves more time.
Up Next: Saint Louis FC (6-4-4) – Saturday, 8:30 p.m. EST
FC Cincinnati will travel to Saint Louis for a Saturday night match vs. USL Western Conference foe Saint Louis FC. STLFC sits in sixth place in the Western Conference on 22 points. Like most Western Conference teams, they can score goals (25), but also allow their fair share (19). Saint Louis FC is having a more successful year over 2015, notching 25 goals to their 30 last season and sitting higher in the rankings (9th in 2015). The second year side has some good young talent and will provide a stern test for FC Cincinnati.