FC Cincinnati was defeated 2-0 by Crystal Palace FC of the English Premier League in front of a capacity crowd of 35,061 at Nippert Stadium on Saturday evening. The exhibition match was the first international friendly that the first year USL club have hosted.
John Harkes started a squad that featured many of his most heavily utilized players this season. Team captain Austin Berry, who has been recovering from a long lasting thigh strain injury, started the match. Omar Cummings also started at forward, pairing with lead striker Sean Okoli. Cummings has featured as a substitute for most of the season, but started and featured in last Saturday’s win against Saint Louis FC. England native, Paul Nicholson got the nod in central midfield in place of regular starter Corben Bone.
Goalkeeper: Mitch Hildebrandt
Back Line: Tyler Polak, Harrison Delbridge, Austin Berry, Pat McMahon
Midfielders: Jimmy McLaughlin, Kenney Walker, Paul Nicholson, Andrew Wiedeman
Forwards: Ugo Okoli, Omar Cummings
Crystal Palace featured a starting lineup with several changes from their first preseason match against the Philadelphia Union. Key inclusions in Alan Pardew’s 4-2-3-1 formation were Damien Delaney, Wilfred Zaha and Frazier Campbell.
Crystal Palace started well and didn’t waste much time delivering the game’s first goal. In the 8th minute of play, Palace defender Hiram Boateng penetrated deep into FC Cincinnati’s half of the field. He made an entry pass to Frasier Campbell who stretched to lay the ball off to an approaching Jordan Mutch. Mutch took a touch and delivered a powerful curling shot into the top left corner of the goal from 25 yards.
Crystal Palace had marginally better possession and created quality chances in the first half but FC Cincinnati acquitted themselves well and created several opportunities of their own. FC Cincinnati had a fantastic chance to equalize in the 44th minute when Omar Cummings side volleyed a shot on goal from close range. The shot was superbly parried away by Palace goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and the half ended 1-0.
As expected both teams made several substitutions at half. FC Cincinnati introduced Evan Lee, Omar Mohomed, Francisco Narbon, Eric Stevenson, Derek Luke, Ross Tomaselli and Dallas Jaye. Crystal Palace also introduced several substitutes with Scott Dann and new signing Andros Townsend highlighting their changes.
The Orange and Blue had another great chance to equalize in the 46th minute when a ball fell to Jimmy McLaughlin in the box following a move he started on FCC’s left side. McLaughlin had space and time to connect with the shot but sent it high and wide right and the opportunity was missed.
FCC again came close to scoring in the 51st minute when Cummings found Omar Mohomed in the six yard box with his back to goal. He was able to turn in tight quarters and strike the ball but goalkeeper McCarthy was on top of him and smothered the opportunity.
Palace doubled their lead in the 63rd minute when Wilfred Zaha found space on the left side of the FC Cincinnati’s box. He dribbled to beat Mohomed, then fizzed a low strike to the far post past substitute keeper Dallas Jaye and into the net.
Coach Harkes continued with substitutions in the second half, making sure as many players as possible got the experience to play against their Premier League guest. One player that made a key contribution was FC Cincinnati’s third string goalkeeper Dan Williams, who had 3 saves and made a highlight reel stop to deny an Andros Townsend strike in the 77th minute. Derek Luke also had an 85th minute free kick that was well taken and nearly got the hometown side on the board.
The match finished with FC Cincinnati having 12 shots on goal to Crystal Palace’s 15, both teams managing 5 strikes on target. The phenomenal crowd of 35,061 made this match’s audience the largest to ever see a soccer match played in the state of Ohio.
This exhibition overall was a fantastic event that highlighted the passion and energy that has developed around FC Cincinnati and professional soccer in the Queen City.
Crystal Palace’s manager, Alan Pardew, summarized this sentiment well after the match. “The whole time we have been here has been energized. Personally, I really hope that we can come back here. If it’s not next year, then soon. It’s terrific and we can help push this club up a division. I’ve never experienced the reaction I got from this club anywhere else.”
FC Cincinnati embarks on a 3 game home stand over the next 11 days that will prove vital in defining their USL season. The first match is Wednesday, July 20th against second place New York Red Bulls II. That match is then followed by key matches against Louisville City FC and the Charleston Battery. Stayed tuned to Cincinnati Soccer talk for news, previews, match coverage and analysis this week.