Header image courtesy of Alex Vehr.
Third place FC Cincinnati (12-4-7, 43 points) takes on first place New York Red Bulls II (16-3-5, 53 points) on Sunday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Cincinnati Soccer Talk offers 7 things to know to get you ready for the match. We’re calling this segment “7 Things Plus” because we have included this weekend’s playoff scenarios as they pertain to FCC.
Drawn Again – The Orange and Blue played to a hard fought 1-1 draw against a Rochester Rhinos side that surprisingly took the attack to FC Cincinnati at Nippert. Harkes’ men have now drawn three of their last four games and need a win if they want to stay close to the Eastern Conference leaders. The Baby Bulls, in contrast, have won their past 4 matches, and netted 5 goals in a single game twice over that four match stretch.
Three in Eight – This game is the meat in the sandwich of a 3 game series that spans 8 days. The results of these matches will go a long way toward determining FC Cincinnati’s playoff position this season. FC Cincinnati has had two separate week-and-a-half breaks in August, so they should be rested and prepared for the task at hand.
Cummings Going? – FC Cincinnati forward Omar Cummings suffered a knee injury in Wednesday’s match against Rochester and will undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Everyone at Cincinnati Soccer Talk wishes him a speedy recovery and quick return to action. Coach Harkes commented on the injury in Wednesday’s post match press conference: “We’re just hoping he’s ok and we’re looking to get him back as soon as possible. He’s a very important part of the team.” As of Friday morning, there is no additional information on Cummings’ status, but it seems likely that he will miss this weekend’s action.
First Place Powerhouse – The Baby Bulls enter this weekend on a four-game win streak in which they have outscored their opponents 12-1. They have lost only 2 games since May 7, going 13-2-3 over 18 games. The Red Bulls defense leads the Eastern Conference and is second in USL with 18 goals allowed over 24 games. On paper, they look like the most complete team in the USL. This match will certainly provide a measuring stick for FC Cincinnati as they approach the last month of the USL regular season.
Danger Men – Forwards Brandon Allen and Junior Flemings have combined for 17 goals and 7 assists this season. Both players have scored 2 goals in the past 3 games. Mitch Hildebrandt and the FC Cincinnati defense will have their hands full trying to contain this offense on their home turf. A few other personnel notes from the New York side: Aaron Long has been a key player in defense for the Baby Bulls this season, and even started in the MLS Red Bulls recent CONCACAF Champions League game. Red Bull Academy product Noah Powder has broken into the first eleven and started the past two games at fullback. Defender Konrad Plewa, who suffered a stroke in July, has recently returned to training and may be available for the match.
Harkes Homecoming – This game is a homecoming for coach Harkes who is a native of Kearny, New Jersey. His hometown sits about 8 miles north of Harrison, New Jersey, where this match will be played. Harkes was also an assistant coach for the Red Bulls MLS side from 2006-2007. On returning home for this match Harkes commented: “I’m going to see a lot of familiar faces up there, and it would be nice to bring some good energy in there and shock them.”
Playoff Picture – FC Cincinnati has a chance to secure their playoff bid this weekend by beating Red Bulls II on Sunday. It’s also possible that they claim a spot based on how results play out in Saturday’s matches between the other playoff contenders. Let’s break the scenarios down in more detail.
FC Cincinnati currently has 43 points.
Bethlehem Steel has a potential max of 44 points.
Wilmington Hammerheads FC has a potential max of 43 points.
Those two teams could theoretically catch FC Cincinnati and prevent them from securing a playoff spot right now.
On Saturday, both Bethlehem and Wilmington face tough opponents. Bethlehem Steel plays Louisville City FC and Wilmington plays the Rochester Rhinos.
If both Bethlehem AND Wilmington do not WIN their games. They will drop potential max points and FC Cincinnati will secure a playoff spot.
Bethlehem potential max drops to 41 or 42.
Wilmington potential max drops to 40 or 41.
If FC Cincinnati wins Sunday, they secure a playoff spot.
FCC would have 46 points which is better than Bethlehem and Wilmington’s potential max.
If FC Cincinnati ties on Sunday AND Bethlehem do not WIN on Saturday, FCC secures a playoff spot.
FC Cincinnati will have 44 points and Bethlehem’s potential max drops to 41 or 42. They are also above the Wilmington potential max of 43.
Stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk for updates on FC Cincinnati’s playoff prospects as the weekend progresses.