Not all wins are pretty, but good teams find a way to collect points. Tonight, FC Cincinnati snapped back from 2 back to back losses and a 4 game winless streak. Usually when we talk about late goals, we talk about Cincinnati conceding them, but tonight, the Orange and Blue treated the home town crowd to a stoppage time PK to clinch 3 points mere seconds before the final whistle.
Coach Harkes returned to his 4-3-3 formation from the beginning of the season. Perhaps trying to get back to the winning ways that had been eluding the team. The line up was almost identical to the line up from the beginning of the season.
McMahon Delbridge Berry Polak
Bone Wiedeman Walker
Ripoll Okoli McLaughin
The only differences being Wiedeman moving into the middle and Ripoll stepping on in the right wing position.
The boys looked good and dominated most of the first half. They possessed, and when they turned over the ball, they collectively pressured to get the ball back. Mitch had a very relaxed first half. St. Louis only managed to take a single shot. FCC spent the majority of the time pressing into St. Louis’ half of the field. They had many opportunities but simple couldn’t find the back of the net. The energy was high and near misses from Okoli, Wiedeman and McLaughlin made it feel like “when” they would score, rather than “if”.
The second half seemed more flat. The energy level seemed to drop off quickly and the boys allowed St. Louis to get more opportunities and control over the game. FCC still were clearly the better team, but as the minutes ticked by, the crowd was obviously starting to feel concern. Opportunities weren’t coming like the first half. Coach Harkes seemed to want to hold onto his starting 11 as they had been so effective in the first half. Late in the second half, though, it became obvious that Cincinnati needed some changes. The Gaffer made 2 substitutions aimed at bolstering his attack.
71′ – SUBSTITUTION: Stevenson for Walker
81′ – SUBSTITUTION: Spencer for McLaughlin
Finally, in the 84th minute, it paid off. Bone played in a ball to Okoli who laid it out wide to Ripoll. Ripoll placed a nice cross to the far post where Wiedeman headed it down. Pais made the dive but Okoli got a foot on the ball and redirected it over Pais and into goal.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) September 5, 2016
Unfortunately, we’ve seen Cincinnati lose focus late in games or after scoring goals. In this case, it was both. In only a minute, St. Louis equalized. St. Louis pressed and after Mitch cleared the ball, it fell to the top of the box to St. Louis. Doddy hammered it home with a bouncing volley past a “sea of blue”.
But unlike many games this season, this was not the end. The crowd was feeling the energy and started clapping and chanting and pushing the Orange and Blue to find victory. Cincinnati pressed and squeezed and finally got a bit of luck with seconds left in stoppage time. St. Louis’ Musa attempted to head a dangerous ball past the end line but was judged to have handled the ball in the process. Okoli stepped up to the spot and netted his 14th goal propelling him up the standings to second in the golden boot race.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) September 5, 2016
The center restarted the game but with only a few seconds left, St. Louis had effectively already lost the match.
This was a huge victory for FC Cincinnati. A confidence boost for sure, but also to keep their position in the playoff rankings. 2nd place is likely out a reach now, but Cincinnati still wants to ensure they get their first playoff game at home. They have 4 games remaining to build to the playoffs. This was certainly the game they needed to kick that off right.
Make sure you turn out at one of FCC’s Pub Partners to support the team on the road!
Tonight’s attendance was 17,415. Being Labor Day weekend and considering the stifling humidity, this was pretty good. Cincinnati had an accumulated attendance total of 217,646 in their previous 13 USL regular season home matches. Tonight’s match brings the total to 235,061. FCC already announced that we’ve sold 10k tickets to the last home match on Saturday, September 17th. A little birdie told Cincinnati Soccer Talk that we’ve already sold 15k tickets to that match. Make sure you’re part of history when Cincinnati is the first team ever to break a quarter million tickets sold during the regular season. Buy your tickets now….
Eastern Conference Standings:
It’s been a busy week in the USL Eastern Conference. New York defeated Bethlehem on Sunday and cemented a position in the top 4 and thus guarantee their first playoff game is at home. Both Canadian teams lost their bids for the playoffs. Montreal fell to Louisville on Saturday and Toronto fell to Charlotte on Sunday. Charlotte, Rochester and Charleston all cemented playoff positions as well leaving only a single spot left among the 5 remaining teams.
Cincinnati had been struggling as of late and had fallen to 6th place without the win tonight. Defeating St. Louis propelled the Orange and Blue back into the 3rd spot but only 2 points separate the #3 and #6 teams. A single loss can turn home field advantage into an away game. FCC needs to stay sharp and pick up points in every remaining game.