FC Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: 7 Things to Know
FC Cincinnati travels to the Steel City on Wednesday night to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Pittsburgh (6-16-5) sits in last place in the USL Eastern Conference, while FC Cincinnati (14-6-7) is hoping to maintain their third place position and lock up a home USL playoff game. Check out 7 things we feel you should know going into Wednesday’s match.
Home Playoff Game – FC Cincinnati could find out as early as Wednesday night if they will be hosting their first-ever USL playoff game. With a win, FCC would be at the 52 point mark whereas the 5th & 6th placed teams can only earn 51 points. Cincinnati would lock up the first round game in Nippert on October 2nd with a win accompanied by a Charlotte win/draw at Richmond. It will be a race to the finish, but the Orange & Blue can help end those fears with a win on Wednesday and some help in Richmond.
Zack Steffen & Crew SC Loanees – Ohio soccer fans will have the chance to see some familiar faces in Crew SC loanees to the Riverhounds. Newly signed goalkeeper Zack Steffen, midfielder Christian Martinez and defender Marshall Hollingsworth have all featured for Pittsburgh recently while on loan from their parent club. Steffen has stepped into the starting role over the last 6 matches with a .714 save % and his first clean sheet two weeks ago. Martinez came off the bench over the weekend for Pitt, but may return to Crew SC to make up for injuries and suspensions in the midfield.
Pittsburgh Motivation – Pittsburgh is nearly out of the playoff picture. They sit last place in the USL Eastern Conference and need a miracle to capture a Top 8 spot. The Riverhounds had put in a good stretch of points in their last 6 games including 3 wins and 1 draw. Their 4-0 loss last week in Charlotte pretty much did them in and now we’ll see how much effort they can drum up for a “rivalry” game vs. FC Cincinnati.
Okoli Charges to the Golden Boot – Fans of FC Cincinnati have more than just the final stretch of matches to be excited about. Forward Sean Okoli is now tied for the lead in the race for the USL Golden Boot. The Golden Boot is given to the leagues top scorer. Okoli is tied with former LA Galaxy II player Jack McBean with 15 goals this season. Based on USLSoccer.com, Okoli would win based on having more assists than McBean (3 vs. 2). Irvin Herrera (STLFC), Chandler Hoffman (LouCity) are 1 back of Okoli, but Ugo will have 3 matches left vs. 2 for each of those respective players.
New man for FC Cincinnati – Last Thursday, FC Cincinnati announced the addition of veteran Forward Casey Townsend. After additional clarification from FC Cincinnati Director of Communications D.J. Switzer, Townsend was indeed acquired before last Tuesday’s USL roster freeze and will be eligible for action in Pittsburgh. Townsend could be the added firepower Cincy was needing to put them over the top in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see who the former Wilmington man could replace in the XI or 18 after less than productive years in Wilmington & Oklahoma City with 3 goals in total. However a change of scenery has been known to boost the level of athletes and I am very excited to see another former MLS player in a Cincinnati jersey.
First Trip to Pittsburgh – Wednesday will mark Cincinnati’s first road trip up to the Steel City. If you are one of the lucky ones to be able to travel to Pittsburgh midweek, you will also encounter the Riverhounds supporters group, the Steel Army. The Steel Army will make themselves known by sitting behind the goal on the riverside of Highmark Stadium. Either Mitch Hildebrandt who left Saturday’s game early or backup Dallas Jaye will have to contend with these rowdy fans who I hope will bring some noise to make this potential rivalry more special in the future.
In Comparison – At the beginning of this season several of us predicted that a 3-6 place finish (currently 3rd) in the USL Eastern Conference would be a great accomplishment for an inaugural club. LouCity finished in 2nd place with 48 points (28 games) in their first season last year. To put things into perspective, FC Cincinnati has actually garnered more points at this point compared to our southern rival in their inaugural season. With 49 points through 27 games, Coach Harkes and the squad should be proud. Take nothing away from Louisville last year, or the current FCC squad. This has been an impressive start to a growing franchise.
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Stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk for our Staff Predictions segment and Wednesday’s coverage of the Pittsburgh match.