Your hometown club FC Cincinnati (16-6-8, 56 pts.) finished in 3rd place in the USL Eastern Conference and will host a first round playoff match in their Inaugural Season. Cincinnati Soccer Talk will be releasing content all week for Sunday’s match, but we thought a simple USL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals preview would kick off the week on the right foot. Check out our previews below and look out for more stories as the week progresses.
2016 USL CUP PLAYOFFS – EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS (higher seeds host)
Saturday, Oct. 1
No. 4 Rochester Rhinos vs. No. 5 Charlotte Independence, 6:05 p.m. ET
Sunday, Oct. 2
No. 1 New York Red Bulls II vs. No. 8 Orlando City B, 4 p.m. ET
No. 3 FC Cincinnati vs. No. 6 Charleston Battery, 4 p.m. ET
No. 2 Louisville City FC vs. No. 7 Richmond Kickers, 7 p.m. ET
No. 4 Rochester Rhinos (13-5-12, 51 pts.) vs. No. 5 Charlotte Independence (14-8-8, 50 pts.), 6:05 p.m. ET
Rochester is undefeated in their last 9 matches and are coming into Saturday’s tilt vs. Charlotte riding high after a 1-0 victory vs. Toronto. Charlotte ended their season with a 1-1 draw in Louisville and have struggled to find the net in their last three matches scoring the lone goal against LouCity. This is a rematch of their penultimate game of the year two weeks ago where Rochester went on the road to defeate Charlotte 1-0 in Ramblewood Stadium.
Charlotte was thought to have been one of the hottest teams coming into the playoffs after a 3 game winning streak. The streak which included a 3-2 win over FC Cincinnati, came to a halt as the Independence couldn’t pick up a victory against fellow playoff opposition in their last 3 games.
The Rhinos are glad to return to the confines of Rhino’s Stadium where they have only been defeated twice on the season. Rochester has had a change of form over 2015 which saw them drop 1 match all year. Bob Lilley’s squad will provide a challenge for all offenses as they are stingy in allowing opportunities and will look to spring on the counter immediately.
Player to Watch: Enzo Martinez: Charlotte Independence (9 Goals, 5 Assists)
Martinez provided a late season spark for the Independence. The attacking midfielder notched 4 goals in their final 9 games, notably dominating the midfield vs. FC Cincinnati. If Martinez can connect with Brian Brown up top, Charlotte has a chance for a road victory.
No. 1 New York Red Bulls II (21-3-6, 69 pts.) vs. No. 8 Orlando City B (9-13-8, 35 pts.), 4 p.m. ET
Let’s face it, NYRB II dominated USL play in 2016. With the exception of a blip on their schedule in late July, the Baby Bulls thrashed their opposition winning 9 of their last 10 matches. Orlando City B clinched their spot in the post season on the final match day defeating Bethlehem Steel FC on the road 2-0.
Orlando has at times looked stout, and other times looked lethargic and without a plan. They clung to the 8th position in the table for quite a while, but had to get three points on Sunday as Wilmington pulled the upset off in Richmond. The Young Lions will be out-manned in this match and will need a big contribution from leading scored Michael Cox.
New York Red Bulls II has been involved in some controversy this week in regards to their playoffs hosting status. NYRB II has been at or near the bottom in USL attendance in 2016 drawing on average less than 1,000 fans per game with the highest being 2,414 vs. FC Cincinnati in late August. USL has changed its previous policy of letting the highest remaining seed host the USL final, but due to a new “minimum attendance standard” New York may have to travel if they make the USL final.
Led by RBNY (MLS) loanees Brandon Allen, Derrick Etienne Jr., Ryan Meara and Tyler Adams, RBNY II has combined for the best defense and offense in the league. Don’t let their padded goal differential fool you, they handily defeated lower table teams, but had closer results against playoff opponents.
Player to Watch: Brandon Allen: New York Red Bulls II (15 Goals, 4 Assists)
This was a tough call since there are many studs on NYRB II. Allen was their leading scorer in 2016 and offers a big target for Etienne and crew to work off. The striker is quick with the ball and will look to put it in the net immediately or dish it to the many runners he will have coming forward.
No. 3 FC Cincinnati (16-6-8, 56 pts.) vs. No. 6 Charleston Battery (13-8-9, 48 pts.), 4 p.m. ET
With over 15,000 tickets sold in the first 7 days, the City of Cincinnati is ready for this moment. All fans are encouraged to wear white to the match and to come prepared to lose their voice and make Nippert a fortress in the playoffs. Cincinnati Soccer Talk will cover the match in greater detail later in the week, so here is some simple analysis for you to feed on.
Charleston is where it all began for FC Cincinnati. Romario Williams scored the deciding goal at the death in FC Cincinnati’s first match down in SC. The Battery also drew FCC in Nippert back in July, but both teams are decidedly different since that tilt. Midfielder Justin Portillo is out with injury and Williams may suffer from being out last week due to the birth of his child. Atlanta United Loanees Jeremy Ebobisse, Jeffrey Otoo, Andrew Carleton and Goalkeeper Alex Tambakis have all featured in the last month, but it will be interesting to see how they will be applied in this match.
FC Cincinnati has struggled offensively in the last two month averaging 1.2 goals per match and will need to improve upon that to have a realistic chance of advancing. They have improved defensively allowing less than a goal per game in that time frame including shutting out their opponents in the last 4 matches. FC Cincinnati is as healthy as they can get without Omar Cummings and will have to dictate play vs. a stout and big Charleston defense.
Players to Watch: Shawn Ferguson and Taylor Mueller (Central Defenders)
These are the players who may give FC Cincinnati the biggest headaches. We have seen FC Cincinnati try long ball tactics if things are not going their way offensively and these two trees will be able to handle that. These Charleston vets can also contribute on corners and free kicks in the Cincinnati area, so Berry and Delbridge will have to remain organized on these opportunities.
No. 2 Loisville City FC (17-4-9, 60 pts.) vs. No. 7 Richmond Kickers (12-9-9, 45 pts.), 7 p.m. ET
This match will feature the potential FC Cincinnati opponent should the Orange & Blue advance vs. Charleston. LouCity holds the season advantage with a 2-0 victory at home and a 0-0 draw in Legion Stadium. Louie-ville drew Charlotte 1-1 this weekend but had it not been for (terrible) USL officiating, should have lost 2-1 on a stoppage time goal. Richmond were decidedly upset at home in what could have been the Wilmington Hammerheads final match as a USL Club.
Richmond ended their season on a big down note losing three and drawing two in their last five. Their offense dried up with the Kickers only scoring 2. That may be indicative of reality as Richmond has the lowest amount of goals scored of all Eastern Conference playoff teams. Defense is their strength and they should look to remain compact on the small Louisville Slugger (baseball field) pitch as their 26 goals against ranks third in the USL Eastern Conference.
Loserville ended their season with a 4 win, 5 game unbeaten streak and are looking to capitalize in their 2nd season. If you take out their 5-1 road win vs. Saint Louis FC, LouCity has had a down-tick in offensive production. They are averaging 1 goal per match in their last 10 (not including STLFC), which was well off their almost 2 goals per average early in 2016. Their most potent attacker in Chandler Hoffman hasn’t put one in the back of the net in his last 10 matches and Coach O’Connor will need him to get past the stingy Richmond D.
Player to Watch: Chandler Hoffman: Lousy-ville City FC (14 Goals)
As previously stated, Hoffman is on a scoring drought, but that was nearly ended on Saturday. He contributed to the tying effort as his shot was deflected in for a own-goal. If Hoffman doesn’t get going, LouCity may have a short post season.
Playoff Week Coverage
Make sure to follow CincinnatiSoccerTalk.com all week for up to date information on FC Cincinnati and the USL Playoffs! We will be publishing daily content so all FC Cincinnati fans can be prepared for Sunday’s match. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @cincysoccertalk and on our Facebook Page Facebook.com/cincinnatisoccertalk/. We will release our Player of the Year Fan Vote on Wednesday morning’s Podcast along with other Yearly Awards later in the week.