USL Cup Playoffs 1st Round: FC Cincinnati at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Al Lang Stadium – Attendance: 6,104
A memorable 2017 season for FC Cincinnati came up short of the desired goal as the Orange & Blue fell to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USL Cup Playoffs. Individual moments of brilliance highlighted the evening as Tampa Bay notched their first-ever USL playoff victory in a dominating 3-0 route if Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati looked to have carried some momentum into the match from last week’s win over Toronto. Some decent midfield buildup from Kenney Walker and Corben Bone out to the wings brought two decent scoring chances in the first several minutes.
The momentum would be brought to a halt in the eighth minute as a Tampa Bay counter caught FCC off guard. Left winger Georgi Hristov gathered a long ball up the left flank and beat an oncoming Harrison Delbridge. Hristov sprung midfielder Marcel Schäfer with a quick flick in front of a tracking right-back Justin Hoyte. The German found himself in position, as he never stopped his run after Hoyte backed off due to assuming Delbridge had stopped Hristov. That error allowed Schäfer enough space to launch a shot which would beat FC Cincinnati keeper Mitch Hildebrandt low and left. The ball did hit Mitch’s left hand, but the stopper couldn’t keep the hard shot out.
FC Cincinnati battled back in the 11th-minute as left winger Jimmy McLaughlin had perhaps the best chance for Cincinnati on the night. The Pennsylvania native collected a turnover on the left and held off a defender as he dribbled about 30 yards before unleashing a shot just inches off Tampa Bay keeper Matt Pickens far post. That ball skimmed wide on what was one of McLaughlin’s team-leading four shots for the match.
Things went from hopeful to troublesome with another moment of brilliance from Schäfer. The Rowdies had built up on their right side of the pitch and noticed Cincinnati had shifted well to the ball side of the field. A challenge between Rowdies defender Hunter Gorskie and Danni König saw the ball spill left to Schäfer who made one touch with his left foot before beating Hildebrandt to his far post It looked as if Schäfer saw Mitch cheating near side as puts the ball into the left side.
After the second goal, the tactical plan that Coach Alan Koch implemented early on seemed abandoned with FC Cincinnati resorting to the long ball and offering two shots off-target for the remainder of the half. Those two shots were attempted by FCC forward Djiby Fall, who struggled to receive any service and resorted to falling deep in the midfield to gain any touches.
As the second half began, the distance between the midfield and attack seemed like a canyon. The 4-4-2 that found so much success in Toronto did not work as Tampa Bay effectively filled the passing lanes and cut off any threat of Cincinnati attack. Both Cincinnati forwards Djiby and Danni König had issues working off one another, resulting in Koch pulling his Senegalese attacker in the 62nd-minute
Tampa Bay finally put the dagger into the heart as the club’s leading striker, Georgi Hristov, put in a class strike. The winger received the ball 25 yards out and sent a right-footed curler into the net. Hildebrandt seemed to move to the far side on the strike and was caught off balance as Hristov’s bender went near post putting the Rowdies up three.
That final goal was all she wrote for FC Cincinnati, head hung low, and the Orange & Blue did everything they could just to get off the field. One bright spot from late in the match was the play of substitute Kadeem Dacres. The right winger replaced Andrew Wiedeman and seemed to give Tampa Bay left back Zach Portillos all he could handle.
His efforts were not enough as Ralph’s Mob provided enough support to see their home side through to the USL Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Where Were our Impact Subs – When FC Cincinnati went down two goals, who did Coach Koch have to call on to make a difference? At the core of our problems was the reliability of players not in the starting XI. FC Cincinnati was able to bring in Dacres to try and change the pace of the match. Dacres is a good player in his own right, but this is a problem FCC will have to address in the offseason.
Had to Stop Their Elite Duo – As said on the podcast and in our preview, you had to play a full 90 minutes and contain Joe Cole and Marcel Schäfer. The latter of the two punished FCC for their defensive breakdowns and lack of focus. Jeff Berding and Alan Koch will need to find players with the mentality to see through these type of matches in the future.
Different FC Cincinnati Ahead – Points A & B above show the need for improvement. In five months there will be a significantly different squad wearing the Orange & Blue. FC Cincinnati will most likely know their MLS future by then, and some players will be banging on the door to sign up. Yes, we have many fan favorites now, but don’t expect a majority of them to be brought back in 2018. However sad that may make us, significant changes are ahead.
FC Cincinnati Starting XI (4-4-2): Hildebrandt (GK), (L-R) Polak(79′), Delbridge, Berry, Hoyte; McLaughlin, Bone, Walker, Wiedeman (57′); Djiby (62′), König
Subs: Jaye (GK), Bahner, de Wit, Dacres (57’+), Greig (62’+), Halfhill, Quinn (79’+)
Tampa Bay Rowdies Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Pickens (GK), (L-R) Portillos, Collins, Gorskie, King; Schäfer (90’+2′), Vingaard; Hristov (74′), Cole, Restrepo (86′); Guenzatti
Subs: Fitzgerald (GK); Mkandawire, Jones (74’+), Morrell, Chavez (90’+), Nanchoff (86’+), Paterson
8’ Schäfer (TBR)
— Tampa Bay Rowdies (@TampaBayRowdies) October 21, 2017
25’ Schäfer (TBR)
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) October 22, 2017
67’ Hristov (TBR)
— Tampa Bay Rowdies (@TampaBayRowdies) October 22, 2017