Match Day 5: FC Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH – Attendance 24,505
Result: FC Cincinnati: 2 – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: 2
FC Cincinnati had a chance to set a new club record for best the five-match start on Saturday evening with a win vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The club began its 2016 campaign with nine points through their first five and the 2018 version of the Orange and Blue sat on seven points through its first four matches.
Head coach Alan Koch rolled out additional changes to his starting XI vs. a squad who had not conceded a goal in its first four USL contests. Jimmy McLaughlin and Danni König started their first matches of the 2018 season, with Lance Laing returning to the XI in the left back role.
This was USL legend Bob Lilley’s first trip to Nippert Stadium as the manager of Pittsburgh. Lilley formerly managed the Rochester Rhinos and had yet to lose to an FC Cincinnati squad in four matches. His Riverhounds entered the Queen City playing Lilley’s traditional defensive style with several tweaks to improve their offense.
His group struck early into the match, seeing the visitors take a 1-0 lead. FC Cincinnati center back Forrest Lasso attempted a clearance off a long over-the-top ball from Thomas Vancaeyezeele. Lasso’s header to Laing was stolen by Jordan Dover. Dover drove by Laing and unleashed a shot from 15 yards out to the back left post past a diving Evan Newton. While Lasso would probably like a do-over on his clearance, the opportunity to clear most likely should have handled by Laing, who was dispossessed.
While out-possessing and out-passing Pittsburgh in the first half, FC Cincinnati struggled to create quality chances. Costly turnovers in the midfield and difficulties playing through overlapping runs or creative passing triangles saw FC Cincinnati pick up only a couple shots. The organized defense of Pittsburgh and its ability to cover the passing channels led to many issues in Koch’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
The squad was noticeably disappointed in the first half and with some tactical adjustments, came out on the front foot in the second half. Koch ran out a new gameplan in the second half after difficulties in the first.
“We took the script at halftime and threw it out. We changed everything” said Koch.
The second-year manager pushed his numbers centrally and relied on his fullbacks to provide width in what looked to be a 4-1-2-1-2/4-3-1-2 setup. Midfielder Richie Ryan dropped to just above the back four with Corben Bone and Nazmi Albadawi ahead of him. Right winger Emmanuel Ledesma joined König as a striker with left winger McLaughlin sitting behind them as a playmaker.
The change was immediate with FCC lobbing a couple chances in the opening minutes of the half. König notched his first goal of the 2018 campaign in the 59th minute. Midfielder Corben Bone attempted a header from distance that fell to Vancaeyezeele. The Riverhounds rookie coughed it right back up to Bone who laid off a through ball right of center to König. The USL veteran took a quick touch to his right and snapped off a shot hard left to the back post past Pitt keeper Dan Lynd. König’s 12th goal now brings him four off the all-time club record of 16 goals scored by a player (Sean Okoli and Djiby Fall).
Pittsburgh was not done as the tide turned for the shortest of moments. A Thomas Vancaeyezeele goal in the 73rd saw Pittsburgh take a shortly-held lead. Justin Hoyte was dispossessed in the middle-right half of FCC. The Riverhounds quick counter was played to former Rochester Rhino Kenardo Forbes who drove to the end line and served up a ball to the Frenchman. Vancaeyezeele one-touched the shot past Newton and then immediately ran to the opposite side of the field to celebrate with the Steel Army.
FC Cincinnati sub Kenney Walker played the part of hero after replacing McLaughlin in the second half. A beautiful long ball from Lasso sprung Ledesma on the left side of the pitch. The Argentine drove to the end line and cut a ball back towards the penalty spot for Albadawi, whose shot was blocked by a Pitt defender. Albadawi’s attempt deflected to Walker at the top of the box and the midfielder slotted it home to bring the score to 2-2.
Both squads would attempt chances late in the match, with none falling. FC Cincinnati looked to have run out of steam towards the end of regulation but should feel a sense of accomplishment after fighting back from being down twice in the match. While the “best start” record will have to be broken in future years, FCC should be happy after finding their attacking stride in the second half.
Slow Start- Coach Koch made a mention in his press conference that FCC would have won if they would have played a full 90 minutes. Are we seeing motivational issues again in 2018 or is the squad unfamiliar with their roles given to them when on the field? While the team has mentioned that they are a new group, it is time to stop using this rationale for finding themselves down in matches. Pittsburgh has undergone a similar roster rebuild with a new coach and they looked to control play many times during the first half. There is enough quality on this team to win this type of match and I don’t see a lack of hustle or spirit that was apparent in 2017.
Defensive Miscues- Errors from fullbacks Hoyte and Laing were direct causes of Pittsburgh’s goals. Koch has asked a lot of these positions in 2018 and wants this group to cover large plots of space. Both Hoyte and Laing looked gassed in this match which led to some poor turnovers and scoring chances. The back four must clean up these costly mistakes, as Pittsburgh made the Orange and Blue pay.
Ledesma Centrally- Saturday’s second half may have been the best 45′ put in by Ledesma this season. The Argentine looked comfortable and seemed to be involved on many contested balls or creative plays. I really like his pairing with König, who had to leave the match early with an ankle injury. Ledesma was able to get into more into the match in his central location during the second half and I hope he is employed there more this season. With several options on the wings including Haber, McLaughlin, Cicerone, Laing and perhaps Welshman, I would hope he sees time in the second striker role.
6’ – PGH – Jordan Dover
59’ – CIN – Danni König (Corben Bone)
73’ – PGH – Thomas Vancaeyezeele (Kenardo Forbes)
78’ – CIN – Kenney Walker
FC Cincinnati Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Evan Newton (GK); Lance Laing, Dekel Keinan, Forrest Lasso, Justin Hoyte; Richie Ryan, Corben Bone; Jimmy McLaughlin (70′), Nazmi Albadawi, Emmanuel Ledesma, Danni König (79′)
Subs: Spencer Richey (GK); Paddy Barrett, Emery Welshman (11’+), Matt Bahner, Daniel Haber, Kenney Walker (20’+), Russell Cicerone
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Starting XI (5-3-1-1): Dan Lynd (GK); Ray Lee, Tobi Adewole, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Todd Pratzner, Jordan Dover; Kevin Kerr (60′), Mouhamed Dabo, Ben Zemanski (60′); Kenardo Forbes (81′); Nico Brett
Subs: Kyle Morton (GK), Dennis Chin, Christiano Francois (30’+), Bakie Goodman, Joe Holland, Andrew Lubahn (9’+), Hugh Roberts (30’+)
FC Cincinnati at Ottawa Fury FC – Sat. April 28th – 2:00 p.m. – TD Place, Ontario.