FC Cincinnati travels to the Steel City to take on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC for their 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup third round match. Much is on the line as the winner will most likely meet a Major League Soccer franchise in the fourth round of the competition. Check out our 5 Things to Know for Wednesday night’s match.
Where: Pittsburgh, PA – Highmark Stadium
When: Wednesday, May 23rd at 7:00 p.m. EST
2018 Form: FC Cincinnati – 1st Place (6W-2L-2D, 20 pts. USL), Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – 4th Place (4W-0L-5D, 17 pts. USL)
Last Round: FC Cincinnati – Defeated Detroit City 4-1 a.e.t, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Defeated Erie Commodores 2-1.
5 Things to Know
Formation: FC Cincinnati could have Pittsburgh to credit for leading to its offensive explosion. During their match on April 21, with the lack of offensive productivity, head coach Alan Koch was forced to abandon his solo-striker 4-2-3-1 and shift into the current 4-4-2 formation. That move has seen Cincy score 15 goals in its past five league matches. Whether due to the scouting report or roster limitations due to the five-international player rule in the Open Cup, Koch elected to roll out the 4-2-3-1 to mixed success vs. Detroit last week. The three-goal burst in extra time probably had something to do with the tired legs of DCFC and a key substitution of Corben Bone after the 60th minute. Koch’s 4-4-2 has scored a bunch but has conceded nine times in the past five compared to the 4-2-3-1’s three over the first four USL matches and DCFC. So what will Koch elect to do on Wednesday? The tried and true 4-4-2 or perhaps the more compact road-wise 4-2-3-1?
The Orange & Blue XI: If you review FC Cincinnati’s Starting XI from Saturday, several players look like locks to start on Wednesday. Jimmy McLaughlin, Emery Welshman, and Michael Lahoud all featured in sub roles on Saturday but should be expected to start in Pittsburgh. If Koch employs the 4-2-3-1, look for Daniel Haber or Russell Cicerone to start on the right wing, paired with Matt Bahner at right back. The situation gets a little murky in the #10 role. It’s expected that Will Seymore will start behind the CAM, but with last Wednesday’s starter Nazmi Albadawi and substitute #10 Bone both going the full 90′ on the weekend, who plays? My gut says Bone, because he is the closest thing to Superman that Cincinnati can offer. The starting keeper is in question, but I would guess Spencer Richey sitting behind center backs Forrest Lasso and Paddy Barrett. Depending on his fitness, I’d expect to see Lance Laing at left back, but if he can’t go, Blake Smith could probably make an appearance there.
Home Cooking: Pittsburgh has remained undefeated at home in 2018. Posting three wins and two draws in USL has been impressive, but not earth-shattering considering their opponents make up four of the bottom five USL Eastern Conference clubs. In 2017, home sides won 54 percent of the time in the third round. That number jumps to 75 percent when the pairing includes two pro teams. Couple these stats and Pittsburgh’s home form, and a win will be a tough task on Wednesday.
Rotation: As outlined above, I think FC Cincinnati will have a lineup that features less than a handful of normal “starters” but still should be enough to compete and win vs. the Riverhounds. If previous lineups indicate anything, I’d expect head coach Bob Lilley to run out several mainstays but also sprinkle in several players lower on his depth chart. Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Neco Brett, Tobi Adewole and Kevin Kerr have appeared in every match for Pitt including last week’s midweek USOC match. All four of them are likely to start as Brett and Adewole started on the bench vs. Tampa on the weekend. While not as “deep” as Cincy, Pitt was able to rotate quite a few bodies with at least five players from last Wednesday’s squad dressing but not playing in Tampa.
Send a Message: The clearest stat for this “rivalry” is that Pittsburgh has never beaten FC Cincinnati. In 2016 FCC won twice and drew once, in 2017 FCC won once and drew the other before the clubs drew one another in early April. The 2018 version of the Riverhounds is much improved, but the message a win could send would be huge. Cincinnati could make a win a soul-crushing defeat for a club desperately trying to turn their fortunes around. The stakes are high with a likely MLS opponent ahead and with bragging rights attached, the fan bases will really want that W. Should Cincinnati give Pitt their first defeat in 2018, it could really give FCC some momentum going forward.
TV: This contest is set for a 7:00 p.m. EST kickoff on Wednesday night. USSoccer.com should offer a stream of the match around game time.
Stay tuned to our Twitter handle – @CincySoccerTalk, for updated information.