Match Day 14: FC Cincinnati vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Nippert Stadium, OH
Result: FC Cincinnati: 2- Bethlehem Steel FC: 2
FC Cincinnati manages to remain at the top of the table after a disappointing 2-2 draw with Bethlehem Steel FC. After a beautiful win at North Carolina, the Orange and Blue were looking to capitalize and bring home another win.
The first half of the match started like any other – the Steel came out strong, dominating with possession. This domination kept FCC on their toes, but with such a strong hold on our midfield, FCC struggled to respond. But it didn’t last long. Around the 20’, Russell Cicerone drove at the box for a shot that was blocked by Steel keeper, John McCarthy.
At the 28’ minute, the Steel was able to capitalize, landing their first shot of the match. Steel FC’s Derrick Jones found himself on the fortunate end of a loose ball inside the FC Cincinnati penalty area. His shot managed to find the far corner easily beating FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Evan Newton. FC Cincinnati Captain Dekel Keinan managed to injure himself when he went to block Jones’s effort. Keinan went down in the box, seemingly injured, before returning to play. The Orange and Blue were eager to equalize. Minutes later, midfielder Nazmi Albadawi took a shot that was saved by McCarthy.
In the 26’ minute, FCC used their first substitution, with Forrest Lasso coming in for Keinan. Keinan cited after the match that he went out voluntarily due to a groin strain.
By the end of the first half, FCC was still down by 1, and the disappointment could be heard through the stands. The officials missed several close calls, and the poor judgment was obvious.
The momentum shifted in the second half; it was easy to tell that FC Cincinnati was prepared to dominate and match. By the 50’ minute, a Olivier Mbaizo dragged down midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin, throwing a hand in his face as McLaughlin stood. This action elicited boos from all over the stadium. The official blew his whistle and presented a yellow card in warning, but Mbazio didn’t stop there. The Steel youngster got a hand around McLaughlin’s neck before the official pushed him back.
After the second touch, Mbazio then head-butted Albadawi, pushing him back. This caused the official to issue a red card, ejecting Mbazio from the match, to the joy of the Bailey.
The Steel were forced to play a man down for the rest of the match, a disadvantage that FCC was able to capitalize on by the 65’. After a few sloppy passes by the defense, Albadawi was able to equalize with a shot right down the middle. The fans weren’t even done celebrating before Russell Cicerone scored to give FCC the lead in the 68’. Cicerone headed the ball into the net after a beautiful cross from defender Blake Smith. This was Cicerone’s first goal for the Orange and Blue.
But FCC were caught off guard not even three minutes later when Fabian Herbers was able to get by FC Cincinnati’s Sem de Wit and slot past Newton, equalizing the score once again. After this, the momentum shifted, and the lads were playing hard. Neither team really dominated possession for the remainder of the match. Both teams were able to drive the ball down the pitch and take some shots, but no one was able to take advantage.
By the end of the 5 minutes of stoppage time at the end of regulation, the score was still tied. Both teams were running on fumes. Even though FCC was playing with an extra man for almost half of the game, they weren’t able to exploit the advantage. The final whistle of the match resulted in a disappointing 2-2 draw.
PENN MESSI – For the Pennsylvania-born Jimmy McLaughlin, appropriately nicknamed “Penn Messi” for the obvious reasons, matches against clubs from his home state are where he truly shines. This match is the 18th match that McLaughlin has appeared in against Pennsylvania teams and his 14th start. McLaughlin has scored 6 of his 13 goals against Pennsylvania teams, which begs the question – what is it about his home state that lights a fire under his boots? Whatever that answer may be, McLaughlin was unable to capitalize on his fire tonight, despite many attempts. The Steel came out strong against our midfield, focusing primarily on McLaughlin and Kenney Walker. This is a strategy that, no matter how much fans try to deny it, is guaranteed to work almost every time. This successful tactic had our midfield suffering, and McLaughlin was unable to secure a goal, leaving the fans wanting more.
PLAYER SAFETY – Normally, this wouldn’t even make it into one of my “hot takes.” After all, the players are athletes, they’re bound to get roughed up a little, and they play hard – that’s just the nature of the beautiful game. While calls are generally left up to the official’s discretion, there are some acts that are just outright cards, and calls need to be consistent. In the 50’ minute, Oliver Mbazio of the Steel was ejected from the game for getting into physical altercations with both McLaughlin and Nazmi Albadawi. It’s not unexpected for players to get a little spicy with one another on the pitch, but the officials are supposed to have some authority. When the officials are not giving warnings when they should, it can cause tensions to run high and fouls to get dirtier, leading to these physical altercations. We all love this game, and we all want to see our players do well; we don’t mind if the match gets a little dirty. However, when players are getting into fights and head-butting someone, it can raise concerns about the player’s safety.
RUSSELL CICERONE – I have said it since the first time I saw Russell Cicerone play – the man is a playmaker. Cicerone previously played for the Michigan Bucks in 2015 and 2016, where he helped them win the league title in 2016. In 2017, he won the MAC Player of the Year award. With these accreditation’s, it was peculiar to see that he did not get a place in the Starting XI earlier in the season. Once he did take to the pitch, however, it was clear why he was signed. Cicerone is the type of player who is all over the field, who plays at 100% energy the entire time. He is one of the more aggressive wingers that FCC has in their possession. He was able to secure his first goal for the Orange and Blue in the 66’ against The Steel, and I’m sure that there will be many more to come. Cicerone brings a faster pace to the Starting XI, and I hope to see him get in more playing time.
Derrick Jones (BST) – 29’
Nazmi Albadawi (FCC) – 65’
Russell Cicerone (FCC) – 66’
Fabian Herbers (BST) – 69’
FC Cincinnati Starting XI: Evan Newton (GK), Matt Bahner, Sem de Wit, Dekel Keinan (C), Blake Smith, Corben Bone, Jimmy McLaughlin, Kenney Walker, Nazmi Albadawi, Russell Cicerone, Emery Welshman
Subs: Daniel Haber, Justin Hoyte, Danni König (64’), Michael Lahoud, Forrest Lasso (36’), William Seymore, Mark Village
Bethlehem Steel Starting XI: John McCarthy (GK), Matthew Real, Brandon Aubrey, Matthew Mahoney, Oliver Mbazio (53’ red card), Santi Moar, James Chambers, Anthony Fontana, Derrick Jones, Michee Ngalina, Fabian Herbers
Subs: Kristopher Shakes, Prosper Chiluya, Benjamin Ofeimu (90’), Drew Skundrich (61’), Mike Catalano, Chris Nanco (80’), Jeremy Rafanello
FC Cincinnati vs. Richmond Kickers (USL) – Sat. June 16th – 7:30 PM – Nippert Stadium