Nippert Stadium – Cincinnati, OH – Attendance: 25,416
Result: FC Cincinnati: 0 – Tampa Bay Rowdies: 2
At the start of the year, many fans had this match circled on their calendars. The Tampa Bay Rowdies have knocked FC Cincinnati out of the US Open Cup (2016), beat them in the regular season, and removed them from the playoffs (2017). Both clubs went into 2018 with very high expectations. Cincinnati has met most of those fan expectations, but the Rowdies have hit setback after setback.
The Rowdies entered the match with four new signings getting their first starts in this match. Stefano Bonomo, Afrim Taku, Kyle Porter, and former Miami FC attacking mid, Poku. Without any tape on these new players, head coach Alan Koch was forced to game plan without really knowing what he would be up against. This match was supposed to be the start of a Rowdies midseason rebuild and come back. It turned out to be more of the same for Tampa Bay.
A fast start was key for FC Cincinnati, and they set the pace of play in the first five minutes. In those first five minutes, they got a couple shots, earned two corner kicks, and received a few fouls from the Green and Gold. Kyle Porter caught a lucky break when the official missed his handball in the box as he turned into the ball. Once FC Cincinnati took quick control of the match, it was difficult for Tampa Bay to get back into it. The first big scoring chance came from Ledesma’s free kick in the 14th minute.l missed his handball in the box as he turned into the ball. Once FC Cincinnati took quick control of the match it was difficult for Tampa Bay to get back into it. The first big scoring chance came from Ledesma free kick in the 14th minute.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) July 14, 2018
Just ten minutes later, Flemmings tried to save a ball from going past the goal line, but Lasso boxed him out. Lasso ended up crashing into the sideline signage after Flemmings gave him an extra push once the ball was out. This earned him a yellow card but also showed the frustration building from the away side. Tampa got their first threatening look in the 43rd minute also via Flemmings. Newton did a great job to seal the corner off and make sure the first half ended 0-0.
— Rowdies Gameday (@RowdiesGameday) July 15, 2018
The second half started just like the first. FC Cincinnati came out of the break attacking and nearly netting a goal off a corner kick. Cincinnati has yet to score a home goal this season from the corner spot. After a flurry of near goals, one finally came in the 54th minute. Corben Bone placed a beautiful cross into the center as Ledesma made a run inside. Despite two defenders, Manu was still able to perfectly head the ball into the net beating Mizell. Ledesma earns his ninth goal on the season and moves 1 away from the current golden boot leader.
After a fly-in foul by Ledesma later in the second half, Koch used his first sub to bring in Welshman to replace the goal leader. Just a few moments later, that sub made a huge assist to seal the match for FC Cincy. From the opposing side throw-in, Bone got the ball through the middle to Albadawi, Naz saw an opening and passed long to Welshman who booked it downfield, pulled in the defenders, and then passed the ball through to a wide open Konig. Konig chipped the ball past Mizell and into the roof of the net for the second goal of the match. He also gets back into the golden boot race by equalizing Ledesma’s nine goals.
Goodbye Monkey – This has been the season of defying history. FC Cincinnati had never won vs. Charleston and now they have. They had never beaten Tampa Bay, and they finally did in the fifth meeting. A win over Nashville would mean Cincy leaves the USL with wins over every Eastern team in the league. It is clear these mental hurdles of the past are being used as motivation going forward. Koch is aiming to use the “never won a playoff match” hurdle soon.
Fast Start Sets the Pace – Cincinnati never allowed the Rowdies to settle in. Tampa Bay is the type of team that strikes once they get comfortable and builds up good play. The home side dictated play at the start of both halves and made it difficult for the Green and Gold to find any sort of rhythm. The second half start paid dividends when, after a couple of chances, the first goal of the match made Tampa change their plan. The Rowdies burned all three subs before Alan used his first to take Manu off.
Getting the Job Done – Despite the new star players Tampa brought in, they are still below the playoff line. FC Cincinnati was expected to win and anything but a win would have been a major disappointment for a 1st place team. Cincy once again proves they can dispatch of teams and earn three points when expected. The question now is can they do it vs. top sides instead of settling for the draw.
54’ – Ledesma (assist – Bone)(FCC)
84’ – Konig (assist – Welshman)(FCC)
FC Cincinnati Starting XI: Evan Newton (GK), Dekel Keinan, Forrest Lasso, Justin Hoyte, Blake Smith (90′ +4), Corben Bone, Michael Lahoud, Kenney Walker, Nazmi Albadawi (90′), Danni König, Emmanuel Ledesma (84′)
Subs: Matt Bahner (90′ +4), Paddy Barrett, Russell Cicerone, Jimmy McLaughlin (90’), William Seymore, Spencer Richey, Emery Welshman (84’)
Tampa Bay Rowdies Starting XI: Cody Mizell, Kyle Porter, Max Lachowecki, Tamika Mkandawire, Hunter Gorskie, Dominic Oduro, Afrim Taku (61′), Kwadwo Poku (71′), Joe Cole, Stefano Bonomo (77′), Junior Flemmings
Subs: Fitzgerald, Fernandes (61′), Alex Morrell, Nanchoff, Vingaard, Hristov(77′), Taylor(71′)
Next Up: FC Cincinnati vs. Charlotte Independence – Wed. July 18th – 7:30 PM (EST) – Nippert Stadium