Nippert Stadium – Cincinnati, OH – Attendance: 25,251
Result: FC Cincinnati: 2 – Charlotte Independence: 0
FC Cincinnati met Charlotte Independence for the final match in the Queen Cities Cup rivalry with Alan Koch rolling out a similar lineup with only two changes for Charlotte. Fan favorite Jimmy McLaughlin started in place of Nazmi Albadawi; Emery Welshman started instead of Danni König in order to potentially preserve their first-place standing in the Eastern Conference.
The fixture was aired nationally on ESPN2 and, drew a new USL attendance record crowd of 25,251 for a midweek match.
FCC came out strong against the Independence, keeping the passes clean and high pressed the visitors. The midfield appeared nearly indestructible with the addition of Jimmy McLaughlin, who helped set the pace. Charlotte looked lost early in the match playing slow or into pressure, and their defense had issues with striker Emery Welshman.
The Orange and Blue got points on the board early in the first half. At the 7’, Charlotte’s keeper and Colorado Rapids loanee Andrew Dykstra, blocked a corner kick by Emmanuel Ledesma. The quick save from a Forrest Lasso header had Dykstra out of the box just enough for Captain Dekel Keinan to toe the ball over the line.
Shortly after, in the 20’, a set piece free kick from Kenney Walker had Forrest Lasso beautifully heading the ball against the back of the net for his first goal of the season. FCC was able to keep up the momentum after two goals in fifteen minutes. The defense stayed strong with Lasso deflecting a potential Charlotte goal in the 30’.
But that didn’t stop Charlotte from staying on the attack. Jake Areman and Cordell Cato both had shots on goal within minutes of one another, however, both of them were too high. Charlotte was unable to equalize off of these chances, and they remained scoreless at the end of the first half.
Charlotte came out stronger in the second half, taking control of the pace of the match and keeping FCC on their toes. The adjustments made by coaches at the half worked in favor of Charlotte for the first ten minutes. By the 58’, defender Blake Smith went on the attack and the momentum quickly switched back to FCC.
In the 65’, Welshman got another chance to increase the lead, nearly sliding past Dykstra, but it was blocked. The Orange and Blue appeared to be slowing down a little until their first sub of the evening. Russell Cicerone replaced Jimmy McLaughlin, and his hustle instantly changed the pace of the game.
FCC managed to keep the momentum high and was almost able to secure another point. Ledesma took a beautiful corner, performing an Olimpico with the ball going into the goal from his kick, but the official called obstruction on an FCC player, and the score remained 2-0.
The final FCC sub was in the 89’ with Albadawi coming in for Ledesma. Barely two minutes into play and Albadawi had a shot on goal, blocked instantly by Dykstra. That was the last shot the Orange and Blue were able to take before the final whistle. The match ended in a 2-0 FCC victory.
FCC remains unbeaten in the last ten matches. The Orange and Blue meet the New York Red Bulls II on Saturday, July 21st at Nippert Stadium.
The Center Back Show – There is no doubt that the center backs, Dekel Keinan and Forrest Lasso, were the stars of the match with Lasso taking home Man of the Match honors. Both Keinan and Lasso are two of the roster’s strongest players; as a duo, they’re nearly indestructible. They continue to impress every match that they play, and Wednesday’s match was no exception. Keinan and Lasso both scored their first goals of the season within 15 minutes of one another. The last time Lasso scored in Nippert Stadium was with his previous club, Charleston Battery, where he then proceeded to shush the Bailey – something that no one in Cincinnati has let him forget. After Lasso’s first goal for the Orange and Blue, he paid respects to the Bailey, where everyone was screaming for him.
Capitalizing on Corners – Capitalizing on corner kicks has been a struggle for the Orange and Blue this season. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can be disappointing. However, this match showed that our luck with corner kicks might be changing. Both goals scored were set pieces that came off of a corner kick. Typically, we have the same players take these kicks, but Wednesday’s match showed more variability with who could step up, and FCC was able to capitalize twice to maintain the lead. Coach Alan Koch debuted new corner kick “plays” vs. Tampa Bay and the Orange & Blue excecuted these to perfection on Wednesday.
Passing and Pace– We mention how important the midfield is a lot, but passing and maintaining the pace of a match are two crucial elements to getting points and staying in first place. Our midfield has proven throughout the course of the season that they’re just getting stronger and stronger. Even without Richie Ryan, who had to sit out a couple of weeks due to an injury, the Orange and Blue have been able to maintain a clean midfield while keeping the passes and different combinations clean. The addition of Michael Lahoud proves to be one of the best signings of the season – he’s been a key addition to the midfield and has been one to step up and move the ball every chance he gets. As long as the midfield stays strong and clean, our chances at remaining at the top of the eastern conference look really good.
7’ – FCC – Dekel Keinan (Ledesma)
20’ – FCC – Forrest Lasso (Walker)
FC Cincinnati Starting XI: Evan Newton (GK), Corben Bone, Justin Hoyte, Dekel Keinan, Michael Lahoud, Forrest Lasso, Emmanuel Ledesma, Jimmy McLaughlin, Blake Smith, Kenney Walker, Emery Welshman
Subs: Russell Cicerone (76’), Nazmi Albadawi (89’), Matt Bahner, Paddy Barrett, Danni König, William Seymore, Spencer Richey
Charlotte Independence Starting XI: Andrew Dykstra (GK), Donnie Smith, Bilal Duckett, Henry Kalungi, Je-Vaughn Watson, Kevan George, Kay Voser, Yann Ekra, Cordell Cato, Jake Areman, Jorge Herrera
Subs: Brandon Miller, Eamon Zayed, Samuel Vines, Mutaya Mwape, Ricardo Perez, Greg Jordan
FC Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls II – July 21st, 2018 – 7:30 PM EST – Nippert Stadium