Matchday #23 – FC Cincinnati vs Penn FC
Nippert Stadium – Attendance: 24,249
Result: FC Cincinnati: 1 – Penn FC: 0
For the first time this season, FC Cincinnati matched up against Penn FC. Penn FC, who were previously known as the Harrisburg Islanders, have never defeated the Orange and Blue, and Sunday didn’t end up being its day to change that.
The first half was physical and sloppy, with both teams turning over the ball often and neither able to really get a rhythm. Penn FC did a good job of breaking up plays preventing FCC from generating a significant attack. About 10 minutes into the game, Nazmi Albadawi took an elbow to his face and came away with a broken tooth and a split lip that required a few stitches. At multiple points in the first half, Cincinnati had to play a man down while Albadawi was attended to on the sideline to stop bleeding and replace his jersey.
3 points and a new smile!! pic.twitter.com/ghIPngBuML
— Nazmi Albadawi (@NazmiAlbadawi) August 13, 2018
The first half ended with FCC having no shots on goal. Their best opportunity of the half came off a header from Paddy Barrett that hit the cross bar. Penn FC didn’t have many opportunities to test Spencer Richey either, but Richey was up to the challenge when called upon.
The heat map for the first half of the match shows that Cincinnati (attacking left to right) spent the majority of its time in its own half. Though it had more possession, it played too conservative and didn’t take many chances when it had control of the ball.
In the second half, the Orange and Blue came out stronger and they pressed forward more. Emmanuel Ledesma almost scored in the 56th minute, but his shot hit the upright. Russell Cicerone recovered the rebound and managed to get a shot off, but Penn’s keeper, Romauld Peiser, came up with the save. Forest Lasso almost netted his third goal of the season off a corner kick, missing the goal by a few inches.
FCC coach Alan Koch brought in Jimmy McLaughlin and Fanendo Adi as second half substitutes to give the attack some renewed energy, and the effect was positive. Both created opportunities and caused challenges for the Penn FC back line.
Finally, in the 80th minute, Ledesma found the net on a free kick that deflected off Penn FC’s Lucky Mkosana while trying to get the ball over the wall.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) August 12, 2018
Compared to the heat map from the first half, the second half heat map shows that Cincinnati (attacking left to right) was able to push forward into Penn’s half of the field much more significantly. The contrast to the first half shows that Koch made some positive adjustments at half time and got the team pressing forward more to create some opportunities.
Most fans would have liked to have seen the Orange and Blue look more dominant against the 13th place team in the east. That said, Penn FC didn’t really provide much challenge for Richey in goal. On the attacking side, there were some opportunities that FCC was missing by inches, twice off the woodwork, and Lasso’s header came within inches as well. Cincinnati was unlucky not to get another goal or two which potentially could have opened up the game a bit earlier.
Next weekend, FC Cincinnati plays the Charleston Battery who are tied for second place on points. Though it has grinded out some results in the last few weeks, Koch is going to want to get his squad ready for one of the tougher teams in the east, a team that is currently in very good form.
Captain Paddy – With Dekel Keinan injured and Kenny Walker on the bench, Koch needed to find another player to wear the captain’s armband. To the surprise of many, Barrett took the pitch wearing the armband. Barrett has only started in nine of the team’s 23 games this season and is one of the younger players on the team. Though it might be viewed as a bold move to make that decision over a more veteran player like Michael Lahoud, the decision showed incredible confidence in Barrett and demonstrated again the depth of this squad. It also certainly gave some extra confidence to Barrett, who played a strong game and showed that he had earned the armband.
Striker Showdown – In the first match against Penn FC of the season, it’s impossible to not be interested in what’s happening in the striker position. Cincinnati made a marquee signing of Tommy Heinemann at the beginning of the season but released him after he failed his entrance physical. Heinemann moved on to play for Penn FC this season, but the legal battle continues between Heinemann and FCC to determine whether his release was a breach of contract. Though Heinemann hasn’t featured in the 18 for Penn for the last two months, he dressed and came onto the pitch as a substitute. Penn coach Raoul Voss was probably banking on Heinemann taking the pitch with something to prove. He only proved that he wasn’t the signing he was originally expected to be. The irony of the timing is perfect, as FC Cincinnati announced their biggest signing in club history only two weeks earlier, bringing in Adi from the Portland Timbers. Both strikers came into the game late, but the difference between the two was obvious. Adi had less time on the pitch but generated twice as many chances as Heinemann. Adi had a 75 percent passing accuracy compared to Heinemann’s 14 percent, and Adi drew a foul that gave FCC an opportunity to score where Heinemann was so slow that the Cincinnati defense never had to foul him to take the ball away.
Grinding Through the Middle of the Season – This game officially ended the middle third of the season. As is often the case, the long season has begun to take a toll on the players. As the season drags on, injuries have begun to plague the Orange and Blue. Richie Ryan and Keinan were both out of the 18, and Evan Newton and McLaughlin were both out of the starting 11, though McLaughlin did feature as a second half substitute. Fortunately, the depth of the FCC roster showed, as Barrett, Richey and Russell Cicerone all started and looked comfortable on the pitch. Koch certainly must be pleased with the results to this point. The matches haven’t always been pretty, and some games could certainly be described as grinding out points, but Cincinnati goes into the final third of the season sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference with the longest unbeaten streak in club history. The current 12 game unbeaten streak (8-0-4) tops the previous 11 game streak (7-0-4) from FC Cincinnati’s inaugural 2016 season.
FC Cincinnati Starting XI (4-3-3): Spencer Richey (GK), Blake Smith, Forrest Lasso, Paddy Barrett, Justin Hoyte, Corben Bone, Michael Lahoud, Nazmi Albadawi (58’), Emmanuel Ledesma, Danni Konig (77’), Russell Cicerone (68’)
Subs: Bench: Evan Newton, Fanendo Adi 77’, Fatai Alashe, Matt Bahner, Jimmy McLaughlin 68’, Kenney Walker 58’, Sem De Wit
Penn FC Starting XI (4-4-2): Romauld Peiser, Jake Bond, Ken Tribbett, Kyle Venter, Marco Franco (58’), Walter Ramirez, Dan Metzger (78’), Richard Menjivar, Prince Baffoe, Lucky Mkosana, Isaac Osae (67’)
Subs: Aaron Dennis, Pedro Galvão 58’, Tommy Heinemann 67’, Miguel Jaime 78’, Paulo Júnior, Sean Lewis, Haruna Shaibu
43’ – Prince Baffoe (caution) – Penn FC
79’ – Kenneth Tribbett (caution) – Penn FC
83’ – Lucky Mkosana (caution) – Pen FC
Next USL Match: FC Cincinnati vs. Charleston Battery – Sat. August 18th – 7:30 PM (EST) – Nippert Stadium