Most FC Cincinnati fans are aware of the club’s 13-game unbeaten streak, the longest in club history. After doing some math, the numbers inside that streak pop out. Consider:
• The Orange and Blue have eight clean sheets in that span, including a stretch of exactly 400 straight minutes without conceding a goal.
• The last time FCC trailed in a match was right before Nazmi Albadawi scored in the 66th minute to level the match 1-1 against Bethlehem back on June 13. That’s 924 minutes — 15 hours, 24 minutes — of match time.
• During the six-match, five-week homestand, the club took 16 out of 18 points.
FCC has won convincingly in this period, such as in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Charleston. But it has also needed to grind out a result at times. The two previous matches — a 1-0 victory over Penn FC and a 1-1 draw with Nashville SC — are examples.
“We’ve played well during this stretch, but we’ve also had some tough games,” FCC coach Alan Koch said after Monday’s training session. “Over the course of a long season, that’s just the reality of it. You’re going to have some good games, and you’re going to have some challenging games. The most important thing is having the strength and the desire to get results no matter how you play and where you play. And we’ve done that so far this season.”
Here’s where things change — the big homestand is over. The Orange and Blue have just three regular-season home matches left and hit the road again this week, something they’ve only done twice since June 9. FCC travels to face Atlanta United 2 tonight and Tampa Bay on Saturday.
“I’m excited to go back on the road, to be honest,” Koch said. “It was fun playing at home, it was fun having our fans behind us. I know we’ll have fans down there in Atlanta supporting us, which is awesome. But it’s nice to go on the road with the team — it brings the group together. With the changes that we’ve made in our roster the last couple of weeks, it will be good to have everybody there and go fight for each other on the road. It’s not easy being on the road. You deal with far different variables in terms of not sleeping in your own beds and having different meals and that type of stuff — playing in different stadiums. This is our first time as a club playing in this stadium. So it will be a new environment, but these are the challenges we like to embrace.”
It will be the first USL road trip for FCC’s newest additions — Fanendo Adi, Fatai Alashe, and Pa Konate. The festive atmosphere they’ve seen at Nippert Stadium the last few weeks likely won’t be replicated in Lawrenceville, Ga. Less than 2,000 showed for Atlanta United 2’s last home game on July 11. But the goal of grabbing three points is the same.
“I’ve never played in such a situation,” Adi said. “It’s definitely going to be the first time. Even if there’s nobody there, we just have to try to win the game. Of course, playing at home here is way better, because we have our great fans.”
Saturday’s victory over Charleston was the club’s latest in the unbeaten run. With Alashe making his first start, FCC was forward-thinking and controlled the midfield. It was a stark contrast from the previous two grind-it-out matches.
“It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing, but I would say the type of rhythm that we played with as a team (made the difference),” midfielder Corben Bone said. “Defensively I thought we were really good. We made it difficult on them, and when you do that you can kind of turn good defense into good offense. A couple of our goals came from those positions where we won the ball back in good positions. It puts us in a good place to have a strike on goal or create something in the final third.”
Here’s a look at a few key matches during the streak:
June 2: FCC 2, New York 1: This win started the streak just a week after losing to Dirty River Derby rival Louisville at Nippert for the second time this season. FCC fell behind in the seventh minute but rallied in the last 25 on goals from Emmanuel Ledesma and Danni Konig for its first road win against Red Bulls II.
July 7: FCC 0, Nashville 0: This was the ultimate grind-it-out affair for the Orange and Blue. The club spent most of the first half on its back foot and faced a slick and uneven pitch. Despite some late chances, FCC had to settle for a point.
July 21: FCC 2, New York 1: FCC’s center backs are usually counted on to help clear threats in the defensive third. But on this rainy night at Nippert, Forrest Lasso and Paddy Barrett headed home set pieces in a first half that saw the first goal conceded in 400 minutes on an FCC own goal. The Orange and Blue defense stood tall late and had a little help from the crossbar.
Keeping opponents off the scoreboard has been an integral part of the last several weeks. In addition to the 400 minutes, FCC conceded just two goals during the homestand. But there’s more to the defensive effort than the back line, said center back and captain Dekel Keinan.
“We do defense as a team,” Keinan said. “As a unit, it’s much easier for the back four. Obviously, the back four and the keeper take a lot of pride in keeping a clean sheet, because it’s our main goal. But I don’t like to separate the team for defending and attacking. We’re all one unit.”
Monday’s training session was the only one at Nippert this week. The club left for Atlanta on Tuesday and will fly from Atlanta to Florida on Thursday morning with workouts there Thursday afternoon and Friday before taking on the Rowdies on Saturday at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg.