Matchday #25 – Atlanta United 2 vs FC Cincinnati
Coolray Field – Attendance: 1,638
Result: Atlanta United 2: 1 – FC Cincinnati: 5
Coming off a statement win vs. the Charleston Battery, FC Cincinnati quickly hit the road to take on Atlanta United II. FC Cincy entered the match riding a 13 match unbeaten streak and a mostly healthy lineup. The biggest question was how Alan Koch would manage the roster with another match vs. the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday. As expected, Koch did rotate the lineup giving Konate his first start and changing several other key positions in the attack and midfield. Welshman was the sole forward up top with McLaughlin, Bone, Walker, Albadawi, and Alashe all supporting from the midfield
Atlanta United II went with a youthful lineup but selected former FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt to protect the net. Another strong traveling FC Cincinnati contingent immediately went to work cheering on the away side and they were heard early on the broadcast.
Right out of the gate Atlanta pushed the attack and pressured FC Cincinnati. The first couple possessions were turnovers as Cincy adjusted to the burst of speed and energy the home side was laying on. FCC chose to match that intensity and the first half became a fast pace match of back and forth soccer. In fact, it may have been the quickest play from the Orange & Blue all year. Cincinnati not only kept pace with the younger Atlanta side but matched them and forced quick transitions.
Even with the quick pace, Cincinnati clearly looked like the mature and experienced side. The ability to string together passes in the final third was the clear difference between both teams. In the 18th minute, McLaughlin, from the left, passed a ball into Welshman who tapped it behind him to an open Corben Bone. The midfielder took the shot which deflected over an Atlanta United 2 foot and went into the back of the net. In under twenty minutes, Cincinnati had gained the lead on the road.
The pressure didn’t stop and McLaughlin again found himself in a good position just minutes later. His deep run drew the defenders toward him and then again passed the ball off towards the top of the 18. This time the benefactor was Nazmi Albadawi who made a creative move inside before launching a ground strike into the post opposite of Mitch Hildebrandt. FC Cincinnati would enter the half up 2-0.
After more back and forth play to begin the second, Welshman sent a well-placed cross from the wing into Nazmi who was able to get off a shot. This time Mitch was there to make the save but unfortunately for the keeper, he deflected the ball right back into the box and newly signed Fatai Alashe was waiting. The rebound goal was his first ever FC Cincinnati score and he showed great field presence by following the shot through with a run into the box.
Ten minutes after the restart, Welshman drove into the box from the right wing and forced an Atlanta defender to kick the ball away to prevent the drive. That kick put the ball right at the feet of an open Albadawi who easily scored his second of the night to earn himself a brace. With the match in control, Koch started to make subs and attempt to slow the match down.
Slowing the home side down proved tougher than expected considering the score. Atlanta maintained the quick attack and struck back in the 65th minute with a long distance shot. The rocket from Shawn Nicklaw came from 30+ yards out and left Richey with little hope of stopping it. Atlanta United 2 had found a response but all that speedy play was starting to wear the team down.
The next twenty minutes featured back and forth play with a few chances by both sides. FC Cincy struck their last blow in the 87th minute after Mitch was caught defending and left the net open for Justin Hoyte. Hoyte chipped the ball toward the goal but the Atlanta back line had already scrambled two players to the goal line to defend. The ball was deflected out to Welshman who powerfully put the second chance away. Neither side could score again before the whistle and the Eastern Conference leaders walk away with another three points.
Number One – FC Cincinnati is already the top of the league but they have not always easily dispatched bottom of the table teams. Tonight’s result was another statement Cincy added to a growing list proving critics wrong. FC Cincy struggled vs. Toronto II a month ago and the club proved that result is behind them. Not only did FCC put five away, they did it with four different players. Atlanta was unable to defend all the weapons on the pitch. Alan spoke about the record after the match.
“I think we went and created a lot of opportunities all night long. We could’ve scored more goals. I know there are a few players who are disappointed they didn’t score. But I’m happy for the guys that did. They embraced their opportunities. Obviously, the first goal was the most important because, without it, you can’t go score anymore.”
Mitch Said Yes – Would Atlanta United II play Mitch Hildebrant? That was the question fans across the USL were looking for leading up to this match. The story writes itself and it played out in an unfortunate way for Mitch. The first goal came off a deflection so it is hard to fault the former FCC keeper for the early score. He was, however, beat on the next couple and that comes from playing with a young team. Right or wrong, Koch and Berding can hold their heads a little higher knowing the criticism of Mitch’s departure will not hang over them.
New Pieces Settling In – One of the stars of the match scored a goal but that was not his biggest contribution. Fatai Alashe controlled the midfield like a seasoned FC Cincinnati veteran despite this match being his second start. Alashe absorbed the hectic Atlanta play and created chances through takeaways and well placed through balls. His passes were rushed at times but were still well placed and on target. He still found ways to get involved into the attack after playing a distributors role. After the match, he said, “Whenever a game goes like this, you want to get yourself on the scoresheet – especially early in my move here. It’s nice to get a goal. I told my mom before the game I’d score so I’m sure she’s pretty happy about that. It’s a good start and it’s positive so we’ll look to continue it.”
Alan was also asked about Pa Konate’s debut and said, “I thought he played well. It was tough coming and playing here. The first half, he played on the side of the pitch that was really the baseball diamond … It made it very difficult for him to possess the ball. And he just kept it safe, which to be honest, is the smartest thing to do in your first game. Just keep it safe. Don’t do anything elaborate and just get comfortable with your teammates. I’m glad he got the minutes tonight and it’ll allow him to kick on from there.”
FC Cincinnati Starting XI: Spencer Richey (GK), Pa Konate, Forrest Lasso, Dekel Keinan, Justin Hoyte, Kenney Walker, Corben Bone (goal 18′), Jimmy McLaughlin, Nazmi Albadawi (goals 25′ 55′), Fatai Alashe (goal 53′), Emery Welshman (goal 87′)
Subs: Paddy Barrett, Russell Cicerone (55’), Sem De Wit, Blake Smith (61′), Danny Konig, Evan Newton, Michael Lahoud (71′)
Atlanta United 2 Starting XI: Mitch Hildebrandt (GK), Shawn Nicklaw (goal 65′), George Bello, Tyler Ruthven, A.J. Cochran, Kendall-Moullin, Wheeler-Omiunu, Jack Metcalf, Laurent Kissiedou, Devon Sandoval, Jon Gallagher
Subs: Nicolas Caraux, Paul Christensen, Kevin Barajas (61’), Dylan Gaither (80′), Lagos Kunga (66′)
CIN – Corben Bone (Emery Welshman) 18’
CIN – Nazmi Albadawi (Jimmy McLaughlin) 25’
CIN – Fatai Alashe 53’
CIN – Nazmi Albadawi 55’
ATL – Shawn Nicklaw 65’
CIN – Emery Welshman (Russell Cicerone) 87’
Next USL Match: Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. FC Cincinnati – Sat. August 25th – 7:30 PM (EST) – Al Lang Stadium