Matchday #26 – Tampa Bay Rowdies vs FC Cincinnati
Al Lang Stadium – Attendance: 5,963
Result: Tampa Bay Rowdies: 1 – FC Cincinnati: 2
FC Cincinnati entered Al Lang Stadium, a House of Horrors for the Orange and Blue, having never scored a goal in three previous matches. That storyline was quick to change after Jimmy McLaughlin earned a first-minute penalty. The winger earned the penalty after he was brought down from behind in the box. Emmanuel Ledesma stepped up to the penalty spot and buried it past Tampa Bay keeper Daniel Vega to make it 1-0 after just two minutes. It was the Argentinian’s 12th goal of the campaign. It’s not often you see a penalty given away in the first minute of a match. This was just the precursor of what was about to happen between these two teams.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen this from FC Cincinnati during this 15-match unbeaten run. Much like the Nashville match where it scored early, FC Cincinnati found itself on the back foot quite a bit in this first half in Tampa. Time after time FC Cincinnati found itself sitting back and watching Tampa control possession. FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Evan Newton made his return to the starting lineup and found himself very busy in the first half. Newton was forced to rush off his line to stop oncoming Junior Flemings, who was played through on goal by a beautiful ball from midfielder Joe Cole. Newton, though, went to ground and made a great play on the ball before Flemmings hit the turf. The first half for FC Cincinnati wasn’t the prettiest as they managed to get to the halftime locker room up 1-0. To give you an idea of how dominant of a half it was for the Rowdies, they outshot FC Cincinnati 16-3, with 10 of those shots coming from inside the FC Cincinnati penalty area.
The conditions weren’t great as the entire first half was played through constant rainfall. The match was delayed more than an hour because of strong storms in the Tampa area. The conditions didn’t seem to phase the Rowdies, who controlled first-half possession 52-48.
It was a physical first half as Tampa’s Cole, Poku and Taku all picked up first-half yellow cards.
The cards continued to fly in the second half as Blake Smith picked up a yellow card in the 50th minute on a hard challenge near midfield. Knowing that FC Cincinnati had a lead, official Kevin Broadley warned Newton about time wasting on goal kicks. In the 62nd minute, Smith became the first FC Cincinnati player sent off this season after he was deemed to have been wasting time on a throw-in and earned a second yellow card.
With the way Tampa poured on the pressure all night near FC Cincinnati’s goal, and now with the man advantage, it felt like it was only a matter of time before the Orange and Blue conceded. Sure enough, Tampa finally broke through and evened things up after Poku’s shot from the top of the box got past Newton in the 75th minute. With 15 minutes to go, and playing down a man, it looked as though FC Cincinnati’s unbeaten run could be in jeopardy.
Then things took a massive turn in favor of FC Cincinnati just 10 minutes later. New left back Pa Konate, playing in just his second match for the club, collected a ball on the near touchline and immediately attacked the Tampa defense. He easily beat Tampa’s Hunter Gorskie and was in on goal. Tampa Center Back Papé Diakité slid over to cover and went to ground causing Konate to fall over him. Broadley, who had just shown Diakité a yellow card in the 82nd minute after a studs-up tackle on Kenney Walker, was deemed to have fouled Konate in the box. Diakité was shown his 2nd yellow of the night as both teams ended the affair each with 10 men on the field.
After the chaos settled, Ledesma stepped up and converted his second penalty of the night to make it 2-1 to FC Cincinnati.
Despite getting (or being gifted) the lead late, Tampa Bay nearly equalized in the waning moments of the six plus minutes of stoppage time. Georgi Hristov had a golden opportunity with the ball played perfectly to him in stride inside the FC Cincinnati penalty area. Having only Evan Newton to beat, the Tampa forward skied it over the crossbar from 10 yards out.
In a match in which FC Cincinnati conceded 31 shots and 13 corner kicks, the Orange and Blue somehow found a way to get out of their House of Horrors, also known as Al Lang Stadium, with a 2-1 win.
I’m not exactly sure what I watched tonight. After going up after just one minute, FC Cincinnati just did not look right tonight. Maybe it was the one-hour delay, maybe it was the wet conditions, the midweek match, but they were just off tonight. They sat back and absorbed pressure all night long. They conceded 31 shots. Yes, that’s not a typo, 31 shots tonight. 16 in the first half. They conceded 13 corners and had none. Championship sides have off nights too, but those sides end up grinding out results which is exactly what FC Cincinnati did tonight. It wasn’t pretty, but miraculously they walked out of Al Lang Stadium with three points.
Ref Steals the Show
Broadley didn’t want to be the headline tonight I can almost guarantee it. Unfortunately, his name is going to be brought up quite a bit this next week. After showing a second yellow card to Smith on a throw-in for time wasting, he sent off Tampa’s Diakite for a — well — let’s just call it a soft challenge in the penalty area and awarded FC Cincinnati with the game-winning penalty. It wasn’t the official’s best night. Sometimes that happens, as we’re all too aware after last season.
Alan Koch Will Take It
Another guarantee I can boldly make is that Koch will look at the score sheet and see that FC Cincinnati conceded 31 shots, 18 from inside the penalty area, 13 corner kicks, and had a player sent off and probably wonder how the heck they managed three points in this match. Somehow FC Cincinnati finds a way to grind it out and walk out of a stadium they’ve never won before with three points. That right there is the sign of a championship caliber side. On a night when they didn’t have their best, FC Cincinnati rose to the occasion and took care of business. The victory is the club’s 17th of the season, a new club high eclipsing the 16 wins in 2016. Will he be happy with the performance? Not likely. Will he take it? Absolutely.
FC Cincinnati Starting XI: Evan Newton (GK), Blake Smith, Forrest Lasso, Paddy Barrett, Justin Hoyte, Fatai Alashe, Michael Lahoud, Jimmy McLaughlin, Nazmi Albadawi, Manu Ledesma (goals 2′, 86′), Fanendo Adi
Subs: Spencer Richey, Dekel Keinan, Pa Konate (67′ Adi), Kenney Walker (55′ Alashe), Russell Cicerone, Danni Konig (77′ Albadawi), Welshman
Tampa Bay Rowdies Starting XI: Daniel Vega (GK), Tarek Morad, Papé Diakité, Hunter Gorskie, Afrim Taku, Zac Portillos, Kwadwo Poku (goal 76′), Joe Cole, Dominic Oduro, Sebastian Guenzatti, Junior Flemmings
Subs: Akira Fitzgerald, Tamika Mkandawire, Leo Fernandes (75′ Guenzatti), Michael Nanchoff (56′ Cole), Martin Vingaard, Georgi Hristov (68′ Taku), Leon Taylor
CIN – Manu Ledesma (penalty) 2’
TBR – Poku 75’
CIN – Manu Ledesma (penalty) 86’
Next USL Match: FC Cincinnati vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds – Sat. September 1st – 7:30 PM (EST) – Nippert Stadium