2018 Match Reports

FC Cincinnati Clinches USL Regular Season Crown

FC Cincinnati Clinches USL Regular Season Championship

Until tonight, FC Cincinnati had never defeated the Kickers at City Stadium in Richmond. Not only did they defeat them, but they made a statement with a decisive win. A win that ended any discussion about the best team in the league. 

FC Cincinnati Clinches USL Regular Season Championship

Photo Credit: FC Cincinnati

Matchday #31 – FC Cincinnati at Richmond Kickers

City Stadium – Attendance: 1,519
Result: FC Cincinnati: 4 – Richmond Kickers: 1

Until tonight, FC Cincinnati had never defeated the Richmond Kickers at City Stadium. Not only did they defeat them, but they made a statement with a decisive win. A win that ended any discussion about the best team in the league.

The Orange and Blue pressed early and were almost rewarded in the first 30 seconds when Kenny Walker played a ball to Corben Bone that he quickly launched at goal. The ball looked destined for the net but went just left of frame.

In the fifth minute, Raul Gonzalez served a ball over the Cincinnati back line to Heviel Cordovés. The defense called for offside, but the flag wasn’t raised, and Cordovés got a one on one opportunity with Evan Newton that he failed to use to his advantage. The chance gave the Kickers some confidence which allowed them to assert some control over the game and slowed down the FC Cincinnati press.

The game opened up in the 16th minute when Nazmi Albadawi passed the ball to Emery Welshman who was closed down by multiple Richmond defenders. The Kickers managed to strip the ball from Welshman, but the ball popped out to Albadawi who hit his shot first time in stride buried it in the back of the net to give FC Cincinnati the early advantage.

In the 18th minute, Albadawi laid a great through ball off to Bone who almost doubled the lead for the Orange and Blue but his close-range shot glanced off the right upright and sailed out of bounds.

Spoiling a perfect evening, Richmond found another opportunity in the 32nd minute. This time Fernando launched the ball forward to Cordovés who again found himself behind the Orange and Blue defense. While the back line again asked for an offside flag, Cordovés, one v. one with Newton, made sure that he buried the ball in the net this time. With the score evened up, Cincinnati began to press with more urgency.

Only minutes later, Walker sent the ball forward to Welshman who took a shot and caught Barnes, the Richmond keeper, directly in the face. Fortunately, after a delay to check him out, Barnes was surprisingly deemed ok to continue for Richmond.

In the 40th minute, FC Cincinnati capitalized on another corner kick as Emanuel Ledesma bent the ball into the net for an Olimpico for his 15th goal of the season. Forrest Lasso was allowed to shield the keeper, who never saw it coming.

Just four minutes, later, Albadawi wins the ball in the corner and passes it to Ledesma who looks up and launches the ball 25 yards into the upper far corner of the goal, past Barnes who has no chance of stopping it. With that goal, Ledesma has matched the FC Cincinnati single season record for goals joining Sean Okoli’s 2016 USL MVP season.

When play resumed in the second half, a storm had moved into Richmond and Cincinnati again found themselves playing in harsh weather. With puddles forming on the field, it was tough for either team to complete passes and find a rhythm. With a sense of deja vu, the game was suspended fourteen minutes into the second half and FCC found themselves again waiting out a storm. Fortunately, unlike Louisville, this match was able to continue after an hour delay. With sloppy field conditions and continued rain, play resumed.

In the 63rd minute, the Orange and Blue ended any hopes Richmond had of coming back when a defensive mistake gave Welshman the ball all alone. With Welshman’s pace, he darted forward and was able to stay ahead of the defenders who attempted to engage him. With a clinical finish, he put the ball in the back of the net to make it 4-1.

Though significant time remained on the clock, the match was all but over. Richmond tried to create chances, and Cincinnati simply played smart and tried not to make mistakes.

After the match, the celebration started in the visitors locker room as players and staff from FC Cincinnati finally had the chance to pop the champagne bottles they’ve been dreaming of since the club was founded in 2015. After celebrating with his players, head coach Alan Koch had a few moments to reflect on the clubs achievment.

“I think it just makes our final season in the USL absolutely historic. Our club doesn’t have a long history — I think the Richmond fans were actually reminding us during the game tonight, there were passing comments about how we don’t have much history. For a club that’s so new and has only been in the USL for three years, for us to finish our final year in the USL and win the Regular-Season Championship is nothing short of remarkable. I’m incredibly proud of everybody associated with our club, and not just the people that our with us now, everybody who contributed during the course of the first three years.”

Even more impressive is just how dominant FC Cincinnati has been in 2018 who have now won 9 matches in a row and are unbeaten since May.

“I’m very, very surprised because the USL has gotten better every single year and this is the best the USL has ever been. Obviously, with the NASL folding, there are so many top players that have joined the USL this year and every team has improved significantly. I’ve been in the USL for several years now, obviously in the West with Vancouver, but now in the East with Cincinnati. The league continues to improve and this is the highest level of the USL ever. So, for us to be this successful and this dominant, I’m very, very proud of all of our staff and all of our players for achieving what we have achieved so far this year.” said Koch.

FC Cincinnati will be celebrating the Regular Season Championship with a celebration following Saturday’s upcoming match with Indy Eleven, the final USL home match for FC Cincinnati.

3 Thoughts

USL Regular Season Champions

This is the storyline that dominated this game. With three games remaining, FC Cincinnati rises to 72 points and is out of reach of ANY team in the USL. Phoenix has the highest potential but can only achieve a maximum of 71 points. A celebration is planned for this Saturday at Nippert Stadium following the match vs. Indy Eleven. FCC will receive their silverware as part of what is already been labeled as “Fan Appreciation Night.” The team is understandably feeling jubilant.

Defensive Concerns

Despite the result and the final score, the one concern during this game was defense. Fortunately, Richmond is one of the poorest performing offenses in the league and wasn’t able to take advantage of their opportunities. Multiple times Richmond got behind the defense with long balls. Instead of playing to the whistle, the defenders were expecting an offside flag and gave the Kickers some one on one opportunities with Newton.

What Now?

With the top position in the league wrapped up, some might say that none of the remaining games have value, but it’s important that Cincinnati doesn’t take their foot off the gas. Coasting into the playoffs would preserve the health of the players, but would ensure that the team loses their momentum. FCC only has three games remaining, against Indy, Pittsburgh, and Nashville. All three are teams who the Orange and Blue could potentially play in the post-season. It’s important to make sure that every team that Cincinnati plays believe at some level that they will lose. And similarly, FCC believes that it can beat any team it plays. It’s important that they don’t open the door and let in any doubt. The next three games set the tone for the upcoming playoffs.

Box Score

FC Cincinnati Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Evan Newton (GK), Blake Smith, Forrest Lasso, Paddy Barrett, Justin Hoyte, Fatai Alashe, Kenny Walker, Corben Bone (90+2′), Nazmi Albadawi, Emmanuel Ledesma (75′), Emery Welshman (86′)
Subs: Spencer Richey, Fanendo Adi, Dekel Keinan, Pa Konate (90+2′), Danni König (86′), Michael Lahoud, Jimmy McLaughlin (75′)

Richmond Kickers Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Brandon Barnes (GK), Shaun Russell, Evan Lee, Conor Shanosky, Brandon Eaton, Koby Osei-Wusu (52′), Oscar Umar, Luiz Fernando, Yudai Imura (59′), Raul Gonzalez (73′), Heviel Cordovés
Subs: Trevor Spangenberg, Prince Agyemang, Greg Boehme (73′), Giuseppe Gentile (59′), Fred Owusu Sekyere (52′), Brian Shriver, Austin Yearwood

CIN – Nazmi Albadawi 16’
RICH – Heviel Cordovés 32’
CIN – Emmanuel Ledesma 40’
CIN – Emmanuel Ledesma 44’
CIN = Emery Welshman 63′

Next USL Match: FC Cincinnati vs Indy Eleven – Saturday, September 29th – 7:30 PM (EST) – Nippert Stadium

@billwwolf for @CincySoccerTalk

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