Highmark Stadium – Pittsburgh
Result: FC Cincinnati: 0 – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: 0
FC Cincinnati headed into the Saturday night match against Pittsburgh still at the top of the table. Riding a 21-match unbeaten streak and 10 wins in a row, the Orange and Blue were looking to secure another win. A win or a draw would ensure FCC’s record against Pittsburgh would never have included a loss; it would also ensure FCC beats the USL record for an unbeaten streak.
Pittsburgh came out with a strong defense that kept FCC on its toes. There weren’t many chances in the first 10 minutes. By the 12th minute, Pittsburgh was awarded a corner kick that was headed over the goal. Only a couple of minutes later, Emmanuel Ledesma had a shot on goal that was blocked by Pittsburgh keeper, Dan Lynd.
Minutes later, Pittsburgh took its chance with a ball aimed straight toward the center of the net but was stopped with a quick save by Spencer Richey. Pittsburgh continued to play more offensively, attacking and trying to be the first club to get points on the board.
While FCC has been more of an attacking club throughout this season, the defensive line has been key to the unbeaten streak. Even with all of the chances Pittsburgh had, FCC’s back line was able to help put a stop to all of them.
In the 34th minute, after some fancy footwork by Corben Bone, Fatai Alashe sent a shot just wide of the net. Only a couple of minutes later, FCC’s Forrest Lasso received a yellow card, allowing Pittsburgh a dangerous free kick from just outside of the box. The scoreboard was kept clean when the shot was easily blocked.
After a Pittsburgh foul, FCC was awarded a free kick to be taken by Ledesma. The shot was short, blocked almost immediately, and FCC was unable to capitalize on the free kick opportunity. FCC had another shot inside the box, a shot from Ledesma that was blocked. Emery Welshman got his foot on it soon after, but it was blocked again by Lynd. The first half ended with a great opportunity at the foot of Jimmy McLaughlin from the right side of the pitch, the score remaining at 0-0.
The second half started with no changes on either side and Pittsburgh putting the pressure immediately on FCC’s midfield. Both clubs had a couple of opportunities but nothing that was able to amount to points on the board. Pittsburgh got a corner kick in the 57th minute that was punched away easily by Richey.
Ledesma took a shot on goal in the 59th minute, but it was a couple of feet wide. Pittsburgh had maintained pressure on FCC’s midfield throughout the majority of the match. This tactic effectively shut down the chances that Ledesma could take to score.
In the 68th minute, FCC was given a free kick with Ledesma stepping up; the ball was headed away outside of the box. Pittsburgh gained possession in a dangerous run that almost resulted in a goal. The Orange and Blue’s defense was on top of it, and Justin Hoyte cleared the shot. Ledesma took a corner kick awarded to FCC in the 74th minute, but it was too little long.
Ledesma was pulled down outside the box in the 84th minute, awarding the FCC another free kick. It went just over the box, no one on the other end of the ball. Pittsburgh got possession and ran to the box, a block by Paddy Barrett keeping the score at nil.
Four minutes of stoppage time found both clubs scrambling for a score and unable to capitalize. This match gave the Orange and Blue 22 matches in a row unbeaten, tying the best-unbeaten record in the USL.
FC Cincinnati faces Nashville SC on Oct. 13 for its last league match of the season.
Defense: Let’s be real here – the defense is the reason why FCC managed a draw; Pittsburgh outshot FCC. Even though FCC statistically had more possession, Pittsburgh shut down the midfield at every chance, and FCC wasn’t able to capitalize. Thankfully FCC has the likes of Barrett and Lasso who, once again, have proven to be a brick wall between the opponent and the net. Richey also managed another clean sheet, helping the Orange and Blue tie the USL’s best-unbeaten record at 22 matches.
Momentum: I think we can all agree that FCC’s momentum just wasn’t up to par with what we’ve seen throughout the season. However, that doesn’t seem like such a big deal when the club is still 16 points ahead of the second place club and are on such a long unbeaten streak. Pittsburgh knew FCC’S style, knew exactly how to contain Bone and Ledesma, two of the club’s strongest players. It was that confinement at the midfield that hindered chances at getting points on the board.
Unbeaten: FCC has secured a tie with the USL best-unbeaten record with a total of 22 matches. The Orange and Blue have the opportunity to beat that record next weekend against Nashville. We’ve said during the season that some draws can feel like losses, some wins can feel like losses, and so on. But this is not one of those matches. While FCC didn’t play their best, they also didn’t play their worst. We have to remember that with playoffs coming up, the club needs to make sure all of its players are rotated and rested in preparation for post-season. All in all, a draw is better than a loss, and the streak remains intact.
FC Cincinnati Starting XI: Spencer Richey (GK), Blake Smith, Paddy Barrett, Forrest Lasso, Justin Hoyte, Corben Bone, Fatai Alashe, Michael Lahoud, Jimmy McLaughlin, Emmanuel Ledesma, Emery Welshman
Subs: Evan Newton, Nazmi Albadawi (64’), Russell Cicerone (81’), Tyler Gibson (72’), Dekel Keinan, Kenney Walker
Pittsburgh Riverhounds Starting XI: Dan Lynd (GK), Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Joe Greenspan, Hugh Roberts, Jordan Dover, Ben Zemanski, Mouhamed Dabo, Romeo Parkes, Kenardo Forbes, Christiano Francois, Neco Brett
Subs: Mike Kirk, Tobi Adewole, Kay Banjo (75’), Ben Fitzpatrick, Joe Holland (75’), Ray Lee (87’), Todd Pratzner
FC Cincinnati vs. Nashville SC – Oct. 13 – 8:30 p.m. EST/7:30 p.m. CST – First Tennessee Park, Nashville, Tenn.