HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, KENTUCKY – FC Cincinnati 2 fought back from behind twice Sunday to draw with Huntsville City SC 2-2 at Northern Kentucky University. The match provided a glimpse into some positive qualities for a few of the club’s young players, as well as shedding light on some of the developmental challenges the group will face.
The home team was outplayed pretty thoroughly in the first half, not managing any real chances on goal and having to defend in their own end for much of the 45 minutes while falling behind 1-0. The second half was a different story as the group showed more industry, especially off the ball.
Arquimides Ordonez scored both FCC goals on the afternoon. His first effort came upon gathering an errant header, dribbling forward, and firing a shot into the back of the net early in the 2nd half. The 2nd came after he intelligently moved into space at the top of the penalty area, received a pass from midfielder Bret Halsey, and provided an exquisite turn of his marker before firing a low drive for the goal to make it 2-2, which ended up being the final score at regulation.
MLS Next Pro rules require a five-round spot kick shootout to award an extra point in the standings. Huntsville took the honors in that post-match event, 7-6 after 8 rounds. Alec Kann produced a save for FCC, while successful takers included Ordonez, Jesus Castellano, Morgan Marshall, Ryder Mills, Kai Thomas and Joey Akpunonu. Darrell Turcios and Stiven Jimenez had their spot kicks saved.
FCC 2 Manager Tyrone Marshall said the team’s struggles in the first half were mainly about heart and desire, as well as working through the process of not all the matchday players training together during the week (some being with the FCC first team).
“I thought the first half we were second to the ball and second to everything. It isn’t what we want,” Marshall said. “I loved the response in the second half. We came out with much more desire and energy. We asked them to come out and win the second half, and we did. We keep growing and getting better and we showed some resilience.
The team’s work off the ball was noticeably improved in the latter 45 minutes, something Marshall said was partly due to the blended team on display.
“Sometimes when you have a group that doesn’t train together, you don’t have that cohesion. Guys aren’t on the same page all the time,” he said. “In the second half they came out and gave their energy and that’s all we ask, just go and work and see what happens.”
Player Performance Highlights
Ordonez took his goals very well. Marshall mentioned the quality he showed with both strikes, but also noted the young forward will be aided by “being focused from the first minute” as he continues to develop.
Stiven Jimenez, the 15-year old professional midfielder, showed a lot of technical ability, striking the ball with both feet and exhibiting an excellent first touch. He also shows no fear in getting stuck into tackles. He will still need to grow in stature, strength and especially explosiveness, but that should come with increased maturity. The future is bright for this one.
Defender Joey Akpunonu stepped up on a number of occasions Sunday to thwart Huntsville attacks. He reads the game well and has a quick step to the ball. Isaiah Foster on the left side of defense also had a good game defensively, although he wasn’t as involved offensively as you might to see from a left wing back.
Midfielder Bret Halsey I thought stood out in trying to make things happen with his running and passing, especially in the 2nd half. Sometimes teams fall victim to Death by Playing It Safe, but this doesn’t appear to be Halsey’s nature. I look forward to seeing more of him.
Match Summary – FC Cincinnati 2 vs. Huntsville SC (MLS Next Pro, April 9, 2023)
GK: Elliot Panicco
D: Taylor Washington (Joshua Skinner, 77), Sean Suber, Joshua Bauer, Ahmed Longmire
M: Jan Gregus (Joseph DeZart, 64), Kemy Amiche (Joshua Drack-Asami, 81), Jonathan Bolanos, Oliver Wright, Tah Anunga (Daniel Griffin, 64)
F: Shaun Joash (Tyler Freeman, 64)
Unused Substitutes: Isaiah Johnston, Cyrus Rad, Chrisnovic N’Sa, John Berner
FC Cincinnati 2 Lineup
GK: Alec Kann
D: Kai Thomas, Joey Akpunonu, Ian Murphy
M: Isaiah Foster, Morgan Marshall, Stiven Jimenez, Bret Halsey (Darrell Turcios, 87), Salim Adams (Ryder Mills, l64)
F: Arquimides Ordonez, Jesus Castellano,
Unused Substitutes: Paul Walters, Benjamin Stitz, David Garcia, Nick Samways, Haroun Conteh, Owen Noverr, Nicholas McHenry