HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, KENTUCKY – They didn’t end things quite as well as they would like, but FC Cincinnati 2 put on a good overall performance Sunday here at Scudamore Field en route to a 2-1 victory over 10-man Philadelphia Union II in MLS Next Pro play.
Tyrone Marshall’s team put on a strong first half display, defending and winning possession well, and as the half went on, knocking the ball around nicely and creating chances. Ultimately this paid off with an opening goal in the 42nd minute. Jesus Castellano made a dribbling run into the center of the field before finding left back Bret Halsey with a pass that Halsey received before beating his man and firing home a shot for a 1-0 lead.
Malik Pinto, getting a game with FCC 2 despite extended duty with the first team, did what you would like to see first team professionals do given the situation. Pinto asserted himself strongly in a defensive midfield role, disrupting attacks, winning possession, and kick-starting the transition to attack with some precise passing in midfield. Pinto was subbed out at half time, presumably with the first team’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match vs. Pittsburgh on Tuesday, in mind.
Things went from bad to worse for Philadelphia when defender Hugo Le Guennec was dismissed for his 2nd bookable offense at the 48-minute mark, forcing the visitors to play down a man for the remainder of the match.
Attacking midfielder Gerardo Valenzuela then doubled the FCC lead in the 59th minute, taking a pass from Morgan Marshall on the edge of the area before hammering a drive into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
Similar to Pinto, the newest first-team signing Valenzuela put in a strong shift for FCC 2. While the first half didn’t see him as involved in the attack as he might like, the attacking midfielder consistently dropped deep to help his team win the ball, and his passing to the wings was mostly accurate. In the 2nd half, he was a frequent nuisance in the Philadelphia end.
Tyrone Marshall lauded Pinto and Valenzuela along with other first team players for their attitude in turning out for FCC 2.
“The most important thing is the attitude they bring down here with them,” Marshall said. “If they bring a workmanlike attitude, coming in and getting the job done, that’s what we want. Ultimately, you’re playing and the first-team coach is in the stand watching and judging your ability to play here, and thinking maybe I can trust him more up there. It’s a platform for them to showcase.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the home side, however. Philadelphia picked up a goal in the 74th minute when substitute Luciano Sanchez was allowed to dribble forward and then across the top of the FCC penalty area before he fired in a shot inside the post to make it 2-1. The visitors had a couple of other chances in the closing minutes, despite falling short.
Marshall called the team’s effort improved on the evening, but agreed the late Union goal illuminated some things his team is trying to work on.
“Lack of concentration and lack of organization,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re playing up a man you’re thinking “instead of you stepping maybe (someone else is) going to step. It’s one of those things where you fall asleep a little bit, and that’s what happened on that goal.”
Despite that, there was much to be happy about on the day. The team created a number of scoring chances and, had it received better finishing from Castellano on a couple of 1v1 opportunities, might have killed the game off much earlier. Marshall at right back was able to get forward consistently, and Halsey on the left found success with some well-timed runs off the ball down the left wing.
Additionally, Salim Adams imposed himself in midfield on a number of occasions, and substitute Matt Dreas helped the team retain possession after coming on for Pinto at halftime. Center back Joey Akpunonu was good in the air, especially in the late going.
FCC 2 improves to 3-3-4 on the season, good for 9th place in the Eastern Conference. The team next plays at Inter Miami II on Thursday.
Philadelphia Union II Lineup
GK: Trent Holden
D: Anthony Sorenson (Daniel Krueger 61), Hugo Le Guennec, Gino Portello, Juan Castillo
M: David Vasquez (Boubacar Diallo 67)
, Francis Westfield, Alex Perez (Maike Villero 61), Christopher Olney
F: Stefan Stojanovich (Jose Riasco 61), Nelson Pierre (Luciano Sanchez 61)
Unused Substitutes: Brooks Thompson, Nathan Njanji Pedro Alvarez, Carlos Rojas,
FC Cincinnati 2 Lineup
GK: Evan Louro
D: Morgan Marshall, Joseph Akpunonu, Kai Thomas (David Garcia 69), Isaiah Foster, Bret Halsey
M: Salim Adams, Malik Pinto (Matt Dreas, 45), Gerardo Valenzuela
F: Benjamin Stitz (Haroun Conteh, 90), Jesus Castellano (Ryder Mills, 60)
Unused Substitutes: Hunter Morse, Darrell Turcios, Owen Noverr, Nicholas McHenry,