While this season may not have been much to write home about in terms of wins and losses, FC Cincinnati 2 rose to a big occasion Sunday in defeating NYCFC II by a 2-0 score.
Played in TQL Stadium as part of a local youth soccer promotion, the game was a chance for a number of players to perform on the big stage for the first time. FCC 2 coach Ty Marshall said he encouraged the group to make sure the first time wasn’t the last time and to enjoy the moment.
Goalkeeper Paul Walters did that as much if not more than anyone for the home team, recording seven saves, including a few of highlight-reel quality. Marshall credited Walters with a big portion of the credit of the team’s win.
“Man of the match for me. The guy was on top of it. If it wasn’t for Paul (Walters), we could have been down 2-1 or 3-1 at halftime,” Marshall said. “He has so much potential and upside. He makes big saves in the same way that Roman makes them. I think there’s a big future ahead for him.”
Jesus Castellano and Malik Pinto scored the goals for the Orange & Blue, and Marshall was happy with the performance of his back line as well, including center-backs Joey Akpunonu, London Aghedo and Juan Machado. He was especially happy with his team’s mentality before a few thousand fans.
It doesn’t matter if we didn’t play the prettiest soccer,” he said. “We were resilient and the boys came to battle. We wanted them to come in with that winning mentality and that’s what they showed.”
FCC 2 created the first chance of the game when Salim Adams intercepted a pass in the NYCFC end. The sequence led to a corner kick, but Dado Valenzuela’s drive was caught by Rando Alexander in the visitor’s goal. NYCFC created a chance of their own in the ninth minute, also through pressing, but FCC defender Machado came up with a vital block to end the threat.
As the half wore on, cynical fouling and dramatic reactions became an increasing feature, but FCC 2 seemed to be creating the better quality chances.
FCC 2 broke through on a nice individual effort from Castellano, who dribbled through the center of the park before firing a shot from the edge of the area inside the far post to make it 1-0.
Minutes later, Walters was forced into a stretch save on a drive by NYCFC’s Samuel Owusu. This was followed by a good attacking sequence from FCC with a Kai Thomas cross causing a scramble in front of goal and handball claims from FCC, but nothing was given.
Walters made a better reaction save in the 39th minute on a header from Ronald Arevalo. NYCFC was starting to control more of the ball and asking questions of the home side’s defense as the half wound to a close. FCC center-backs Akpunonu, Machado and Aghedo were performing some heroic duties deep in their own penalty area, often against NYCFC corner kicks (NYCFC had eight corners in the opening 45 minutes to FCC’s two). If anything got through, Walters was on hand as the final line of defense and the teams went to the break at 1-0.
In the second half, FCC 2 started brightly with a flurry of shots that were blocked in the area. Castellano continued to perform brightly, enjoying taking on defenders via the dribble. NYCFC was almost gifted a goal when Akpunonu was caught in possession in front of his own goal, but the ball went out for a goal kick.
Minutes later, FCC 2’s Pinto scored to make it 2-0. The counter was driven by Castellano who dribbled up the left side and hit a good pass for Pinto. The midfielder from North Carolina controlled it nicely while in full stride and then finished just as well.
NYCFC had a good chance to cut the lead in the 63rd minute when Machado conceded a free kick just outside the area, but the drive by John Denis was blocked at the wall and the danger was averted. In fact, throughout the closing 30 minutes of the second half, Walters was called into action to preserve his clean sheet. The FCC 2 goalkeeper had seven saves overall.
The most spectacular of these was in the 87th minute when NYCFC was awarded a penalty. Matt Myers took the spot kick and Walters kept it out, preserving the shutout and the final scoreline of 2-0.
FCC 2 is now 7-4-13 on the season and next plays at Atlanta next Saturday.
GK: Rando Alexander
D: Stephen Turnbull, Rio Hope-Gund, Samuel Owusu, Christian Mcfarlane
M: Nicholas Benalcazar, Jack Beer (Maximo Carrizo, 81), Piero Elias (Jonathan Shore, 56)
F: Ronald Arevalo (John Denis, 56), Matthew Myers, Jonathan Jimenez
Unused Substitutes: Kofi Hope-Gund, Julian Gomez, Brian Flores, Klevis Xaxhari
FC Cincinnati 2
GK: Paul Walters
D: Kai Thomas (Matt Schenfeld, 68), London Aghedo, Joey Akpunonu, Juan Machado, Isaiah Foster
M: Malik Pinto, Salim Adams, Gerado Valenzuela
F: Benjamin Stitz, Jesus Castellano
Unused Substitutes: Hunter Morse, Lucas Tamarez, Haroun Conteh, Jio Mora, Nolan Brice, Nicholas Mchenry