FC Cincinnati Battles Back To Secure A Point Against Louisville City FC

FC Cincinnati and Louisville City FC each earned a point after a 1-1 draw at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati in front of 20,437 fans.

Louisville’s Brian Ownby scored first with a laser from 20 yards out that banked off the post and in. Cincinnati was able to equalize with a goal from Aodhan Quinn. Cincinnati went a man down after star striker Djiby Fall went jumping in with his studs up to pick up a red in.

Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch said of the match, “Louisville was defiantly the better team in tonight’s game. But what I was impressed with was the character to come back.” He also applauded the fans saying, “I take my hat off to the fans, I think they were absolutely excellent. When we went down they picked it up. I think that is a big part of why we got something out of the game tonight.”

Cincinnati had a very frustrating first half starting off slow for the first five minutes. After getting a little control of the game they were able to put on pressure on. Louisville was able to grab the lead after a great play from Ownby to cut in from his left to beat Quinn and shoot from the middle of the field giving Mitch Hildebrandt. Louisville looked to go for a second and put Cincinnati under pressure for a long time. Matt Bahner had Cincinnati’s best chance in the half with a shot that was acrobatically tipped over the bar by the Louisville keeper late in the half.

In the second half Cincinnati made two subs to bring on two attacking players to attempt to even up the game. Right after the subs Cincinnati pilled on pressure but the strong Louisville back line shut down every attack. Kyle Smith and Tarek Morad both had incredible games for Louisville on the right side of the field. Cincinnati finally broke thorough after a cross from Andrew Wiedeman on the left was half cleared to Corben Bone who passed it to Quinn who evened up the game. Fall’s red card came shortly after and put Cincinnati in a tough position to finish the final few minutes of the match.

Tonight’s match rounds out a tough week for Cincinnati after played three of the toughest teams in the Eastern Conference. Cincinnati goes to (2-2-2) and gets five points out of nine on the week after a win and two draws. Cincinnati heads to fifth place in the East with eight points. When asked about the week Koch said, “Big picture I’m very happy with the results, if it was three games against teams from the bottom of our conference I wouldn’t feel that way. But to play three top teams and get 5 of 9 points.” He also said, “The performance tonight wasn’t going in the right direction but the character is.”

Fall’s red card was the third straight red for Cincinnati this season with the first two being Paul Nicholson and Kadeem Dacres. Fall’s red happened the latest all season after Nicholson’s was in the 26 minute and Dacres in the 72 minute. Fall will be out for the match against the Bethlehem Steel next Saturday the 29 of April.

Quinn scored his first goal for Cincinnati against his former team. He did not celebrate, a common thing to do against former employers “I knew if the opportunity came up I wouldn’t celebrate. I have a lot of respect for that club, the coaches, and the players. I still talk to a lot of them there was no chance I would celebrate.”

Notably absent tonight was Kadeem Dacres due to his red card against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday. He missed his chance to play his former team in Louisville where he played the last two seasons. Victor Mansaray started in his place and played well getting a few decent crosses but was unable to get one to find Fall.

Summary

Cincinnati had another slow start to the match letting Louisville dictate the first minutes of the match. Cincinnati was able to gain control, looking dangerous and piling on pressure but to no avail.

Louisville’s Brain Ownby cut to his left in from the right flank and buried a laser that careened off the post and in to take the lead in the 20 minute. Cincinnati keeper Mitch Hildebrandt had no chance at saving it.

Sean Totsch of Louisville picked up the first yellow card of the match in the attack after the goal taking down Harrison Delbridge just outside the box in the 21 minute. The resulting free kick ended up in the side netting for a goal kick.

Victor Mansaray picked up the first yellow for Cincinnati after a late challenge on George Davis IV in the 31 minute.

Mat Bahner had a great chance for Cincinnati with a shot from outside the box that demanded a good save from Louisville keeper Tim Dobrowolski who tipped it over the bar in the 40 minute.

Austin Berry picked up a yellow card for holding up a Louisville attacker stopping an attack in the 52 minute. Good foal because if he lets the attacker go it could have been a very good chance. Free kick goes wide resulting in a goal kick.

Luke Spencer almost doubled Louisville’s lead after a bad giveaway from Harrison Delbridge inside the six-yard box in the 64 minute. A very good save from Hildebrandt keeps the score where it is.

A header from Delbridge just misses wide off a free kick from Quinn in the 66 minute. It was also just out of reach for Matt Bahner who almost tapped it in.

Kenny Walker’s tackle from behind earned him a yellow in the 70 minute. It was a nice break for Louisville because Cincinnati was piling on the pressure looking to equalize.

Cincinnati equalized after a goal from Aodhan Quinn from inside the six-yard box in the 79 minute. A ball from Andrew Wiedeman from the left was half cleared to the top of the box and sent back in from Daryl Fordyce.

Djiby Fall was given a straight red after leaving his feet and showing his studs in a tackle trying to regain the ball in the midfield in the 85 minute.

Louisville put a ball into the box in the 88 minute that Hildebrandt was able to knock to himself. As he grabbed it a Louisville attacker swung his leg and almost caught Hildebrandt. A small exchanging of words ensued but no cards were given and plat continued.

Cincinnati had one chance just before fulltime after a dangerous cross into Andy Craven that was grabbed by the keeper.

Next Up

Cincinnati travels to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to take on the Bethlehem Steel next Saturday April, 29. Bethlehem currently sit in last place in the Eastern Conference with three points (1-2-0). Last year Cincinnati won both games against Bethlehem and will look to continue their unbeaten record.

They come back to Cincinnati Saturday May 13 to play Orlando City B at 7:00pm.

Final Thoughts

Cincinnati had a rough game tonight but it was a welcome sight to see them grab points late rather than last season where they were dropping points in the final 10 minutes.

Djiby Fall was given a very deserved red card and there is no chance of an appeal. The only question now is if a further suspension comes from the USL offices. I don’t see this happening but it is a possibility. Victor Mansaray or Andy Craven will fill in for Fall next weekend.

They need to get back on track against Bethlehem after two tough physical draws to probably the best two teams in the Eastern Conference. It was a good week but not great, they need to get back to great if they want a home first round playoff game.

Andy Craven was handing out donuts tonight to kids after the game. That is how you endear yourself to you fans.

Cincinnati and Tampa Bay Draw In Physical Affair

FC Cincinnati hosted the Tampa Bay Rowdies in a very physical 1-1 draw at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio in front of 15,227.

Darwin Jones of Tampa Bay scored in the seventh minute on a screamer from 30 yards out that hit the post and careened in. It will be a definite USL “Goal of the Week” candidate. Harrison Delbridge headed in a corner to equalize in the 36 minute. Cincinnati’s Kadeem Dacres was sent off on a straight red after a high-legged challenge on Jones hitting him in the stomach.

Cincinnati Head Coach Alan Koch on the result stated, “At the end of the night we will take 1 point, something to build on for Saturday.”

An extremely physical night where there were five yellow cards, a straight red, and 31 fouls between both teams. It started early with both teams picking up fouls early on and the first card coming inside the first 20 minutes. Tampa Bay led the way with 20 fouls. Both teams seemed to be up for the match. When asked whose style of play resulted in the physical nature of the match Koch said, “A little more of them…They tried to impose themselves from the start of the game…It probably was part of their gameplan.”

There were a couple scuffles, one inside the first 15 minutes, another that spilled into the Tampa Bay bench with Dacres and a defender. At the end of the match Joe Cole kicked Cincinnati’s Jimmy McLaughlin in the head inside his own box in the 85 minute with no call from the referee.

Cincinnati started the game slow and allowed Tampa Bay to control the opening few minutes. The Tampa Bay goal was a combination of a great strike and no one stepping up to close him down after a giveaway in the midfield. They finally were able to get their flow going around the 30 minute and getting a goal shortly after. Coach Koch said, “We weren’t very happy with how we started tonight.”

The second half both teams came out strong and both teams looked dangerous but couldn’t give their team a lead. Cincinnati started to take over the game around the 60 minute possessing a lot of the ball and looking extremely dangerous. All of that changed after the red card to Dacres. The final 15 Tampa Bay took over and was able to create plenty of chances but couldn’t break through.

This was the second straight red card for Cincinnati this season; Paul Nicholson against Bethlehem Steel had the first. In that match Cincinnati was down a man for 4 minutes. Koch remarked on that match giving them the resolve to close out this one. On potentially appealing the red he said, “We’ll probably have a discussion tonight as a club and see what the right way is to go about addressing that.”

McLaughlin and Dacres both covered a lot of ground on the wings for Cincinnati tonight. Both were able to make good plays on both sides of the ball. Dacres had a great tackle just outside the box on the wing to start a counter attack in the first half that led to a chance. Due to the red card Dacres will be out for the match this Saturday against Louisville City FC.

Djiby Fall was unable to continue his incredible goal scoring streak, with it almost impossible to repeat his four goal performance from last Saturday. Delbridge’s goal was the first one not scored by Fall this season.

Summary

Marcel Schafer hit a gorgeous shot from about 30 yards out to give Tampa Bay the lead in the 7’. The chance was created due to a bad giveaway from Cincinnati in the center of the park.

Tampa Bay was the better team though the first 15 minutes creating chances and winning the ball in the midfield.

Tampa Bay’s Luke Boden picked up the first yellow card of the night for a foul on Kadeem Dacres in the midfield in the 20 minute. It was coming for a little while due to the physical nature of the game to that point. Both sides had been called for a few fouls up to that point.

Cincinnati finally found their attacking legs creating chances and playing well defensively around the 30 minute mark.

Harrison Delbridge equalized off a corner from Kenny Walker into the six-yard box jumping over a Tampa Bay defender.

Jimmy McLaughlin put a shot just wide in the 44 minute. He was able to split two Tampa Bay defenders and just missed on the shot to put it wide. Would have been a great play if converted.

The start of the second half both teams looked dangerous held the ball well but no chances from either side.

Matt Bahner picked up Cincinnati’s first yellow card of the evening after a foul in the midfield attempting to break up a counter attack. Play went on after the foul and he made a block on a cross to slow down the attack.

Michael Nachoff picked up a yellow in the 64 minute for Tampa Bay after a late foul on Fordyce.

Daryl Fordyce had a great chance in the 65 minute after a brilliant bit of trickery from Bahner to set up the one on one chance. His one on one chance was saved after trying to slide it under the charging keeper.

Scuffle in the 68 minute after a coming together between Dacres and a Tampa Bay defender spilled into the Tampa Bay bench area.

Tampa Bay’s Damion Lowe picked up a yellow in the 70 minute after foul on Dacres to stop his great run. Free kick from Walker went just wide but should have been saved by the keeper.

Dacres was given a straight red card in the 78 minute after a hard foul on Jones. Dacres went in with a high straight leg into the midsection.

Jimmy McLaughlin went down in a heap in his own box after getting kicked in the head by Tampa Bay’s Joe Cole in the 85 minute. Play went on and Delbridge closed down where McLaughlin would have been, forcing a cross to go out for a goal kick. McLaughlin was given some medical aid and came back on as play resumed.

Fulltime came after five minutes of extra time where Cincinnati was able to close down the final few minutes only giving up one good chance in extra time that was headed over the bar for a goal kick.

Next Up

Louisville City FC comes to town in the River Cities Cup on Saturday April 22. Louisville is coming off a 2-1 home win against Tampa Bay to stay unbeaten. Currently in second place in the Eastern Conference with 10 points (3-0-1) tied with points with Tampa Bay and down on goal differential. Kickoff is slated for 7:00p.m. for what right now looks like it could be a cold wet one with a 100% chance of rain and high of 52 as of this writing. Check here for weather closer to the match.

Last season Cincinnati won the River Cities Cup on goal differential due to having a win, draw, and loss to Louisville. This will be their first match of the season.

Final Thoughts

Cincinnati had the chances to win tonight but one point against what very well could be the best team in the Eastern Conference after the poor start and red card. I think it was a harsh red card but the referee was forced to make a decision and it went against Cincinnati. Also when Jimmy McLaughlin was kicked in the head there should have been a card there as well, maybe not a red but at least a yellow. The five yellows could have been several more due to the amount of fouls from both teams.

Cincinnati should bounce back against a very tough Louisville City team who has former forward Luke Spencer leading their line.

FC Cincinnati Routs St. Louis FC In Home Opener

FC Cincinnati ran all over St. Louis FC to win 4-0 at Nippert Stadium. Djiby Fall scored all four in an incredible performance.

After a slow start the entire Cincinnati team put in a very good performance being able to shut down St. Louis despite not having the majority of possession. Matt Bahner and Corben Bone both had fantastic games putting passes in dangerous areas and both having assists. The back line was in the right place at the right time consistently stopping build up play or making a key tackle before passes could be put in dangerous positions. Cincinnati had 12 shots putting eight on target in a good performance.

Fall commented on his performance by saying, “I want to congrat my teammates without them I can’t score four goals.” He also added this was his first time scoring four goals.

Head Coach Alan Koch praised his team, “Congratulations to Djiby [Fall] for scoring the four goals and congratulations to the whole team. The service into him tonight was very good. I think we looked dangerous.” He also said, “The positive is on the flip side, we really put in a good performance out of possession. Our group was very sound defensively.”

Mitch Hildebrandt got his second clean sheet of the season. He had five last season, he is on his way to bettering that total.

Andy Craven made his FC Cincinnati debut tonight coming on in the 80’ for Fall. Victor Mansaray had his first start tonight and played 66 minutes before coming off with an injury. Corben Bone also had his first start of the season after coming on as a sub in two previous games.

Another USL attendance record was broken tonight after 23,144 fans showed up to provide a noisy atmosphere. Koch praised the crowd, “I have been in this game for a long time, that was a pretty special environment tonight. You could feel it, the players could feel it.” Fall gave a very nice complement after being asked about the crowd saying. “When I play a Europa League game in England when we played Fulham.”

Bahner, a Cincinnati native, talked about his homecoming, “I had a lot of friends, a lot of family. I’m thankful have them supporting me.” After throwing out the first pitch for the Cincinnati Reds on Friday and the good performance tonight he commented, “Maybe I should throw out the first pitch every Friday night.”
Summary

The first half started off slowly with a large amount of Cincinnati possession and many long balls forward where only one was able to produce a chance. Fall was fairly physical early on picking up a few fouls and being on the receiving end of a few. One foul causing an exchange of words when he pushed a St. Louis defender into the keeper who threw the ball out of bonds in frustration and so his defender could get some treatment.

Fall broke the deadlock in the 35’ with a header off a cross from Matt Bahner. Victor Mansaray picked up his yellow card in the 39’ on a straight-legged challenge on the touchline that brought a few words to be exchanged. Fall’s second goal came off a corner where the initial ball was headed up to Harrison Delbridge who headed it down to Fall’s feet who turned and slid it into the net before halftime.

The second half started off with a bang after an early goal from Fall to complete his hattrick. An easy tap in after a great passes from Kenny Walker and Corben Bone to set it up. A few minutes after the goal St. Louis coach Preki used all three subs trying to get any sort of offense. Fall’s fourth goal came off a header in the box off a good cross from Kenny Walker who had all day to cross the ball in.

St Louis’ Octavio Guzman picked up his team’s only yellow card after a hard foul on Kadeem Dacres in the 64’. Dacres was down for a few seconds but was able to get up and finish the match. Cincinnati never stopped looking for goal after their fourth but were notably cautious.

Next Up

Cincinnati hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies and former Chelsea FC star Joe Cole on Wednesday night at 7:00 at Nippert Stadium. This is the first time the two teams will play each other due to Tampa Bay moving to the USL from the NASL.

Final Thoughts

After a rough start this win should get Cincinnati in the right mode to take on a very good Tampa Bay who are currently in second.

Djiby Fall is going to surpass the club record of 16 goals, set by Sean Okoli, this year barring any injures with 6 through his first four games. He is a substantial upgrade over Okoli and if the balls coming into him are consistent like they were tonight 25 goals does not seem out of reach.

Cincinnati needs to find goals from someone else at some point because teams are going to be keying in on Djiby in the future. Look for Mansaray and Kadeem Dacres to score a few in the coming weeks.

On a final note #WengerOut has made it to Cincinnati.

Charleston Battery down FC Cincinnati in Season Opener

FC Cincinnati lost their season opener to the Charleston Battery 2-1 in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston’s Justin Portillo scored the deciding goal and assisted on the other in a Man of the Match performance.

Djiby Fall scored the lone Cincinnati goal in the 58’, heading in a corner from Andrew Wiedeman. Charleston’s Forest Lasso scored the first goal and picked up the only booking of the match for a foul on Wiedeman.

On a night where they dominated possession, poor finishing doomed Cincinnati. FCC hit 14 shots, but only got five on target. Only two were put on target in the second half, including the goal. Many seemed to be off target the moment they were hit and didn’t trouble the Charleston keeper. If this issue is corrected Cincinnati will be a dangerous team to watch and should be able to score quite a few goals.

The defense was shaky for parts of the game. Charleston was able to exploit the flanks and make runs into the box and create chances. The big moment coming when Austin Berry made an ill advised sliding challenge from behind in the box giving up a penalty. Harrison Delbridge, on the bright side, was able to make a great sliding challenge to stop a one-on-one chance with the keeper in the first half. It looked a lot like some of the tackles he made last year to stop one-on-ones.

Five new faces made their debuts tonight: Matt Bahner, Kadeem Dacres, Fall, Daryl Fordyce and Adohan Quinn. Fordyce and Quinn were able to make impacts most of the game. Fordyce had a few chances and good passes, but wasn’t able to get his best chance on target, a diving header after a misplayed free kick. Quinn has made himself the main free kick taker, putting one on target from 20 yards out.

Summary

Cincinnati came out of the gate controlling the vast majority of possession during the first 15’. Fall took the first shot of the year with a volley that was way over. A yellow card came in the 8’ to Charleston’s Forest Lasso who fouled Wiedeman 20 yards out. The following free kick was put on frame from Quinn but saved comfortably by Tambakis.

Charleston was able to create few good chances, but they ultimately came to nothing. Cincinnati was still in control creating a few good chances. Their best being a header by Fordyce that came off a poorly handled free kick by the Charleston defense.

Charleston broke the deadlock off a Lasso header from the corner. Justin Portillo put in a great ball to the six-yard box that Lasso headed in. The following few minutes saw Charleston create a handful of chances including a dangerous free kick that was caught by Hildebrandt.

To start the second half Cincinnati was able to get a really good chance off a corner where Harrison Delbridge was able to put a header on target, but was cleared by a defender. Fall equalized for Cincinnati in the 58’ with a header off a corner from Wiedeman. In the resulting minutes Cincinnati took control of the game.

In the 68’ Austin Berry conceded a penalty, fouling Neveal Hackshaw in the box from behind. Hildebrandt saved the penalty, but was unable to stop the rebound that Portillo put in to give Charleston the lead once again. Again after the goal Charleston was able to keep pressure on Cincinnati, not letting them try to get a goal.

Cincinnati brought on attackers Dacres and Omar Cummings to try to get a goal in the 80’. Two long shots and an off balance volley were all that could be mustered. There was a small sliver of hope with a penalty shout late when the ball bounced up to hit a Charleston defender’s arm, but waved off by the referee.

Next Up

Cincinnati’s next match is away at 7p.m. on April 1 against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Highmark Stadium along the Ohio River. Cincinnati had two wins and a draw last year against Pittsburgh including a win and draw in Pittsburgh.

Final Thoughts

This team is far from where they will be at the end of the season. Dominating possession and getting the ball in dangerous positions is good but, the finishing needs work. Don’t be upset at one loss from a playoff team last year even though it would have been nice to get revenge for knocking Cincinnati out.

I’m very excited about the addition of Djiby Fall and his ability to hold up the ball and get his head on it in the box. Also the more I see of Harrison Delbridge the more I like him. He is good on the ball and comes up big stopping one-on-one situations. My player of the year for last season looks to be in for another year.

The fan support for what is essentially a minor league team still amazes me. In every stadium Cincinnati plays there always seems to be at least a handful of fans wearing orange and blue.

FC Cincinnati Officially Running For MLS Expansion

FC Cincinnati owner and CEO, Carl Linder III, delivered Cincinnati’s proposal to MLS headquarters Tuesday. Joining 11 other cities in announcing their intention for one of the four expansion slots. This was a widely expected move for FC Cincinnati and many of the other cities.

One of the two big surprises were Phoenix, who currently have the newly re-branded Phoenix Rising FC in the USL. The other was Indianapolis, Indiana who is currently the home of the Indy Eleven in the NASL and also the Indy Eleven II in the NPSL. Phoenix was added to the running last week and Indianapolis was a shock addition on Monday night Jan. 30 (one day before the deadline).

A new soccer-specific stadium is most likely what will hinge on Cincinnati being awarded a MLS team. The biggest way to get a stadium passed would be to have it all privately funded due to the taxpayers already paying off stadiums for the Bengals and Reds. Also a list of potential sites was supposed to be provided to the Cincinnati City Council before the end of January, but most likely won’t be released to the public.

Even though Nippert Stadium has a large capacity and FC Cincinnati has spent $2 million to widen the playing surface to the FIFA regulations, it is still controlled by its main tenants the University of Cincinnati Football team.

Coming off a fantastic season on and off the field FC Cincinnati is considered to be a front-runner for a call up to the MLS. On the field, it ended prematurely in the first round of the playoffs, after a third place finish in the Eastern Conference, in front of USL playoff record 30,187.

In the stands it was an incredible season with a total attendance of 259,457, 17.3% of the league total. They averaged 17,296 in league games and setting a league attendance record in their second home game with 20,497 and breaking that mark two more times later in the year, capping the record at 24,376.

The crown jewel of the season was the friendly match against English Premier League club Crystal Palace where a sold out 35,061 crowd witnessed a Palace 2-0 win.

Image courtesy of Tana Weingartner of WVXU

The blueprint that FC Cincinnati seems to be following is that of Orlando City SC who played in the USL from 2010-2014 and set attendance records along with solid average attendances over their four years in the league before moving to MLS in 2015. Solid ownership and a plan for a stadium in a soccer crazy environment was able to get a team to the MLS, Cincinnati can repeat this process.

Assuming FC Cincinnati gets a stadium, there is a decent shot that the MLS could come to Cincinnati but it will be very tough. St. Louis and San Diego both had their NFL franchises leave and have a large hole in their market of the professional sports world.

Also, the close proximity to the Columbus Crew won’t help.

Due to the outstanding ownership group and rabid fan support last year, with having already sold 9,000 season tickets for the season, it doesn’t look like FC Cincinnati going anywhere soon. But like most things in US professional sports, things will be decided behind the scenes instead of on the field.

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Changing U.S. Soccer Landscape

 

The U.S. soccer landscape is changing on an eventful day. First, the MLS commissioner, Don Garber, arrived in Cincinnati to view the FC Cincinnati soccer facilities, a USL franchise, potentially for future inclusion in the U.S top tier. Second, the New York Cosmos, a second tier NASL franchise, are reportedly on their last leg and in serious danger of folding operations. Third, rumors are the NASL could fold entirely and their remaining teams may join the USL.

With Garber in Cincinnati many have put FC Cincinnati in the running to receive a MLS franchise. The second round of additions are scheduled after 2018, possibly 2020, when the league will expand to 23 teams, or maybe 24 if the Miami affiliate headed by David Beckham pull the proper resources together. If measures fall through in Miami, Cincinnati could be the next team included due to their excellent attendance and terrific fan support. It’s only necessary to see how many people showed up for Garber’s arrival at a local airfield to understand the support in Cincinnati.



The New York Cosmos had been rumored to be in trouble for a while. Reports coming out today have verified those rumors. Once the flagship franchise of the original NASL, which folded in 1984 returned under the same name in 2010, taking the field in 2013. They were successful on the field with three NASL Championship trophies, but a different story off the field with lagging attendance and no progress securing their own stadium.

Sad news surrounding the Cosmos was met with more bad news from the league. Reports from the league meetings suggest a possible NASL and USL merger. This is good for a league currently with ten teams scheduled to play next season, but bad for two of those teams in financial trouble, which could leave the league with eight.

If the merger goes through with all of the teams remaining there will be 39 teams in the new league. This is too many teams for one tier, but it can work in the short term. Long term, splitting into two tiers will be huge for the promotion relegation fight in the U.S. This long-term model would not be sustainable without the support of a television contract and the leadership of U.S. Soccer, including President Sunil Gulati.

A television contract will be the most important asset owned by MLS. This will be the surest way to expand the sport in the U.S. and pay the designated player salaries that drive attendance. For any USL/NASL potential merger to succeed there has to be either a partnership with the MLS or their own television contract to survive.

Klinsmann Couldn’t Live Up To His Own Standards

Jurgen Klinsmann was fired yesterday as the U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach and Technical Director. It came off the back of two tough losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in the first two games of the final stage, Hexagonal, of 2018 World Cup qualifying.

This firing is not a surprise for anyone who treats Klinsmann by the standard that he wished to be treated by when he took the job. He had a penchant for playing players out of position. Klinsmann also changed up the formation going into the Mexico game that failed to break through and score more than a goal, while leaving the back three vulnerable.

Probably the worst thing he did is undermining the MLS. Repeatedly saying that players needed to go to Europe and stay out of the MLS for consideration in his teams. But, his most recent team for the two World Cup qualifiers had eight MLS players and then seven after Tim Howard was injured against Mexico. Five MLS players started against Mexico and four started and two came on as subs against Costa Rica. Clint Dempsey, of MLS’ Seattle Sounders, would have also started if he weren’t injured.

Klinsmann was the Head Coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team for just over five years and had immediate success. He won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013. Then he guided the men out of the toughest group in the 2014 World Cup in a feat that was heralded as a giant success, but then fell in the second round of the knockout stage to Belgium.

The roster he took to Brazil was missing Landon Donovan, who is considered by many the best player to ever pull on a U.S. jersey, and the leading goal scorer. In this move, Klinsmann alienated many fans that thought that Donovan should be there no matter what, due to his experience and leadership. In his place he selected a 19 year-old Julian Green who was considered a future star for the US and his club team Bayern Munich, the top team in Germany’s Bundesliga for the last four years.

Then things started to go downhill in the 2015 Gold Cup, where Jamaica beat the U.S. in the semifinal and lost to Panama on penalties to finish in fourth place. This was a colossal failure due to being the overwhelming favorites to make the final and a loss in a third place game that was shown on a channel that many cable packages don’t carry, making it hard for fans to watch.

Copa America Cenentario logo. Courtesy of sportsmaza.com

Copa America Cenentario logo. Courtesy of sportsmaza.com

From there the U.S. was included in the Copa America Centenario, which is a South American tournament that was played outside South America for the first time. The U.S. finished a respectable fourth place but a loss 4-0 to Argentina soured the party. Realistically the U.S. never stood a chance in that game and after going down early weren’t able to recover.

Then came World Cup qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. In the fourth round, the first the U.S. had to participate in, he won his group by two points and avoided not qualifying by four points, but Klinsmann still made some fans nervous. After this poor showing the team goes into the Hexagonal and loses his first two games. Worse than that, he responded to people calling for him to be fired saying, “[Critics] don’t understand soccer or the team.” Well, if he was his predecessor, Bob Bradley, he would have been fired in 2015 after the Gold Cup failure.

Klinsmann was fired due to his failings after the 2014 World Cup. Many traditional soccer powers would have fired him then. He was then unable to save his job this summer with the Copa America Centenairo, after being the highest finisher out of North America. His failings in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup is the reason he will be looking for work. Not having a great first round put on a little pressure and the first two Hexagonal losses were the final nail in the coffin.

Field of 64 for the World Cup?

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has outlined a new proposal for the World Cup to go from 32 to 48 teams. This is an increase on his original proposal of 40 teams as he was running for the presidency. This looks like a huge money grab from one of the greediest organizations in the world.

The problem with his new plan is that 48 teams show up for the World Cup, with 16 having a guaranteed place in the group stage and the 32 playing one game for the last 16 spot. Then the rest of the tournament proceeds as it has in the past. This means 16 teams go home after one game. Yes one game. To travel to another continent to potentially play one game and then have to go back is a tough pill to swallow. It means training for three weeks, after a long domestic season, before leaving for the tournament to play one game and  then have all that effort go to waste.

Expansion is coming because if Infantino can’t deliver, his entire platform he ran on fails, so why not expand straight to 64 teams? Double the size of the field, give 32 more teams a chance to play in the biggest sporting event in the world. It would dilute the talent pool and the hard-core traditionalists will say the World Cup would not mean as much because “anyone can make it”. The expansion is coming, so why not make it come in one big swoop instead of trying to have to figure out how the new system works as it could possibly go from 40 to 48 then to 64?

Gianni Infantino is the current president of FIFA, elected in Feburary 2016. image courtesy news.fantasyfootball.com

The basic structure of the tournament doesn’t change outside of adding an extra round after the group stage. It also adds another 64 matches to the tournament meaning a larger amount of T.V. revenue that can be earned. There can also be a discussion about extending the length between group matches to allow for more rest or just keep it the same as the current schedule.

The amount of money that fringe countries of the 64 will be getting can be used to fund grassroots programs to increase the quality of their teams for the future. That is the easiest way for these countries to grow and get to the level of the top teams in the world.

Some of the big cons to this proposal are that a fourth of the teams in FIFA would now making it into the World Cup and qualifying will not be as interesting. Also the infrastructure requirements are going to be larger than in the past needing more financial requirements being used by governments that can be used for the social programs or construction is going to be used on stadiums that will be underused.

While personally I think it is better to just leave it with the current 32-team setup, expansion is coming and I believe it is better to go all out for it and give lower teams in the rankings a shot to get better faster instead of waiting 20 to 30 years before getting to this point.

FC Cincinnati Has Unfortunate End To Inaugural Season

FC Cincinnati lost in their first ever playoff match to the Charleston Battery 2-1 at Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati fans showed up in force setting a new USL Playoff attendance record with 30,187.

Charleston’s Zach Prince headed in the winner in the 65’ off a corner. Cincinnati’s Eric Stevenson took the lead in the 19’ minute with a long shot from 30 yards out into the top right corner. Charleston equalized in the 40’ off a badly played throw in that was headed in by Chris Tsonis.

After the match Coach John Harkes, General Manager Jeff Berding, and goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt all made comments thanking the fans for their support all season long. Hildebrandt being the most in-depth saying, “These fans are very, very educated and knowledgeable of the game. They are not just people who come out to support the club just on a whim they are passionate. For me to have that special relationship with the fans makes it hurt a little bit more. You want to win for a group like that.”

Cincinnati broke the three-year-old playoff attendance mark of Orlando City in the USL Final in 2013 of 20,886. Also bringing over 300,000 fans through the gates in all competitions prior to tonight’s match.

After the match Harkes commented on the goal from Stevenson by saying, “What a fantastic strike from a player who some people thought would never play again.” Stevenson had a string of injuries during his senior season of college at Akron including a torn labrum in his hip.

Cincinnati dominated the first half pushing the ball and controlling it mostly in the midfield and their attacking third. Charleston had been sitting back and packing it in forcing some long shots and defending well when the ball is in the box. Sean Okoli had been able to take some shots coming close on a header off a corner and driving another good chance into the side netting. He went down in the box in the 24’ after holding the ball up trying to find a pass and may have been pulled down but no call from the referee. He stayed down for a little while afterwards due to being stepped on after the ball was taken by Charleston.

Charleston took a more physical approach to the half picking up nine fouls but escaping any yellow cards. They have been mostly relying on the counter and miscues from Cincinnati to start their attacks. They were able to get five shots but only one on target. Their best chance was when Cincinnati keeper Mitch Hildebrandt tried to dribble a back pass and he almost put it into a Charleston player’s path, but Hildebrandt safely corralled the ball.

In the second half Charleston came out looking to press and not sit back like in the first and were rewarded by forcing a corner from which they were able to take the lead. After taking the lead Charleston parked the bus and let Cincinnati charge at them forcing the long passes into the box and clearing them away. Cincinnati had a couple of good chances but were unable to find either the final pass or get the ball on frame. Stevenson almost brought them back in the 81’ but his long shot just went over the bar. The final few minutes Cincinnati was throwing everything forward and had many crosses sent in but nothing came of them.

After the match many comments were about recapping the inaugural season and the future of the club, a statement read by Berding talked about the future with the renovations coming to Nippert Stadium, developing youth soccer in Cincinnati, and the work to be done with the future of the players and coaching staff.

Moments of the Match

5’ – Hildebrandt gets away with a bad touch in the box surrounded by Charleston players, luckily the ball falls almost to his feet where he is able to fall on it.

9’ – Andrew Wiedeman takes a good long shot from 25 yards out that just misses the far post.

19’ – Stevenson shot from 30 yards out found the top corner! Okoli assisted goal. Short pass from Bone to Stevenson in the midfield in a transitional phase of play and no one closed Stevenson down.

32’ – Wiedeman shoots from outside the box after the ball bounces to him, well blocked by the Charleston defense going out for a corner. On the corner kick there was a good chance for Okoli but his header just misses.

40’ – Charleston Battery’s Tsonis equalizes on a throw in deep in their attacking third. Mitch Hildebrandt missed on the punch and was blocked by his defender Harrison Delbridge and a Charleston attacker letting the ball get a slight touch from Tsonis.

45’ – Right before the half a great ball from Kenney Walker in the midfield gave Wiedeman a great chance on the right that was well stopped by the Charleston keeper Alex Tambakis.

62’ – First yellow of the match goes to Charleston’s Maikel Chang for pulling Okoli down on a break from behind.

65’ – Charleston took the lead back off a goal from Prince off a corner. Prince was the first man on the corner and headed on frame to the near post, Cincinnati’s Tyler Polak was able to deflect it but unfortunately just inside the post on the far side.

81’ – Eric Stevenson just misses from 20 yards out with Cincinnati still down a goal, pressing but unable to find their equalizer.

Cincinnati Clinches Third In Front Of Record Crowd

FC Cincinnati beat Orlando City B 1-0 in a thrilling match in front of a new USL record crowd of 24,376. Casey Townsend scored in his home debut to give Cincinnati the win.

Townsend, the new signing from the Wilmington Hammerheads, came on in the 66 minute for Kenny Walker. He made his team debut on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds playing 71 minutes. After the game he said, “I jumped at the chance [to join Cincinnati], I know what this club is capable of and the resources here. I wanted to get here as quickly as I could.” Coach Harkes was also complementary saying, “He was dangerous last week against Pittsburgh and there he was again.”

The win tonight guarantees a home playoff match for Cincinnati on Sunday October 2, in two weeks. Third place in clinched for Cincinnati after a loss tonight by the Charlotte Independence. Coach Harkes when asked about resting players next week said, “We will make adjustments as we see fit, take inventory of injuries and see where we are.”

The attendance tonight pushes Cincinnati to 259,437 in USL play extending their own league record and gives them 303,166 in all matches including the sell out against Crystal Palace. On the crowd tonight Harkes commented, “They are educated, the way they continuously sing and push you on…we certainly don’t take it for granted.” Townsend also stated, “That is the best crowd I have played in front of in awhile, you can’t for much more than that.”

The first half had Cincinnati dominating possession and dictating the pace of play but, unable to find the net. Sean Okoli had two good chances and several shots from very far out that were not close enough to worry the keeper. Their attacking chances were mainly through the middle early in the half and down the left where the best looks came from by either crossing it in or getting to the end line and passing back to a waiting attacker. There were two good chances where Cincinnati failed to capitalize, one off a cross that Okoli headed to Austin Berry that was popped up and easily saved. Mark Ridgers saved the other off a ball that fell to Okoli.

Orlando had two very good chances both caused by miscues from Cincinnati players. The first, on a breakaway after a bad ball from Austin Berry that was intercepted in the midfield and led to a long run by Michael Cox that was stopped by a sliding tackle form Harrison Delbridge. The other off a corner that Delbridge tried to chest the ball down in front of goal and it dropped right to Cox whose shot was saved by Mitch Hildebrandt.

Again the second half was dominated by Cincinnati with a bunch of chances that were missed but they were able to get the deciding goal late. Before the goal they were able to get chances from all angles but none of their shots were able to find the net. Ridgers played a good game for Orlando to keep Cincinnati to one goal.

Orlando was on their heels trying to counter until the goal scored where they had to go on the offensive. They had a couple chances but Hildebrandt and the backline was able to stop all of attacks.

The clean sheet tonight makes three in a row and gives Hildebrandt his eighth of the season.

Sean Okoli is still in the lead for the USL Golden Boot, given to the top goal scorer, with 15 goals. He is just above LA Galaxy II striker Jack McBean who is currently on loan to Coventry City in the third tier in England. There are also two players with 14 who can catch him next week if he doesn’t find the net.

Moments of the Match

6’ – Cincinnati had a good chance after a free kick when Tyler Polak crossed the ball into Sean Okoli who found himself open but botched the header popping it up where Austin Berry got underneath it but couldn’t find the net.

11’ – An errant pass from Berry was intercepted in the midfield and passed up to Michael Cox who had a lot of open space into the box. Harrison Delbridge came up with a great tackle to stop the attack.

17’ – Big save from Hildebrandt after a bad chest down from Delbridge falls to the feet of Cox.

34’ – Okoli had a shot and a rebound header saved by Orlando Keeper Mark Ridgers who made a good first save and was able to get back to his feet to catch the weak header.

44’ – Wiedeman found the back of the net but was ruled offside when the ball was played to him from Polak.

52’ – Delbridge with the first yellow of the match for Cincinnati.

54’ – Delbridge gets his head on a corner that goes to the far post where Okoli gets his foot on it but Ridgers saved the shot.

62’ – Pat McMahon picked up a yellow for Cincinnati after a foul that

63’ – Cox almost got lucky with a shot from 30 yards out off a throw in that just went wide of the post.

70’ -Okoli passed off to Wiedeman who just missed with the volley. Another missed shot for Cincinnati

81’ – Cincinnati’s Townsend heads home a cross from Stevenson from the right. A perfect ball in that Townsend was able to slide into the left corner of the net off a slight touch.

90’ – Townsend picked up a yellow card.

Cincinnati has their last match of the season next Saturday September 24, away against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at 7pm. It will be interesting to see how they line up with nothing on the line.

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