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.

Cincinnati Saved By Okoli Late

FC Cincinnati was able to squeak out a victory against St. Louis FC 2-1 in the final minutes. The two goals were from Sean Okoli, including one from the penalty spot in the final minute. Patrick Doody was the goal scorer for St. Louis. 17,415 people were in attendance at Nippert Stadium.

The win today brings Cincinnati back to third in the table, up from sixth where they dropped after their losses to New York Red Bulls II and Charlotte Independence. This position in the table gives Cincinnati a home playoff game due to being in the top four.

Okoli had a tough first half getting a handful of chances but not being able to score in the first half. Even in the second half he wasn’t converting until finally being able to get one in the 84’ off a headed assist from Andrew Wiedeman. He converted a penalty late in extra time to seal the victory. A handball in the box by Richard Dixon off a corner set up the penalty. When asked about how he was feeling before the penalty spot he said, “I know my teammates are counting on me to step up.”

The late victory bucks the trend for Cincinnati to drop points after the 80’ having lost seven after that point this year. The last win after the 80’ was on April 24 off an Omar Cummings goal.

Coach Harkes was very pleased with the chances created all game saying, “[The first half was] the best I have seen all year.” And later when asked about all of the chances created that didn’t go in he said, “I would be more concerned if we weren’t creating chances and eventually because of our work rate and our attitudes being very positive right now those will fall for us.”

Cincinnati completely dominated the first half, with a majority of the possession and numerous close chances where they needed just that one touch to score. There were at least three balls just missing the far right post on shots. If the post was a foot out further there would have been two goals for Cincinnati. Shooting seven times but only able to get two on target the shot accuracy was lacking. Sean Okoli and Andrew Wiedeman had the best chances of the half but Okoli had a bad first touch in a one on one situation with the keeper and Wiedeman couldn’t get to a loose ball in the box after knocking it away from the keeper before a clearance by a St. Louis defender.

St Louis played well for the first ten minutes or so but after that they were on their heels for the rest of the half. St. Louis had one shot and was able to get it on target and had a few corners that could have been tricky but nothing that was a great chance for them.

In the second half Cincinnati was still able to dominate play but couldn’t find the net until late. The continued assault of the goal with nine shots but only getting one on target. Possession was controlled and the two corners were good balls with the second and final one giving up the penalty. St. Louis looked to defend again and stop Cincinnati from getting into good positions with physical play picking up nine fouls and two yellow cards.

Moments of the Match

4 – FC Cincinnati’s Tyler Polak made a great run down the left side of the pitch and got to the endline before passing back to Alvaro Ripoli whose shot was deflected and twice and ended up behind for a goal kick after hitting Sean Okoli.

14 – Sean Okoli had a bad touch in a one on one situation with the St. Louis goalkeeper off a very good pass from Pat McMahon.

18 – Cincinnati had a free kick outside the box from the left hand side. Corben Bone crossed it in and St. Louis was able to send it out pretty easily.

21 – Cincinnati had a loose ball in the box for Andrew Wiedeman who was unable to get to the ball before it was cleared away by a St. Louis defender. A very good chance but contact between Wiedeman and the St. Louis keeper Mark Pais forced the loose ball and Wiedeman was unable to get up before the clearance.

32 – Jimmy McLaughin made a dangerous run down the left and put a shot on frame forcing a good save from Paris.

41 – Cincinnati had a counter attack from McLaughlin off a corner where he was running at three St. Louis defenders with Okoli on his left. He passed to Okoli who had a hard cross across goal that McLaughlin just missed getting onto.

44 – Cincinnati just missed three times off a shots from Kenny Walker and Wiedeman and a ball just out of reach for Okoli.

58’ – Okoli got the first yellow card of the match for a foul in the midfield trying to win the ball back.

62’ – Mitch Lurie got the first yellow card for St. Louis after dragging down Okoli in the midfield.

70’ – A Cross from McLaughlin on the left to Wiedeman who headed it down to Okoli where the ball was cleared over the bar by a defender. On the resulting corner Okoli just put a header over from inside the six-yard box.

76’ – Jordan Roberts got the second yellow for St. Louis after a hard challenge on Ripoli on the right of the box. The resulting free kick was headed high and wide by Okoli.

80’ – After good build-up play Wiedeman had a shot from about 25 yards out go wide.

84’ – Okoli finally scored off a header by Wiedeman who headed it down for the touch that Okoli was able to put past Pais. Ripoli gets a hockey assist for the cross over to Wiedeman.

86 – St. Louis’s Doody equalized quickly off a ball that was punched out by Hildebrandt where he was able to fire it back in and find the net.

90’ +3 – A penalty for Cincinnati after handball from Dixon off a corner. Okoli stepped up and buried it from the spot in the final minute of extra time.

FC Cincinnati next plays away against the Wilmington Hammerheads on Sunday September 11 at 3pm. The last time they met was in Cincinnati when they tied 1-1 back on April 30.

FC Cincinnati Draws with The Rochester Rhinos

FC Cincinnati drew with the Rochester Rhinos 1-1 in front of 14,157 fans at Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati started off the scoring in the 28’ with a header from Austin Berry, but Steeven Dos Santos evened up 14 minutes later for Rochester.

This is the second match of the season between the teams where Rochester won 2-1. Cincinnati head coach John Harkes commented after the game, “How disappointed we are at only getting a point is a great sign of character.”

This was Cincinnati’s first game in 11 days and the rust was evident as well as not having their top striker Sean Okoli was a problem due to their poor finishing in the final third. Their problems were compounded by striker Omar Cummings having to come off in the 42’ after a collision with the Rochester keeper Tomas Gomez. It looked as though his right knee hyper-extended and he was down on the turf for a few minutes but was somehow able to walk off. Coach Harkes said, “It seemed like a little bit of a hyper-extension… once we get the MRI back we will know more.”

The first half saw each team score with goals from Berry and Dos Santos. Rochester had the majority of chances having nine shots with two on target and many of their off target shots being close. Also looking like they had the majority of possession it would only have been better is if they could have scored on one of their early chances or on one of their six corners. Cincinnati was only able to get three shots with the only one on target being the goal from Berry.

In the second half Cincinnati was able to push and attack more but there were a lot of bad passes in the final third none of their shots were able to find the back of the net with only one being on target. Rochester again had a few chances from their large amount of set pieces from six corners and a couple close free kicks but nothing that was able to provide goal. Toward the end of the half there was a scrum in the box when the ball fell right in front of the goal and a Cincinnati player fell on the ground and hit the ball with his hand but a foul was called.

Cincinnati’s next match is on Sunday August 28, at 5:45p.m. away at the conference leading New York Red Bulls II. They will be looking to avenge their home loss from July 20. This is a homecoming for Coach Harkes who is from the New Jersey area. He commented, “A lot of expectations, I got to get a lot of tickets… I grew up playing five a side games two hundred yards from the stadium.”

Moments of the Match

In the second minute Rochester’s Kenardo Forbes hit a first touch shot from outside the box off a back pass that Cincinnati keeper Mitch Hildebrandt had to tip over the bar or it would have gone in the top corner.

In the 12’ minute Rochester’s Dos Santos just missed the far post with a shot from the right of goal from a long pass from the keeper Gomez.

Forbes picked up the first yellow card of the game in the 23’ with a hard foul on Tyler Polak of Cincinnati.

Cincinnati scored first in the 28’ with a header from Berry off a cross from Tyler Polak. The cross came off a short corner where Polak put the ball toward the far post from the left side where Berry out jumped a defender to put the ball past the keeper into the far side of the net. This was his third goal of the season.

Cummings hurt his knee in the 38’ after a collision with Rochester’s keeper Gomez in the box. It looked as though he hyperextended his right knee, but he was able to walk off the field. There were calls for a penalty but the referee waved them off. Cummings was subbed off for Eric Stevenson.

Rochester tied it up with a goal in the 41’ from Dos Santos shortly off the restart after the stoppage of play from the injury. A missed tackle on the edge of the box allowed Bradley Kamdem to assist on the goal.

The second yellow card of the game went to Rochester’s Wal Fall for a challenge on Harrison Delbridge in the 52’.

Cincinnati’s Jimmy McLaughlin picked up a yellow card in the 55’ for a shirt pull at midfield. This is his first of the season.

Eric Stevenson picked up a yellow card in the 81’ for a bad sliding challenge on KamDem.

Rochester had a great chance in the 83’ when a corner fell right in front of the goal but no Rochester player was able to get on the end of it. A Cincinnati player fell onto the ground and handed the ball but the referee called a foul on Rochester leading several of their players to protest but they were waved off.

At the end of the game Cincinnati’s Andrew Wedieman was able to put a header off the top of the bar but the keeper corralled the rebound. The final whistle was blown shortly afterwards.

Cincinnati Can’t Hold On Against Battery

FC Cincinnati drew 1-1 with the Charleston Battery on a warm night in front of 19,229 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. Cincinnati scored first by way of Omar Cummings and Charleston’s Heviel Cordoves burying the equalizer. The draw keeps Cincinnati in third place, over Charleston who is in fourth, by two points. This is their second meeting of the season, the first Charleston won 1-0 at home in Cincinnati’s first ever USL match.

Coach John Harkes stated, “We’re not happy,” in response to the game tonight. But, he is happy with the maturity of the team saying, “We set the expectations high and that shows a lot of maturity there. The guys played well and they battled.”

This is the second time in three games where Cincinnati has gotten the lead and lost the match, against New York Red Bulls II ten days ago. Cummings when asked if he viewed the draw as points lost he replied, “Definitely, I felt like we dominated the game, especially getting the go ahead goal.”

Cincinnati was the aggressor for most of the match, with Charleston sitting back and countering. They had a few close misses in the first half before being able to give themselves the lead early in the second. Charleston played a physical game picking up 14 fouls and one yellow card.

The first half started off fast with both teams getting good shots off early and late in the half, the middle proved to be a dull affair. Both keepers played extremely well when placed under pressure. Cincinnati keeper Mitch Hildebrandt made a great diving save off a shot from Romario Williams early. Not to be outdone by his counterpart Charleston’s keeper Alex Tambakis made an even better diving save off a shot from Andrew Wiedeman.

Cummings opened scoring in the 52’ off a cross from a centered ball that was deflected to him. The few minutes after the goal Cincinnati was attacking and looked like they would be able to grab another. Charleston was able to equalize in the 70’ off a header from the substitute Cordoves after being on for 12 minutes, in the minutes before the goal Charleston had a handful of chances that were very close to finding the back of the net. The last 20 minutes Cincinnati was charging toward goal looking for an equalizer to no avail. In the last minute of extra time Harrison Delbridge made what could have been a point saving tackle on a breakaway for Cordoves.

Harrison Delbridge picked up his fifth yellow card of the season tonight meaning he will be suspended for Cincinnati’s next match away against FC Montreal. Commenting on next week he is hoping the team will allow him to travel for the game next Saturday.

Cincinnati concluded an exciting four-match stretch of home games starting with the Crystal Palace friendly and three USL matches where they collected four points. The next two matches are away in Montreal next Saturday August 3rd, and against the Richmond Kickers on the 13th. They come back home on the 24th against the Rochester Rhinos at 7pm.

Moments of the Match

Sean Okoli had a shot blocked by a sliding challenge from a Charleston defender on a good chance in the 9’.

Hildebrandt made a diving save on a shot from Williams that went out for a corner in the 16’. He was able to catch the ensuing corner from Charleston.

Jimmy McLaughlin had a shot from the top of the box go just wide of the post on a counter attack by Cincinnati in the 35’.

Cincinnati’s Eric Stevenson had a shot go just wide in the 40’ from the top of the box. Two minutes later Wiedeman had a ball come to his feet at the outside the box and his shot was acrobatically saved by Charleston keeper Tambakis diving to his right.

Omar Cummings scored the first goal in the 52’ of a cross that landed at his feet. Jimmy McLaughlin sent a low ball across the box toward Okoli which was deflected by the defender, landing at Cummings feet.

The first booking goes to Charleston’s Shawn Ferguson in the 64’, he fouled Okoli on a counter just passed midfield.

Corben Bone played a long pass up to Cummings who was just unable to find a good angle for the shot; he decided to shoot from a tight angle instead of passing to one of his teammates who were rushing in to help.

Cincinnati’s Delbridge picked up his team’s first yellow on Williams in the 68’ on a counter.

Charleston’s Cordoves evened up to match in the 70’ with a header off a corner from Maikel Chang.

In the 83’ Cordoves almost gave his team the lead with a free header from the six yard box that hit the bottom of the crossbar and was almost knocked in by Hildebrandt, but it harmlessly was pushed to his right and cleared by Tyler Polak.

Delbridge made an incredible sliding challenge just inside the box on Cordoves who had a breakaway in the third minute of stoppage time. It looked as though he corralled the ball with his hand as he came through but, the referee saw nothing wrong.

Is Higuain Deal A Sign Of Trouble For UEFA?

Juventus just acquired striker Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli for a reported 90 million Euros ($98.9 million). This acquisition takes Juventus into the conversation of Europe’s elite soccer teams giving them an elite goal scorer who found the net 36 times in 35 league appearances from Napoli last season. Even if Paul Pogba is sold to Manchester United as expected, Juventus is still the best team in Italy’s Serie A by far. Juventus has won the last five league trophies.

This presents a problem for European soccer where there are at least two, if not three, of the top leagues where the winner is almost guaranteed before the season starts. The five top European leagues are: England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1. You can essentially say Italy, France and Germany are over before they start due to one team being substantially better than the rest of the league.

Zaltan Ibrahimovic hoisting the Ligue 1 trophy in 2016. Image courtesy of m.ligue1.com

In France, Paris Saint-Germain won the league last year with eight games to go, and has won the last four league trophies. They won the league on March 13 and their last league match was May 14. The only player of importance they lost is Zaltan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United in Engalnd. They have signed four players who can strengthen their midfield and defense, while letting Edinson Cavani return to his natural striking position, rather than playing out wide to allow Ibrahimovic to play striker.

The German Bundesliga is the other league where parity is not an option, with Bayern Munich winning the last four league trophies as well. Bayern has had a tradition of bringing in the best players and doing well in the Champions League where there is an incredible amount of money for teams that do well as Bayern has in the last three years by making the semi-finals and winning it in 2013. Using this money and proven ability to win trophies they have brought in Mats Hummels from their closest domestic rival Borussia Dortmund and Euro 2016 top young player Renato Sanches. This all but guarantees that they will win the league title this season as well.

Bayern Munich during their Bundesliga trophy celebration in 2016. Photo courtesy of thesun.co.uk.

The problem for European soccer is that only two domestic competitions are really worth watching if you are a neutral fan. Spain has three teams who can win the title in Atletico Madrid, Barcalenona and Real Madrid, while England has Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottemham who can all compete without even mentioning the reigning champions Leicester City.

UEFA, the ruling body for European soccer, probably does not care about not having parity since their big money maker, the Champions League, gets huge international ratings from having the same teams make it in every year and go far into the tournament, but it can’t be good for the game as a whole to have 19 teams in a league all fighting for second place. That kills the spirit of competition and makes fans from outside those few top clubs lose interest over the long haul. If fans lose interest in their country’s competition they could decide to pick a team in a more competitive county and only watch them.

Southampton vs. West Ham United, the match that outdrew Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen. Photo courtesy of mirror.co.uk.

This has already happened in the US with more people watching a midtable match in England over the German champions playing a top four team last season. People would rather watch a match that would have no impact on the title race instead of Bayern Munich. Now, even though this is taken from the Bundesliga’s first season being broadcast in the U.S. there should still be a bigger audience. While average match attendance is better in Germany than in England the worldwide TV audience is much higher for England, due many teams having to compete every season. England also has a TV revenue of over four times that of Germany.

UEFA and the rest of the top European soccer nations have to take notice and figure out a way to get their other leagues more competitive before the international fan base forgets that the leagues are there other than the few days a year when a champion is announced.

FC Cincinnati takes down Louisville City FC

FC Cincinnati beat their local rivals and USL Eastern Conference leaders Louisville City FC 2-0 on an extremely hot day at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. Louisville had a 17 match unbeaten streak snapped by the shutout. Andrew Wiedeman and Sean Okoli both scored for Cincinnati. Another stellar crowd of 20,151 showed up for the final match of the River City Rivalry for this season. Cincinnati won the rivalry on goal differential of one due to each team winning and having a draw against each other.

John Harkes the head coach for Cincinnati called midfielder Corben Bone his player of the match stating, “The way he led from the midfield position was excellent. He created a lot, he defended as well. He put guys in good spots.”

The temperature today was 100°F with the pitch normally being 10-15 degrees hotter. Commenting on the heat Cincinnati’s Wiedeman said, “It was probably the hottest pitch I have ever played on. Ten minutes in we are walking on the sides of our feet because it was so damn hot.”

The result today combining with the New York Red Bulls II loss against the Charleston Battery means Cincinnati was able to pick up three points on both of the teams ahead of them in the table. They continue to sit third, four points behind New York and five behind Louisville with one game more to play.

Cincinnati was able to control play this match for periods of the match, unlike the last two against Louisville where they were on their heels for the majority of the matches. Louisville outshot Cincinnati 15 to 10 but could only manage to get three on target to Cincinnati’s seven. They were able to put shots close to goal hitting the woodwork twice, just none finding the back of the net.

The goal for Wiedeman was his fourth of the season and it was Okoli’s ninth, increasing his team lead in goals to four over Jimmy McLaughlin. Hildebrandt was able to get his fifth shutout after a solid day from him and the rest of his back line.

The first half was a little bit of a chippy affair with six fouls and a caution for the hosts and eight for the visitors with two yellow cards. Wiedeman scored first for Cincinnati collecting the ball off a missed header and fired it into the net.

In the second half Cincinnati was able to continue to give Louisville a rough way to go but their defense was giving up some quality chances to Louisville. Okoli doubled Cincinnati’s lead off a header off a corner sent in by Bone. Hildebrandt had a very good half, making two saves and responding well to balls sent into the box.

Moments in the Match

Starting off with a handful of Louisville fouls through the first ten minutes.

Harrison Delbridge clattered into goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsing in the 11’ off a set piece committing a foul off a set piece from the midfield. On the ensuing possession for Cincinnati there was a penalty shout when Sean Okoli was tripped just inside the box by a Louisville defender before the ball went out for a goal kick.

The first yellow card of the game went to Louisville’s Andrew Lubhan in the 16’ for a foul on Bone. Louisville’s Guy Abend gained the second in the 30’ after a foul on Jimmy McLaughlin.

Cincinnati got on the score sheet first in the 39’ by way of Wiedeman who came across the ball in the box and hit it across the face of goal past the keeper. The goal came off a set piece where Louisville’s Paco Craig missed the second header and Wiedeman collected the ball and put it in from the top of the six yard box.

Austin Berry picked up the first yellow for Cincinnati in the 45 + 1’ for a foul just outside the box. The resulting free kick ended up in the side netting for a goal kick from Aodhan Quinn.

Louisville’s Aodhan Quinn picked up the third yellow for his team after taking down Eric Stevenson just past midfield in the 50’.

Louisville had a good shot from Magnus Rasmussen from outside the box that hit the post and came back into play. The scrum for the ball turned into nothing from a dangerous position.

Okoli scored the second goal for Cincinnati in the 59’ off a corner from Corben Bone. The ball was perfect from Bone, right at the edge of the six-yard box where Okoli powered a header home to double the lead. Okoli was subbed off four minutes later for Omar Mohomed.

Bone picked up a delayed yellow in the 72’ for an infraction seen by the linesman on the far side.

Louisville put on the pressure in the 74’ when Mark-Anthony Kaye hit the top crossbar on a shot from the outside the box leading to a goal kick.

In the final few minutes Louisville was able to put on a little pressure but never had a quality chance. Cincinnati was able shut down their attack and counter a couple times putting shots toward the goal.

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