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.