The second and final regular season match between FC Cincinnati and Toronto FC II took place on beautiful Saturday evening at Nippert Stadium. A boisterous crowd of 19,112 witnessed a 2-1 victory for the home side. The victory extended Cincinnati’s unbeaten streak to nine in the USL regular season and gave the Orange & Blue all six points in the season series with Toronto.
The first half was a tale of one team making the most of limited opportunities, while the other could not finish a multitude of its own. Toronto was either unwilling or unable to possess the ball in the Cincinnati half for much of opening 45, but took a 1-0 lead into the break.
Raheem Edwards opened the scoring for the visitors in the 4th minute. Edwards intercepted a long pass deep in his own half and dribbled up the left flank. With Pat McMahon trailing and no other defender stepping up to impede his progress, Edwards found himself in the box. By cutting inside and taking a couple of touches, Edwards worked around the remainder of the Cincinnati defense and thumped the ball by a helpless Mitch Hildebrandt.
The goal was eerily similar to the goal that Edwards scored against Cincinnati in the first match up between these teams at the Ontario Soccer Center in late April.
FC Cincinnati responded with an offensive assault over the next several minutes. While the Orange and Blue were able to work the ball into dangerous positions multiple times, but no shots found their target.
Toronto would pay for its inability to build an attack in the second half. Cincinnati’s possession turned into opportunities, and opportunities turned into goals. The home team grabbed the lead with two goals in two minutes.
Cincinnati found the equalizer when Jimmy McLaughlin found Harrison Delbridge with a beautiful, long, diagonal cross. Delbridge was unmarked at the far post, and the big Australian had no difficulty heading in the score in the 62nd minute.
Delbridge joked that it felt good to use his head for something other than a punching bag, “I’ve been looking for that goal for a while. It felt good to get it tonight.”
Moments later, Eric Stevenson was sent through the TFCII back line by Corben Bone. One on one with Toronto goalkeeper Quillan Roberts, Stevenson maintained his composure, set up his shot, and slotted home the game-winning goal.
“That was probably one of the better goals I’ve seen in a long time,” said Cincinnati Head Coach John Harkes. “Great combination play.”
This was a win that Cincinnati needed to keep pace with USL Eastern Conference leader, Louisville City FC. who grabbed three points at Rochester to move to 31 points. Cincinnati remained 4 points behind their geographic rivals, setting up a fascinating contest at the top of the table next week at Slugger Field. ESPN3 may finally have a true game of the week for its broadcast.