FC Cincinnati hosted Louisville City FC on Saturday in the third and final 2016 regular season installment of the River Cities Cup. With the New York Red Bulls II charging through the season, Louisville needed a result to maintain control of the top spot in the USL East. After losing to New York earlier in the week, Cincinnati needed the three points to keep pace with the conference leaders. In the end, it was the home side that got what it needed, a 2-0 shutout against Louisville City.
Louisville came into the match riding a 17-game unbeaten streak in the USL and were scoring at a rate higher than any team in the Eastern Conference. The last time they came to Nippert Stadium, Louisville dismantled Cincinnati. None of those facts hampered Cincinnati’s confidence.
“I don’t think anyone in that locker room was going into this game thinking that we were an underdog,” said FC Cincinnati forward Andrew Weideman.
Cincinnati opened the scoring in the 39th minute. A diagonal free kick from near midfield was lofted into the box toward Omar Cummings. Louisville defender Sean Reynolds attempted to head the second ball clear, but Weideman had a different idea. He gathered the loose ball in front of goal and beating Greg Ranjitsingh with a low shot inside the far post.
“I was able to step in and get a toe on it, bring it down, and put a three-bouncer into the far corner,” said Weideman. “It went in, so I’ll take it.”
The insurance goal came in the 59th minute from a corner kick. Corben Bone served the ball to the far post, where Sean Okoli had little difficulty getting his head on it. Ranjitsingh was helpless to stop the attempt from point blank range.
Louisville had plenty of opportunities score in the second half, but luck was not wearing purple this afternoon. Magnus Rassmussen nearly broke the crossbar in half with a strike. Mark Anthony Kaye also hit the woodwork. Kadeem Dacres got behind the Cincinnati back line, but his centering pass crossed the face of the goal to no one. Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt was called upon to preserve the clean sheet multiple times in the waning minutes of the match.
Louisville City FC head coach James O’Connor said, “We weren’t at our best today, but we still had I think 15 or 16 shots. We still had opportunities to go and score, so I think our guys deserve a lot of credit.”
Unlike the match against New York on Wednesday or the one against the Richmond Kickers earlier in the season, Cincinnati was able to hold on to the lead against a team that fought furiously to get back into the game.
“I think in the past and throughout the season it’s been a bit of a theme that we score and then sit back and invite pressure. That’s when we get ourselves into trouble. I think we did a good job. After we scored each goal we pushed and pressed and kind of kept them on the back foot instead of letting them establish a rhythm,” Weideman said.
FC Cincinnati head coach John Harkes said, “From my perspective, today was a maturity performance and the growth of our group. We took it to them. They went at it really hard and they didn’t hesitate.”
Although the season series between Louisville and Cincinnati has ended level with regard to record, both of these teams are poised to make a run into the postseason. The thought of a playoff game to break the stalemate should have fan bases for both clubs giddy with delight.
- Kenny Walker (turf toe) and Paul Nicholson (hamstring) were kept out of the game day eighteen.
- Corben Bone was shifted from an attacking role to a defensive midfield position due in part to injuries to his teammates. Harkes was pleased with his performance, stating that Bone was his man of the match.
- The announced attendance was 20,151. This was the eleventh consecutive FC Cincinnati home match with more than 11 fans in attendance.
- Prior to beating Louisville, FC Cincinnati was 0-4-2 against other teams in the top six of the USL East.