FC Cincinnati hosted the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USL Game of the Week on Wednesday evening at Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati looked to parlay the momentum from last Saturday’s 4-0 shutout into a two-game home winning streak. Tampa hoped to rebound from its first loss of the year after starting the season with three straight victories. Both sides had opportunities in this extraordinarily physical contest, but the outcome was a 1-1 draw.
The home side started the game on the wrong foot. More accurately, it appeared that they were trying to make passes with their boots on the wrong feet. The Rowdies took full advantage, and Cincinnati appeared content to let them do so.
“There’s obviously two teams playing on the pitch. We only control ourselves. We didn’t think we started the game very well, but on the flip side Tampa Bay started very well, and they’ve obviously got a lot of experience,” said FC Cincinnati Head Coach Alan Koch. “Was it their experience that helped them start the game on the road better? I don’t know.”
A bad Cincinnati giveaway in its own half led to Tampa Bay’s goal in the 7th minute. Justin Chavez snatched an errant Cincinnati pass and knocked it to Marcel Shafer. The Rowdies midfielder found himself all alone with the ball 30 yards from goal and unleashed a laser. Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt appeared to hesitate a moment too long before leaping, and the ball rocketed into the upper right corner.
“I wasn’t surprised or anything. I was set, moved my feet well, and got a good jump on it,” said Hildebrandt. “It was just a good goal.”
As the half wore on, Cincinnati ratcheted up the intensity and began to wrest control from Tampa Bay. A press was effective, and passes started to find their targets.
A nice build up with a number of short passes to feet led to the corner kick on which Cincinnati leveled the score. Kenny Walker served to the far side of the box, where Harrison Delbridge was able to jump over the Tampa Bay defender. Delbridge headed in the equalizer in the 36th minute.
The teams came out of the locker rooms at intermission and played fairly evenly. Both sides created chances, and all three points were their for either side to take, but the game changed when Cincinnati’s Kadeem Dacres was issued a straight red card for a foul in the 75th minute. Opinions on the seriousness of the foul were varied, but an image of the foul (from a different angle than the television cameras) helps to justify the referee’s decision.
“I firmly believe in the second half, until the red card, we were starting to go at them, starting to create opportunities, and showing what we’re capable of,” said Koch.
With a man advantage, Tampa Bay accelerated the offensive pressure. The game winning goal nearly came several times, but a series of timely blocks and saves left the score knotted at 1-1 at full time.
“These games are based on moments,” said Koch. “Great goal for them. Great goal for us. There’s a couple of opportunities we’d like to get back. Is it a red card? Isn’t it a red card? In the context of the 90 minutes, I think at the end of the night we’ll take the one point.”
Other News and Notes
- Cincinnati started in a 4-1-4-1 formation for first time since preseason.
- Tampa Bay started with a slightly rotated lineup, probably to give a bit of rest to guys like Joe Cole and Georgi Hristov in a midweek match.
- Marcel Shafer’s highlight goal was his first tally in a Rowdies uniform.
- The goal by Harrison Delbridge was the first goal in 2017 for FC Cincinnati that did not come from Djiby Fall.
- Darnell King’s speed seemed to be a problem for Tyler Polak on occasion, which may be something to watch as the season progresses.
- Cincinnati’s Jimmy McLaughlin showed moments of creativity and sheer determination in his return to the starting XI. Koch indicated that it was infectious.