FC Cincinnati kicked off the rebirth of professional soccer in Ohio’s Queen City on Saturday evening in front of a throng of 14,658 expectant supporters. After months of anticipation, Cincy soccer fans had the opportunity to witness its team play a meaningful game at the team’s home at Nippert Stadium. Those fans reveled in the quality of play and the 2-1 victory over the visiting Charlotte Independence.
The emotions of playing in the club’s inaugural home match may have been a distraction for FC Cincinnati in the opening moments of the match. Charlotte was able to push forward and force Cincinnati into mistakes, resulting in a few early free kicks and shots toward the frame.
It did not take long, though, for the home side to settle, and nothing calms the nerves like an early lead, particularly when it comes in spectacular fashion. A misplayed clearance by the Independence in the fifth minute wound up in the possession of Cincinnati’s Corben Bone. Bone found teammate Sean Ugo Okoli just inside the box. Okoli popped the ball into the air and executed a scissors kick that rocketed it into the net.
Cincinnati continued to be the more dangerous side for the remainder of the first period, variously working the ball into the attacking third through quick intermediate passes and also attempting to find Okoli with long passes from the back. Charlotte goalkeeper Cody Mizell was forced to make six saves in the opening period, which maintained a one goal deficit for the visitors at the break.
It did not take long for Cincinnati to extend the lead once play resumed. Center back Austin Berry intercepted a pass at the halfway line and sent the ball wide to Jimmy McLaughlin, who dribbled down the left flank. Berry had continued his run and was rewarded with a well-placed service from McLaughlin. Berry’s lunging header provided FC Cincinnati with a two goal lead in the 52nd minute. It was the first goal on the season for the Cincinnati native.
As soon as it had seemed that Cincinnati had put the match away, the Independence responded. After Cincinnati was unsuccessfully able to clear a corner kick, Charlotte midfielder Jorge Herrera sent a high cross into the box. The ball careened off a few players before landing at the feet of David Estrada inside the six-yard box. Estrada deposited the goal, and the match was suddenly in doubt again.
The Independence continued to press for the equalizer, but Cincinnati held its ground against several direct assaults. The inaugural home match and the first round of the Queen City Cup belonged to FC Cincinnati.