Sometimes, the number of goals a team scores and allows can be overshadowed by the timing of events. Such was the case for FC Cincinnati on Saturday evening against the visiting Richmond Kickers. Cincinnati got on the scoreboard early and carried the one-goal lead deep into the match. Richmond persisted and stole two points with an equalizing goal in the waning moments of stoppage time. The 1-1 draw induced jubilation for the Kickers and dismay for the Orange and Blue.
“It’s always disappointing giving away points so late in the game after we managed it so well,” said FC Cincinnati Head Coach John Harkes. “There’s always a lesson to be learned from this, there’s still a lot of room for us to build on. As always, we’ll dust this one off and prepare well for this coming week.”
Inclement weather delayed the start of the match by an hour, excluding 20 seconds of play before word of the delay reached the pitch. Dreary conditions could not stop a crowd of more than 10k from filing into Nippert Stadium for a sixth consecutive USL regular season match. The patience and perseverance was rewarded quickly once the contest got underway in earnest. FC Cincinnati knocked in a goal in the 13th minute, the club’s third quickest goal of the season.
Jimmy McLaughlin set up the opening score by firing a shot to the far post from outside the box. When Kickers goalkeeper Charlie Horton couldn’t keep a handle on the shot, Sean Okoli was there to put away the rebound from close range. It was Okoli’s club-leading fifth goal of the season.
For much of the match, Richmond hesitated to push numbers forward in the attack and conceded much of the possession to the home team. Facing an opponent content to sit back in defense, Cincinnati spent a lot of time passing around the perimeter, looking for a way to break down the Kickers defense.
The home side did manage to create some opportunities for itself. In particular, Eric Stevenson worked into position to take a number of quality shots in his first start of the USL season. FC Cincinnati would regret not being able to capitalize on any of the chances.
As the match drew to a close, the Kickers found a sense of urgency in their attack and threatened to score several times in the final minutes. After a series of heroic saves by Mitch Hildebrandt and late clearances by the back line, it seemed that Cincinnati would be able to hold on for its third straight clean sheet.
Then Hugh Roberts happened. Richmond’s Brian Ownby blasted a perfectly placed cross from the right flank toward Roberts, who was making a near-post run. Roberts got his right foot on the aerial service and leveled the score.
“Towards the end we got away from what we’re good at,” said defender Harrison Delbridge. “One of our strengths as a team is not letting physical play get to us, and still maintaining our style of play.”
Both Delbridge and Harkes lamented some of the decisions FC Cincinnati made late in the game. Specifically, they noted that long balls played out of the back allowed Richmond to win too much possession. This happened despite a focus in training to build from the back.
The result kept Cincinnati at third place in the USL Eastern Conference, but dropping the two points put them further behind leaders, Louisville City. Richmond maintained its relevance in the playoff picture, one point clear of Wilmington Hammerheads FC in seventh place.