FC Cincinnati continued an uncertain run of form on Wednesday night when they played the Pittsburgh Riverhounds to a 0-0 stalemate at Highmark Stadium. Because Pittsburgh entered the match in last place in USL’s Eastern Conference, expectations were high in Cincinnati that their playoff bound team would secure a postseason home game with this result.
The underdog Riverhounds had a couple of things going in their favor though. First, they had not yet been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and therefore had reason to battle. Second, they had won their last two home matches, including a 4-1 thumping of the Wilmington Hammerheads in late August.
FC Cincinnati head coach John Harkes decided to rest some key players in his starting 11 for the match. Changes to the lineup included a first start for new forward Casey Townsend, who was just signed from Wilmington on September 8th.
The first half was dominated by FC Cincinnati. The Ohio club passed and possessed the ball with confidence, and took the attack to the Riverhounds. Pittsburgh spent most of the first half in defense and struggled to relieve pressure on their own goal. FC Cincinnati created chances to score, but lacked finishing quality in the final third and the half ended scoreless.
Momentum shifted in the second half and the Riverhounds found a foothold in the match. Columbus Crew SC loanee Marshall Hollingsworth entered at the break and helped to settle the Riverhounds midfield. Despite a resulting increase in possession for the home team, the best chance of the match fell to the visitors from Ohio.
In the 67th minute, FC Cincinnati’s Andrew Wiedeman and Sean Okoli combined on the right side of the box and found their way through two layers of Pittsburgh defenders. Okoli chipped the ball to an approaching Casey Townsend at the six yard box, who redirected Okoli’s promising pass off the crossbar. Townsend was inches away from securing three points and a high playoff seed for FC Cincinnati on his debut, but it was not meant to be.
The remainder of the second half was nondescript. Both teams struggled to retain possession and create meaningful opportunities. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, the Charlotte Independence also played the Richmond Kickers to 0-0 draw, in another match with playoff seeding implications.
In short, Wednesday was not a decisive night in terms of postseason positioning in the USL’s Eastern Conference. FC Cincinnati remains in third place after the draw. The Riverhounds earn a point but remain near the bottom of the league. Harkes’ team will get their next chance to secure a top four seed on Saturday. They will face Orlando City B in Cincinnati, in a highly anticipated regular season home finale. There have already been over 20,000 tickets sold for that match, and the crowd present will be cheering for the right to host one more record setting evening at Nippert Stadium.
Photo courtesy of Chris Cowger/Pittsburgh Riverhounds.