FC Cincinnati clinched third place in USL’s Eastern Conference with a 1-0 victory over Orlando City B on Saturday night. They also broke another USL attendance record by packing a crowd of 24,376 into Nippert Stadium.
FC Cincinnati Claims Third in the USL Eastern Conference in Front of Record Crowd
FC Cincinnati head coach John Harkes returned to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation and regular starting lineup after making several changes in the team’s midweek draw against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Orlando City B was playing the third match of a challenging four-game road trip with eyes on an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
Orlando City B started the game well and took the the attack to FC Cincinnati, but within 15 minutes the hometown club had control of the match, and was creating the better chances. FC Cincinnati’s Andrew Wiedeman thought he had opened the scoring in the 44th minute when he controlled a diagonal entry pass with his chest and buried it near post. The goal was called offside though and the first half ended scoreless. FC Cincinnati outshot the Florida club 10-3 in that first stanza and forced 4 saves from Orlando goalkeeper Mark Ridgers.
FC Cincinnati continued their good play into the second half but could not capitalize on the opportunities they created, a problem that has troubled the team this season. In the 65th minute, John Harkes made a positive substitution by replacing defensive midfielder Kenney Walker with forward Casey Townsend. Townsend recently joined the club on September 8th through a late season transfer from the Wilmington Hammerheads. Orlando City B had good passages of play as well and nearly found a goal through Lewis Neal in the 71st minute but his open shot from point blank range went just wide.
The match was decided in the 81st when FC Cincinnati’s Eric Stevenson crossed a ball into the box for substitute Townsend who had sandwiched himself between two Orlando City B defenders. He leaped and flicked a header that found its way past Ridgers and into the bottom left corner of the goal.
One goal was all that FC Cincinnati needed to secure the three points and clinch third place in the Eastern Conference with one game remaining. Despite the result, Orlando City B still holds eighth place in the Eastern Conference but have not yet clinched a playoff spot. They are battling with the Wilmington Hammerheads who are only one point behind with a single game remaining.
FC Cincinnati has put together a phenomenal first season from an attendance perspective. This is the third time they have broken the USL single game attendance record in 2016. They also broke the record on April 16th against Louisville City (20,497) and on May 14th against Pittsburgh (23,375). This win guarantees them a home playoff game and there is a strong possibility the record will fall again at that postseason match on October 2nd.
FC Cincinnati faces Pittsburgh away next Saturday in a match that will present an opportunity to rest key players before the playoffs. Orlando City B heads to Pennsylvania for a Sunday matchup with the Bethlehem Steel, when they will get one more chance to book their ticket to the postseason.
Photo credit: FC Cincinnati