[Cincinnati, OH] – FC Cincinnati narrowly defeated NPSL’s AFC Cleveland by a score of 1-0 in the second round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Wednesday. A headed goal by Djiby Fall in extra time put the USL outfit through to the next round of the tournament, and rewarded 12,790 fans at Nippert Stadium who persisted deep into a Wednesday evening.
FC Cincinnati was playing their first match in the 2017 Open Cup based on their second division status. The team that had great success in 2016 has struggled in USL during their second season, winning only two of nine games played. 2016 NPSL champions AFC Cleveland advanced to the second round by defeating the Des Moines Menace in Iowa last Wednesday.
FC Cincinnati Ekes Out US Open Cup Win in Ohio Derby
FC Cincinnati featured a line-up with ten changes relative to the one they started last Saturday in USL action. Of particular note was the presence of Djiby Fall, who was eligible for the match despite the six game USL suspension he is serving. The suspension does not carry over to the US Open Cup competition and he started Wednesday’s match at center forward. Other notable players for FC Cincinnati included frequent starters Andrew Wiedeman and Harrison Delbridge. AFC Cleveland started a full strength roster in hopes of upending their in-state opposition.
The home side started on the front foot and immediately attacked AFC Cleveland’s goal. The visitors sat back determined to absorb the pressure. The Cleveland defense held and after twenty minutes the fourth division side grew in confidence, making occasional forays into FC Cincinnati’s final third.
The best chance of the half fell to Fall in the 38th minute. Left back Derek Luke broke through on AFC Cleveland’s goal after some quality combination passing on the flank. He fired a shot to the far post that was parried away by AFC Cleveland keeper Alex Ivanov. The ball fell directly into Djiby’s path. He looked certain to clean up the scraps and poke the ball in, but AFC Cleveland defender Coletun Long intervened just in time to block the shot.
The first half finished goalless. FC Cincinnati dominated possession and had a 15-3 shot advantage, but could not convert their chances. The NPSL side went into the locker room clearly happy with their efforts.
AFC Cleveland took the initiative in the second half, looking for opportune moments to press forward. They were very nearly rewarded for their bravery. Midfielder Ryan Ware rattled the woodwork of FC Cincinnati’s goal with a long range shot in the 48th minute. Ten minutes later the visitors nearly scored again from a corner kick. The close range angled header that resulted was saved heroically by FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Dallas Jaye.
In the 63rd minute, first team regulars Corben Bone and Jimmy McLaughlin entered the match for FC Cincinnati and made an impact. They home side dominated possession thereafter and created chances with very little retaliation. They would have taken the lead were it not for the outstanding effort put forth by the AFC Cleveland defense and keeper Alex Ivanov. 90 minutes expired and still no one scored.
It took 117 minutes and over 40 total shots but FC Cincinnati finally got their reward. Jimmy McLaughlin exchanged passes with Andrew Wiedeman outside AFC Cleveland’s box before Wiedeman floated a cross to the far post. It was well placed and over the last defender’s head. Djiby Fall connected with the cross and headed it back across goal into the opposite corner. FC Cincinnati had the breakthrough they’d been searching for five minutes before penalty kicks. It was heartbreak for a resilient AFC Cleveland who battled to the end but came up short.
FC Cincinnati advances to the third round of the US Open Cup with the victory. After the match, head coach Alan Koch said the following about Wednesday’s contest.
“That was cup soccer tonight. It’s a game of margins and we should have finished the game earlier than we did. However, I give the guys credit to get the result after a hard fought 120 minutes. I saw a lot of character.” [FC Cincinnati]
FC Cincinnati will face rival Louisville City FC in the next round. Louisville City defeated Pittsburgh minnows Tartan Devils by a score of 9-0 on Wednesday. The two will clash at Nippert Stadium on May 31st in a rematch of the heated derby game that precipitated Djiby Fall’s ban.
Photo credit: Orange and Blue Press