Photo courtesy Charlotte Independence
MATTHEWS, N.C. – FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt saved a stoppage-time penalty kick by Jorge Herrera to preserve a 1-0 victory for FCC at the Sportsplex at Matthews that allowed the visitors to take a big step toward a place in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs on Friday night. The Independence dominated throughout, and almost struck in the second minute as Enzo Martinez fired a low shot just past the left post from the top of the penalty area. Independence defender Joel Johnson then set up Herrera for a shot that was blocked by FCC defender Austin Berry 10 minutes later, while Johnson fired high soon as the hosts made the early running. Martinez came even closer to putting the Independence ahead as he juked past Hildebrandt in the penalty, only to put his finish wide of the right post. Cincinnati’s Kenney Walker made a massive interception to deny a Martinez breakaway in the 38th minute, while the Independence’s Henry Kalungi had a header in stoppage time saved to keep the game scoreless at the break. Charlotte’s pressure continued in the second half, and the hosts almost took the lead in the 73rd minute as Hildebrandt denied a good chance for Herrera. Cincinnati’s first good chance of the night came with 15 minutes to go as substitute Kevin Schindler broke in one-on-one with Independence goalkeeper Cody Mizell, but has his shot turned wide. From the ensuing corner, though, Fall’s header came to Schindler for a close-range finish to put FCC ahead. Herrera tried to answer for Charlotte from a free kick with 11 minutes to go, only for Hildebrandt to save, and the FCC goalkeeper almost claimed a volleyed finish by Caleb Calvert with two minutes to go. Cincinnati’s Jimmy McLaughlin hit the crossbar from 20 yards a minute later as the visitors almost put the game away, but then Herrera first blazed over, and then had his penalty kick saved by Hildebrandt, both in stoppage time, as Cincinnati held on for a remarkable victory.
75’ – CIN – Kevin Schindler (Djiby Fall)
Three Things That Matter:
1. When FC Cincinnati midfielder Kevin Schindler entered the game in the 74th minute, the entire sum of his side’s attacking opportunities had been a blocked shot by Corben Bone from 30 yards out in the first half. Within two minutes, the 29-year-old German had produced more on attack than the rest of the side combined, including the goal that gave the visitors a vital lead on the way to victory. Should Cincinnati find itself in the postseason, as it should be favored to accomplish after Friday’s win, Schindler’s first USL goal for the club will be one of the moments that stands out.
2. With Schindler having provided the finish, FCC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt ensured it stood as the winner as his stoppage-time penalty kick save on Jorge Herrera marked another standout moment for the 2016 USL Goalkeeper of the Year. Hildebrandt’s diving save to his right brought back memories of FCC’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run earlier this year, when he saved three of four against the Chicago Fire in the Round of 16 to send his side through. With a draw the sort of result that would have kept the pressure on Cincinnati in its bid to return to the postseason, Hildebrandt came through again to secure a vital three points.
3. The Independence’s third consecutive loss is one that will leave the side shaking its head after it was unable to take advantage of numerous chances to take the lead, only to either see Cincinnati’s defense deny it, or the chance simply be squandered. From Enzo Martinez’s chance in the 20th minute that was sent wide of the right post with the goal at his mercy to Jorge Herrera’s saved penalty kick in stoppage time that offered the chance to salvage a point, the Independence have only themselves to blame for the dropped points at home as the path to second place in the Eastern Conference opened wide for both the Charleston Battery and Tampa Bay Rowdies.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Mitch Hildebrandt, FC Cincinnati – Hildebrandt recorded a five-save shutout, including his stoppage-time penalty kick save, to allow Cincinnati the chance to grab a massive win on the road.
Charlotte Independence at Louisville City FC – October 7, 7:30 p.m. ET, Slugger Field
FC Cincinnati at Ottawa Fury FC – October 8, 2 p.m. ET, TD Place