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FCC Misses Magic in Postseason Exit

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 10/22/17, 9:19AM EDT


Defeat to Rowdies brought another early end in playoffs

Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – As disappointing as the club’s regular season had been, there always remained the hope No. 6-seed FC Cincinnati would find a way to reclaim the magical form that carried it to the Semifinals of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

On Saturday night, as players stared across Al Lang Stadium after suffering a 3-0 defeat to the No. 3-seed Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs, the realization that magic wasn’t going to return finally hit as FCC’s season ended with another disappointing road display.

“Anytime you lose in a cup game, it’s not fun,” said FCC Head Coach Alan Koch. “You could see the players left everything they had out on the pitch tonight. Individual errors cost us a lot. We actually played quite well at times tonight.”

The errors handed the Rowdies opportunities they gladly took. The first two fell to Marcel Schäfer, who was two steps ahead of his marker as he entered the penalty area to receive Georgi Hristov’s pass and then shot low past FCC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt in the eighth minute on a chance the goalkeeper will likely have wanted back.

Schäfer’s second of the night – and third against Cincinnati this season – made it worse as his low drive from 25 yards into the right corner of the net put FCC into a two-goal deficit it struggled to get out of. The work-rate rarely left Cincinnati’s players as they sought a way back into the game, but in the end the quality the Rowdies possessed proved the difference.

“We played a very, very good group,” said Koch. “Tampa has some big-time stars and it’s very difficult to come back. But the guys fought until the bitter end.”

There were chances for the visitors, certainly. As well as the Rowdies’ back line played – Neill Collins shining in particular with seven interceptions in addition to his seven clearances – Cincinnati put itself in to positions to get back in the game. Those chances rarely tested Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens, however, as Kadeem Dacres’ header that Pickens tipped over the crossbar stood as the only shot on goal out of 10 overall on the night for the visitors.

By contrast, when the Rowdies got a look at goal, they took advantage. Hristov’s spectacular finish in the 67th minute that curled and caromed in off the crossbar from 25 yards put a bow on the performance, which saw Tampa Bay put eight of its 12 shots on target. The Rowdies were rewarded with another home playoff game next Saturday night after the No. 7-seed New York Red Bulls II sprang an upset of the No. 2-seed Charleston Battery.

Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

For Cincinnati, there was to be no last hurrah. Instead the club enters an offseason that will provide plenty of questions to be answered after another early postseason exit.

“We had a group that we worked with non-stop from Day 1 in Florida to get ready for the season,” said Koch. “We’ve gotten our club to the playoffs for the second year in a row which is a huge achievement. But we definitely want more. Our fanbase wants more and they deserve more.”

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