CINCINNATI – With four goals from set pieces in FC Cincinnati’s past two games after a 2-1 victory against the New York Red Bulls II on Saturday night before a crowd of 23,608 fans on a rainy and wind-swept night at Nippert Stadium, it was easy to imagine the schemes that had been devised to get more opportunity for FCC’s major targets in the penalty area.
According to Head Coach Alan Koch, however, looking outside the club was the major inspiration for what fans have seen earn back-to-back victories in the past five days.
“We’ve stolen ideas from other people, to be honest,” said Koch. “I’m not a rocket scientist, so if we see it work with someone else there’s nothing wrong with going and stealing it. It’s worked. I’m sure teams are going to figure those out pretty soon and we’ll have to adjust and come up with something else.”
While that might be the case, what Cincinnati has going right now is certainly working. With Forrest Lasso scoring his second goal in as many games and Paddy Barrett being the beneficiary of the other assist served up by Emmanuel Ledesma on Saturday night – giving the Argentine a league-leading 10 helpers on the season – Cincinnati extended its lead in the Eastern Conference to nine points and is now looking like the favorite to claim the USL Regular Season Championship.
After picking up three wins in the past eight days to extend the club’s overall undefeated streak to 10 games, the side is now looking forward to a well-deserved break before August 4 and another home clash with Nashville SC.
“It feels special right now because we’re giving the guys the next three days off and I think everybody’s really excited to have a little bit of a break,” said Koch of the current run. “It’s just one game at a time, I know that sounds bland, but that’s our focus. … The second we look too far ahead, and we get caught up in different accolades at this stage, it doesn’t really mean anything.”
Not that Saturday’s game was a routine victory for FCC. With their typical energy, the Red Bulls II held more possession and outshot their hosts 17-9 overall as once again the meeting between the two sides proved remarkably compelling. With New York still in fifth place in the Eastern Conference after Saturday night’s action, a potential third meeting in the USL Cup Playoffs should the bracket fall the right way would be appointment viewing.
FCC goalkeeper Spencer Richey – who returned to the lineup in lieu of Evan Newton – featured prominently for the hosts to secure the victory and end the Red Bulls II’s recent run of victories, making three saves while also thanking his crossbar after a stoppage-time effort by New York’s Tom Barlow came back off the woodwork to almost spoil the party.
“They’re a youthful team,” said Richey. “We knew from being up at their place, they were going to come in and press us early. We wanted to not take too many risks. A team that comes out and presses like that, eventually they’re going to win the ball and maybe get in on a one-on-one and the keeper has to come up big.”
“He did everything we knew he could do,” said Koch. “Spencer’s been training fantastically for weeks and months and he deserved the opportunity that he got tonight.”
With the sides below them in the Eastern Conference standings scrapping as to who ends up as the chief challenger to Cincinnati down the final stretch of the season, FCC has no intention of letting its lead slip over the final third of the campaign.
“Doesn’t matter how many points it is once [we’re on top],” said Barrett of the club’s lead on the second-place Charleston Battery. “Whether it’s nine points or one point, once we’re on top and we stay there, that’s the main object.”