FC Cincinnati scores important draw with Pittsburgh

A sluggish start put FC Cincinnati in an early hole, but the Orange and Blue managed to salvage an important point against another United Soccer League playoff contender.

After allowing the visiting Pittsburgh Riverhounds to score in the third minute, FCC seemed to wake up from the slumber of its nine-day layoff and got on the board shortly before halftime to secure a 1-1 draw Saturday in front of 22,643 fans at Nippert Stadium.

FCC (9-9-8) remains in the playoff picture with six games to go, sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Division table at the conclusion of the match, while Pittsburgh (8-8-10) fell to 10th with just one fewer point.

“It’s a big point,” FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch said after the game. “Obviously, we competed against a team that we are competing against directly to get into the playoffs, so going a goal down that early was certainly not a positive, and we weren’t very happy with how we started the game. But, to have the character to come back and to really get going at the end, from a performance perspective we are very happy, and that’s what we can really focus on. The performance leads to a positive result.”

The Riverhounds charged into Nippert on a four-game unbeaten streak after going 3-0-1 in August, and they came out the gate quickly against FCC.

Meanwhile, the hosts, who had not played since Aug. 23, couldn’t seem to get their footing on defense. Not even 90 seconds in, goalie Mitch Hildebrandt cleared a ball into the face of teammate Justin Hoyte and FCC struggled in transition right away.

The slow start came back to bite Cincinnati when Corey Hertzog drove in a shot from the top of the 18-yard box just 2:47 into the match for the 1-0 lead.

“We know we needed to put in a 90-minute performance tonight and by not showing up in the first five minutes, we obviously put ourselves in a bit of a hole we had to dig ourselves out of,” Koch said.

FC Cincinnati rose to the occasion after falling behind, though, and managed to gain the possession advantage the rest of the way, controlling the ball 65 percent of the time.

Andrew Wiedeman scored the equalizer in the 40th minute, receiving a chance off a deflection when Danni Konig’s heel-flick to the corner went off a defender’s leg and right into the center of the box. Wiedeman quickly buried the shot for his second goal of the season.

“I think we started coming into our own going deeper into the half,” Wiedeman said. “I played on the right side and it fell my way so I could tap it in one time. I can’t put my finger on why we started slow tonight after such a solid week of training. Obviously, it takes all 11 guys, but we didn’t come out to play the way Pittsburgh did.”

Despite being outshot 14-11 for the match, FC Cincinnati had several other chances to score. In the 60th minute, Wiedeman nearly tallied his second goal of the night when he collected a pass from König and fired off a shot that was blocked but sailed just over the crossbar. Djiby Fall, who came on for Konig in the 65th minute, then nearly put the home side ahead in the 78th minute with a volley that just missed the upper 90.

Hildebrandt recovered from the slow start as well, adding three saves to his USL-leading number to give him 80 on the season.

FCC heads into another break but returns to the pitch Sept. 12 at Harrisburg City.

“We were pleased with the performance in the last 85 minutes,” Koch said. “It certainly gives us something to build on through the final six games.”

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