FC Cincinnati sets USL attendance record — again

FC Cincinnati was a winner on the pitch and in the stands Saturday.

The club rewrote the United Soccer League single-game attendance record while beating the rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1-0 in front of a crowd of 23,375 fans on a chilly, cloudy afternoon at Nippert Stadium.

FCC had set the previous record a month earlier in a loss to Louisville City when 20,418 fans showed up in much nicer conditions. This time, the record crowd got to see a victory, though, as the home side improved to 5-2-2 and stretched its unbeaten streak to five games.

“As a group we talked about how there would be an amazing crowd this weekend,” coach John Harkes said. “They showed up, and it was up to us to match their energy.”

Cincinnati controlled the first half, outshooting winless Pittsburgh, 7-4, and receiving the lone goal of the game in the 27th minute when Jimmy McLaughlin executed on a rebound from his own previous shot. The play had started when the midfielder made a run down the right flank and received a pass from Sean Okoli before firing off a shot that was cleanly deflected by Riverhounds goalkeeper Mauricio Vargas.

It was McLaughlin’s second goal in two games, and he gave FCC its first lead of a game since the loss to Louisville on April 16.

“It was a great ball from (Paul) Nicholson and (Sean) Okoli,” McLaughlin said. “I kind of jumped over the initial pass and snuck through and lucky for me it popped back out and I could put it through.”

Unlike that Louisville game, FCC’s defense held steady the remainder of the game and Mitch Hildebrandt needed to make just two saves to preserve the win. Pittsburgh took seven total shots to Cincinnati’s 11, nine of which were on target for the home side.

The game marked FCC’s first shutout of the season, something Harkes had stressed as something the club was anxious to see in past weeks.

“It’s nice for the whole team,” Hildebrandt said of the shutout. “We are a very strong defensive team. Obviously we’ve talked about it. Defensively, it was massive for us.”

FC Cincinnati steps away from USL action Wednesday to host the Indy Eleven’s NPSL team in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Nippert Stadium.