FC Cincy advances in U.S. Open Cup to face Crew

Much attention fell on FC Cincinnati forward Djiby Fall in his first time facing Louisville City FC since the rival club got him suspended for six United Soccer League games.

Apparently it was not enough attention, though.

Fall broke loose on a deflected ball in the box and pounced on it for the game-winning goal in the 48th minute to give FCC a 1-0 win Wednesday in a third-round U.S. Open Cup match at Nippert Stadium. FCC gets a big reward in the form of a highly coveted home game against Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew in the fourth round June 14.

“I feel happy,” Fall said. “It was an important game for us, for the city, for our fans, and I think we did a great job tonight.”

Fall became the center of controversy in the rivalry between the two “River Cities Cup” foes after he drew a red card with a cleats-up tackle on Niall McCabe during the first matchup of the season April 22, a 1-1 draw at Nippert. An argument ensued, and after the game, Louisville City coach James O’Connor accused Fall of biting McCabe on the cheek.

As a result, the USL tacked on an additional five games to the standard one-game suspension that comes with a red card. Fall has one game left to serve but is eligible for non-league games, including the Open Cup.

This time, the officials were ready to step in before anything could escalate. Fall received a warning in the 18th minute, and 20 minutes later, he picked up his second yellow card of the tournament – three are allowed before a one-game suspension is charged. Fall finished with five fouls but also was the target of several hits by Louisville City players.

FCC coach Alan Koch said it was a well-earned celebration.

“I’m ecstatic for him,” Koch said. “It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?”

It was obvious FC Cincinnati badly wanted the win Wednesday. The second-year club put out one of its best lineups this season with a starting lineup full of regulars.

FCC won the “River Cities Cup” trophy by a one-goal differential last year after the teams went 1-1-1 against each other, and the chippy battle last time – followed by the bite complaint that FCC disputed – only fueled the intensity.

This match was just as competitive as ever, as the teams nearly split possession time in half and were almost equal in shots with 13 combined. They both were charged with three yellow cards, but Cincinnati had 15 fouls to Louisville’s seven. Mitch Hildebrandt preserved the shutout with three saves.

“It feels great to win this game,” Koch said. “That’s an understatement I guess. The guys are ecstatic, the club is ecstatic, our fans are ecstatic. It’s beautiful to play the Cup competition and progress to the next round. It’s nice for the Cup competition to beat one of your local rivalries, and it’s obviously now exciting for us as a club and a city to get to host the Crew in the next round.”

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