FC Cincy advances to third round of U.S. Open Cup

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup just got a lot more interesting.

FC Cincinnati needed extra time to advance to the third round of the single-elimination, all-level tournament with a 1-0 win over AFC Cleveland on Wednesday in front of a crowd of 12,790 at Nippert Stadium, and its reward is a fourth matchup this season with rival Louisville City FC.

The two United Soccer League clubs have not met since their ugly battle to a 1-1 draw on April 22, a game marred by FCC forward Djiby Fall’s late red card and alleged biting incident that cost him a six-game suspension. Louisville coasted to a 9-0 win over Tartan Devils, out of Oak Avalon (Pa.) to move on to the third-round matchup May 31 at Nippert Stadium.

Fittingly, it was Fall that sent FC Cincinnati on to the next round. After FCC dominated AFC Cleveland for 115 minutes without a result, its leading scorer headed in a cross from Jimmy McLaughlin for the winner. Fall, who now has seven goals this season, only has served three games of his suspension but is eligible for non-league play.

“Honestly, he wasn’t quite as good as he was before the suspension,” FCC coach Alan Koch said. “It’s been a while since he’s played, but he grew as the game went along and showed his personal resilience. … Obviously, big-match players step up in big moments and that was a very special moment for him.”

FCC, using a lineup mixed with starters and reserves, dominated from the beginning, but kept with its trend of creating chances and struggling to finish them. The second-year club outshot Cleveland 15-3 in the first half alone.

The home side did see the ball cross the goal line once in the first half when Victor Mansaray contested a ball served in and scored but he was charged with a foul in the collision with goalkeeper Alex Ivanov.

Fall had another close opportunity to score before halftime, but instead of a goal, he ended up with a yellow card. The team’s leading scorer was in perfect position inside the six-yard box for a rebound when Cleveland keeper Alex Ivanov batted away Derek Luke’s shot in the 37th minute, but Fall’s sliding attempt to finish it off was blocked by defender Coletun Long. Fall was charged with taking him down and given the caution.

AFC Cleveland, the defending National Premier Soccer League champion, came out charging to open the second half with two close chances cleared away at the goal line in the first 15 minutes. However, the momentum shifted back in FCC’s favor shortly after veterans Jimmy McLaughlin and Corben Bone entered in the 63rd minute in place of youngster Mansaray and Eric Stevenson, who was making his season debut. Twenty minutes later, forward Kadeem Dacres relieved defensive midfielder Paul Nicholson in a late push for a goal.

It was still all FCC in extra time, which was played in two 15-minute periods, before Fall finally netted one with about five minutes left before the game would have gone to penalty kicks.

“For the bulk of the 120 minutes, we really took it to them,” Koch said. “I’m proud of this group for the resilience they showed. Other teams might go through that and not win. A win is a win and we’ll take it.”

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