FC Cincy blanks Harrisburg for third straight win

FC Cincinnati will have less than 45 hours between the conclusion of Saturday’s league game with Harrisburg City and kickoff for its international friendly with Valencia CF on Monday, but the second-year club rolls into the match energized by its recent results.

The Orange and Blue came back from a 70-minute lightning delay in the first half to take a lead and went on to beat Harrisburg 3-0 for their third straight win Saturday at Nippert Stadium.

FCC gradually played better as the game went along, even after another delay late in the second half, and the result was an improvement in the United Soccer League Eastern Division standings to fifth place — just five points behind leader Charleston Battery and two points out of second place.

“The first 25 minutes (before the first of two delays) was probably up there as one of our worst performances this season,” midfielder Kenney Walker said. “It was kind of like shooting yourself in the foot, but after that, scoring goals the way we did was probably one of the best responses we’ve had all season.”

FC Cincinnati (8-6-6) pounced on a Harrisburg mistake to take the lead five minutes after play resumed following the first delay.

Islanders defender Mohammed Abass botched an attempted pass backward to try to gain possession off FCC goalie Mitch Hildebrandt's long clearance to the right flank, and Fall took advantage of the loose ball into the box. After gaining possession in the rundown, he needed just one quick cut in front of Tiago Calvano to get an open look to goal, and Fall drove the ball home to the far post for the 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute. The goal was Fall's 11th in league play and 14th overall in 17 total games.

Harrisburg City had dominated possession in the first half, particularly outplaying FCC in the 26-plus minutes before lightning in the area halted play.

The break gave both teams a chance to cool down from the sweltering temperatures that felt around 101 degrees at kickoff, but it was FC Cincinnati that emerged as the biggest benefactor with some adjustments that paid off for three goals. Fall’s tally shifted the momentum, and the Orange and Blue added two insurance goals in the final 20 minutes with another delay mixed in between.

“After those first 27 minutes, we adjusted some things and I think the players’ response was absolutely brilliant, allowed us to get ourselves into the game and as the game went along the second 45 minutes,” FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch said. “Then we had a great reaction again after the second weather delay. It says a lot about the mentality and the character of our group.”

The second goal of the night came when Fall split a trio of defenders to set Danni Konig up for a one-on-one with Islanders goalkeeper Brandon Miller. Konig, checking back into an onside position and running onto the ball, slipped his shot just past Miller to the center of the goal for the 2-0 lead in the 70th minute.

With time winding down, the game went back into another brief lightning delay, and moments after play resumed, Jimmy McLaughlin tapped in his second goal of the season in the 85th minute.

“I feel like we get better every single week, and I feel like we got better throughout the course of this game tonight,” Koch said.

FC Cincinnati now turns around to play Valencia at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Valencia, from Spain’s top-tier La Liga, is preparing for its season and coming off a 2-0 loss to North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos on Saturday.

La Liga, dominated by FC Barcelona and Real Madrid the past three decades, has produced the past four Champions League winners, though Valencia hasn’t won the league title since 2003-04.

“We will try to recover and assess things after training tomorrow,” Koch said. “We would like to include as many, if not everyone, in Monday night’s game because it is a special occasion. It’s important for us to embrace opportunities like this. We have nothing to lose playing a friendly against world-class competition, but it’s something we can learn from and the best way to learn is to put your players in those situations.”

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