FC Cincy tries to lock up playoff spot


When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium

Tickets: $5 for college students, $10 for "The Bailey" passionate fans section, $12 youth/clubs, Zone 1 $20, Zone 2 $25. Club seats available through season ticket sales only.

Parking: $10 in campus garages, some limited to passes only

TV/radio: Watch on Local 12, The CW Cincinnati, or listen on ESPN 1530 AM

Notable: The game is tabbed "Craft Beer Night," and koozies will be handed out to the first 6,000 fans aged 21 and older.

When FC Cincinnati traveled to Rochester early last month, it left with the disappointment of seeing an 11-game unbeaten streak come to an end.

This time around, there could be more to gain than extending any unbeaten streak.

With one month left in its inaugural United Soccer League season, FCC (12-4-6) has a chance to lock up a playoff spot with a win over the Rochester Rhinos (10-5-9) on Wednesday night at Nippert Stadium and a Wilmington loss to Pittsburgh. The Orange and Blue are 2-0-2 since their last loss July 20 against the New York Red Bulls II.

“We obviously want to make the playoffs, but we’ve got sights set on even higher goals and that’s to be able to play at home in the playoffs,” coach John Harkes said. “Right now, that’s a possibility, but we have to keep working hard, and every game we have a chance to improve our situation.”

The top four teams in each division host first-round playoff games, while the top two are guaranteed home games through the second round. FCC currently sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind Louisville City FC (13-4-8) and eight behind leader New York Red Bulls II (15-3-5).

Cincinnati, which is playing just its third game in 22 days, faces three potential playoff teams over the next eight days — versus sixth-place Rochester on Wednesday, at New York Red Bulls II on Sunday and at fifth-place Charlotte Independence on Aug. 31.

The defending USL champion Rhinos, who are led by Christian Volesky’s eight goals and three assists, are unbeaten in 11 of their last 12 games, a stretch that included a 2-1 win over FCC on July 6.

“It obviously wasn’t the best result but hopefully we can correct that this time,” said FCC defender Pat McMahon, who played for Rochester in 2014 and 2015. “We learned some things from that game, and we’ll be more prepared the second time around.”

Harkes said Rochester took advantage of some Cincinnati mistakes, which allowed the Rhinos to take a 2-0 lead in the second half. FCC’s only goal came on a penalty kick in the 74th minute.

“They lull you to sleep the way they play,” Harkes said. “They’re compact and drop off really deep. We made one or two mistakes and it was costly, and that’s the game. We created chances at the other end, so I wasn’t too worried about that, but it’s one of those games where the opponent teaches you, it’s not just good enough to have possession. You have to have possession with purpose, and that’s putting the ball in the back of the net. We learned from that, and we’re ready to play them again.”

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