Season’s midpoint finds FC Cincy in 3rd place

FC Cincinnati (8-2-4) vs. Bethlehem Steel FC (4-4-6)

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

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 or listen on ESPN 1530 AM

Heading into the midway point of its inaugural season, FC Cincinnati remains in third place but still not satisfied.

FCC (8-2-4) trails Louisville City FC (10-1-5) by seven points heading into its 15th of 30 United Soccer League games Saturday against Bethlehem Steel at Nippert Stadium.

Here’s a look at the top 5 things we’ve learned about FCC so far:

1. FCC is a hit.

After several other attempts over the years, professional soccer finally has caught on in Cincinnati.

FC Cincinnati averages a league-best attendance of 16,326, has twice set USL single-game attendance records and still holds the standard at 23,375 tickets sold.

“What an incredible atmosphere to play futbol in,” FCC coach John Harkes said last week. “It’s absolutely brilliant.”

2. Preseason success no fluke

Players said they gained confidence in the preseason when FCC took home the IMG Suncoast Classic trophy. However, the club still didn’t know what to expect with the start of the USL schedule and it took a few games for FCC to find its footing.

Cincinnati opened 2-2 but has not lost a game since dropping a 3-2 decision at home against Louisville. They bounced back with a 10-game unbeaten streak that still stands heading into Saturday.

“We’re ahead of a lot of teams that came out of the gate as expansion clubs, all the way from USL to MLS, so I’m proud of the guys and where we are,” Harkes said. “We keep pushing the envelope at the top of the league, and it’s fantastic.”

3. Strong group of individuals

FC Cincinnati has scored more than two goals once this season, but the ones it has registered have been fantastic. In eight out of 14 weeks, at least one FCC player has landed in the USL’s Top 5 Goals of the Week.

Additionally, FCC has received recognition on the USL’s “Team of the Week” lists eight times, and two players have landed on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day — Sean Okoli for his scissor kick goal against Charlotte on April 9 and Mitch Hildebrandt for his double save at Toronto FC II on April 24.

4. Okoli has emerged as star

The former MLS player ranks fifth in the USL with seven goals but has been playing his best lately.

He has emerged with four goals in the last five games, breaking a dry spell that followed a strong start when he scored once in each of the team’s first two wins. He has twice landed on the Team of the Week and three of his goals have been in the Top 5 for the week.

5. Defense improving

After giving up six goals in the first four games, FCC has allowed six goals over the last 10 league games, including three shutouts. Louisville is the only team to score more than one goal against Cincinnati.

Hildebrandt, who has become a fan favorite while drawing “Mitch Says No” chants after saves, ranks fifth among the USL’s goalkeepers with 42 stops while playing behind a growingly steady defense.