Photo courtesy FC Cincinnati
CINCINNATI – With the spotlight of the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3, and an expectant crowd of 15,227 fans on hand at Nippert Stadium, the second meeting between FC Cincinnati and the Tampa Bay Rowdies – and the first in a regular season contest – brought out an intensity at times that is usually reserved for longtime rivalries.
After the two USL Eastern Conference sides had finished all square in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night, it definitely seemed like the expectations both sides have for this season played a big role in a hard-fought game.
“We’re both very competitive teams, and tonight came down to winning points that both teams desperately wanted,” said FCC defender Harrison Delbridge. “They’re a fun team to play against and sometimes that type of physicality on both ends of the field is what makes it competitive.”
Delbridge’s goal gave FCC an equalizer to the delight of another big crowd for Cincinnati, with his powerful header from Kenney Walker’s corner kick nine minutes before the halftime break leveling after Tampa Bay had taken an early lead through a 35-yard strike by Marcel Schäfer. After being somewhat culpable for the Rowdies’ opener, the Australian center back was pleased with the way the side responded to going down early.
“I’m disappointed to give the ball away that I did, but on the flip side you have other guys on the field that step up when things happen,” Delbridge said. “It’s a matter of responding to it the right way, which we did.”
FCC had to manage another blow with 15 minutes to go when Kadeem Dacres was sent off for a foul on Rowdies forward Deshorn Brown as Tampa Bay looked to break into attack. After suffering a defeat when reduced to 10 men against Bethlehem earlier this season, FCC Head Coach Alan Koch said he thought the experience there helped his side manage the remainder of Wednesday’s contest.
“We knew what we were getting into and exactly what to do,” said Koch. I give credit to the players who executed the game plan. It is imperative in this league, with the teams getting better and better each year, to be ready as a team to play from the start.”
That will be particularly crucial as Cincinnati closes out a massive week of action at Nippert Stadium with the first edition of the River Cities Cup against Louisville City FC on Saturday night. With a chance to close the gap on its biggest rivals, and end their undefeated start to the season, FCC will try to build on a more resilient performance after the thrills of its home opener.
“Nobody gave up and everyone fought for each other,” said FCC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt. “That’s the commitment we need to be successful in this league.”