Photo courtesy FC Cincinnati
CINCINNATI – FC Cincinnati made USL history on Wednesday night as it broke the league’s single-season attendance record as 16,127 fans packed into Nippert Stadium to see the USL Game of the Week clash against the New York Red Bulls II.
Cincinnati’s current total attendance of 164,109 moved past Sacramento Republic FC’s record set last season of 158,516. The side still has five home games remaining, including this Saturday night’s River Cities Cup clash with Louisville City FC. The club is currently averaging 16,411 fans this season.
“Our fans are really second-to-none,’ said goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt following the game. “They are certainly the best in the U.S. and rival even some abroad.”
Cincinnati’s success in the stands has turned heads across North America, as has the club’s success on the field. On Wednesday night, it appeared for a time the side was getting set to introduce itself into the battle for first place in the Eastern Conference as it took a 60th-minute lead on the Red Bulls II through Jimmy McLaughlin, but the visitors stormed back late to grab a 2-1 victory that saw them remain undefeated on the road this season.
The Red Bulls II had, in fact, held the upper hand for much of the first half, but faltered in the final third when opportunities presented themselves. Junior Flemmings saw a pair of chances go awry, while Derrick Etienne Jr. hit the post with a free kick just before halftime.
The hosts appeared to adjust well during halftime, and provided much more threat in the second half. McLaughlin’s goal – his fourth of the season – capped a strong 15-minute spell to start the second half that saw him curl home a finish from the left side of the penalty area.
“The goal from Jimmy was very opportunistic,” Cincinnati Head Coach John Harkes said. “He had a chance like that against [Crystal] Palace and he was kicking himself. I said, ‘it’s going to come again,’ and he did extremely well.”
“I think we gave away a few dangerous fouls early in the match and gave them some opportunity,” said Harkes. “It’s part of the game, we take this experience and move forward.”
Cincinnati will need to rebound quickly from its defeat with Louisville arriving on Saturday for the third and final contest for the River Cities Cup. Harkes is confident his side – and the fans – will be up for the challenge.
“We’re too good of a team to hang our head and let this affect us,” Harkes said. “It hurts, and we’ve got to deal with it. We’ve had losses before. We’ll be fine.”