Photo courtesy of FC Cincinnati
CINCINNATI – FC Cincinnati has delivered in every facet this season, from its play on the pitch to of course the record-setting numbers, as a third regular-season crowd of more than 20,000 was on hand Saturday at Nippert Stadium.
During Cincinnati’s 2-0 victory against Eastern Conference-leading Louisville City FC, the expansion team now has its first accolade, winning the River Cities Cup.
To say that Cincinnati’s stretch has been rigorous would be an understatement. The club hosted Crystal Palace in front of more than 35,000 last Saturday, then faced the second-place New York Red Bulls II on Wednesday before hosting conference leader Louisville on Saturday.
“Three games in a week is a tough thing to do, and it’s even more challenging when you play three teams like Crystal Palace, New York and Louisville City,” Cincinnati Head Coach John Harkes said. “Managing the players was important today. We wanted to give some different guys opportunities to step up and try to demonstrate our depth.”
For Harkes, this was one of the club’s defining moments to rise to this occasion against a Louisville side that had posted a 17-game unbeaten streak.
“It was a tough game, as always, especially when you get challenged by a club that excelled so much this year and last,” Harkes said. “The attitude and dedication by the players to stick to a plan and see it through was great.
“As a coach, you’re always looking for key moments in the season, that define your season. Today was a demonstration of our growth and maturity.”
Andrew Wiedeman and Sean Okoli provided the goal-scoring, with Wiedeman’s 39th-minute strike serving as the winner.
“It’s always nice to get a win and knock off the top team in the standings,” Wiedeman said. “But I don’t think that any of us went into this match thinking that we were an underdog. We’re very confident as a team in what we do.”
Defensively, Cincinnati held strong to post its fifth clean sheet of the season as the club is now within five points of Louisville with a game in hand.
“Every game is a challenge, especially after a week like this,” Cincinnati defender Harrison Delbridge said. “We try to approach it like we do any other. The boys really showed a lot of grit today. It shows a bit of character when we are able to finish off the week right.”