Photo courtesy FC Cincinnati
Blockbuster attendance and impressive performances on the field saw FC Cincinnati land in the USL with a splash in 2016. The club set new highs for cumulative attendance in the USL regular season, and single-game attendance records in both the regular season (24,376) and playoffs (30,187) as the side finished third in the USL’s Eastern Conference.
The on-field performance was led by USL Most Valuable Player Sean Okoli, who took the league’s Golden Boot with 16 goals, while Mitch Hildebrandt claimed Goalkeeper of the Year honors. Arguably the only disappointment in the year was a home defeat in the club’s first postseason contest, but a bright future surely awaits in 2017.
Record: 16-6-8, 56pts
Place: Third in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 41
Goals Against: 27
USL Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (L 2-1 vs. Charleston Battery)
2016 leaders: Sean Okoli (16 goals), Corben Bone (5 assists), Omar Cummings (5 assists), Mitch Hildebrandt (72 saves)
Cincinnati played an assertive style that benefitted the club both offensively and defensively. Okoli’s finishing, some of which was highlight-reel quality, grabbed the attention, but the work done by the likes of Andrew Wiedeman, Jimmy McLaughlin, Kenney Walker and the team’s MVP Corben Bone gave a platform for success. Defensively, Hildebrandt was excellent, as was Harrison Delbridge, who emerged as one of the USL’s top center backs in his third season in the league.
Given the side’s success, very little, but if there’s one thing FCC may want to improve on for 2017 it will be increasing its secondary scoring. Sean Okoli’s 16 goals made up almost 40 percent of the club’s goals in the regular season, as while the club recorded 160 shots on goal in the regular season to record its 41 goals, others like Louisville, Charlotte and New York proved more efficient in their finishing.
The first goal in FC Cincinnati history at Nippert Stadium was also arguably the best scored all season. Sean Okoli’s scissor-kick finish landed in SportsCenter’s Top Ten that night.
Eric Stevenson’s goal, which proved to the be the game-winner against Toronto FC II, showed Cincinnati’s creative best, as the side’s quick passing and movement unlocked the visiting defense.
Mitch Hildebrandt’s outstanding double-save against Toronto FC II early in the season was a sign of things to come, as the goalkeeper had an excellent year between the sticks for the expansion side.
Hildebrandt also came up big in one of FCC’s biggest wins of the season as his reaction stop helped the side claim a 2-0 win against Louisville and the River Cities Cup.
“We’re very committed to continuing to improve our roster and our training and our coaching and our facilities, everything with the goal of being a better team, and having our first team be more successful. The goal is to make the playoffs, and then when you make the playoffs. You want to make some noise. We went out quickly, with not much noise, in our first year, and we have to fix that.” – FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding