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‘Mitch Says No,’ Leaving Cincinnati Ecstatic

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/29/17, 10:19AM EDT


Hildebrandt’s performance against Fire in front of 32,287 was one for the ages

Photo courtesy Erik Schelkun / FC Cincinnati

CINCINNATI – First there was his last name trending nationally across the United States on Twitter.

Then the update to his Wikipedia page to add the nickname “Fire Extinguisher.”

It’s safe to say FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt – who saved three shots in a penalty shootout to lift his side to victory against the Chicago Fire in the Round of 16 of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in front of 32,287 – the second-highest crowd in tournament history – has never experienced a night quite like it.

“Well, I’ve never played in front of 32,000 fans in youth, so I can’t really compare,” said Hildebrandt of his previous penalty shootout exploits. “However, this city is unbelievable. The amount of work our team put into the 120 minutes is incomparable. Mentally [going to PKs], this is exciting, not draining. This is a time to step up, a time to be there for your team. This was the first time I’ve ever stopped three, so this was a first.”

Photo courtesy Erik Schelkun / FC Cincinnati

As remarkable as Hildebrandt was in the shootout, where he saved shots from MLS leading scorer Nemanja Nikolic, Arturo Alvarez and Juninho to give FCC a 3-1 victory, the 2016 USL Goalkeeper of the Year’s performance in regulation and overtime was at least at the same level as the game finished in an enthralling 0-0 draw on ESPN. Hildebrandt finished the night with 10 saves, including a pair of outstanding denials of Nikolic, who entered the game having scored 14 regular-season goals for the Fire this season, and a game-saving stop in the 119th minute on former German international Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Add in a sterling night of work by the center back trio of 2016 USL All-League First Team selection Harrison Delbridge, Justin Hoyte and former Fire player Austin Berry, and Cincinnati maintained its record of not having conceded so far in its four victories in the Open Cup.

“Mitch stepped up to the plate tonight, and not only does his confidence increase, but it gives the defenders in front of him confidence,” said FCC Head Coach Alan Koch. “This confidence is infectious.”

As the shootout grew to a climax in front of The Bailey, though, the familiar chant of “Mitch Says No” grew louder and louder with each save.

And when the stadium erupted after his denial of Juninho, while Hildebrandt was swamped by his teammates charging forward in celebration, a historic night for FC Cincinnati was complete.

“This win is for every single guy in that locker room,” said Hildebrandt. “I’m thrilled for the entire club.”

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