Photo courtesy Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati
CINCINNATI – 10-man Bethlehem Steel FC claimed a 2-2 draw with FC Cincinnati before a crowd of 22,407 fans at Nippert Stadium as Fabian Herbers scored an equalizer that capped a flurry of goals in the middle of the second half. Cincinnati’s Nazmi Albadawi almost took advantage of a defensive error to give the hosts the lead in the ninth minute but couldn’t get enough on his finish on a poor headed pass to beat Steel FC goalkeeper John McCarthy. FCC’s Russell Cicerone also forced a save by McCarthy midway through the first half with a low shot from 20 yards, but the visitors took the lead in the 29th minute as Derrick Jones forced home a finish after his initial effort from the top of the penalty area was blocked. Cincinnati almost responded immediately, only for McCarthy to pull off a great save to deny Albadawi’s shot to the right corner, and the hosts continued to press before the halftime break arrived, but then Steel FC was reduced to 10 men as Oliver Mbaizo was sent off less than 10 minutes after the break. FCC then took the lead with two goals in three minutes, with the first coming from Albadawi in the 66th minute as he shot home a low finish after Bethlehem had cleared an initial chance off the line and the second on a header by Russel Cicerone as he angled his finish into the left corner. That lead lasted only a minute, however, as Herbers ran onto a pass by Michee Ngalina into the left side of the penalty area and squeezed home a finish that just tucked inside the right post to level. Cincinnati tried to regain the lead with six minutes to go as Albadawi struck a powerful shot from long range that McCarthy smothered, and the Steel FC goalkeeper also kept out a similar effort by Kenney Walker a minute later, but the hosts were unable to find a late winner as Bethlehem’s defense withstood the late pressure.
29’ – BST – Derrick Jones
66’ – CIN – Nazmi Albadawi
68’ – CIN – Russell Cicerone (Blake Smith)
69’ – BST – Fabian Herbers
Three Things That Matter:
1. Cincinnati appeared to have taken complete control as goals by Nazmi Albadawi and Russell Cicerone two minutes apart put the hosts ahead against a 10-man Steel FC, but then a lapse in concentration ended up giving the visitors a lifeline and the chance to battle for a road point that could prove very valuable in Bethlehem’s pursuit of the postseason. Herbers’ goal appeared to take some steam out of Cincinnati’s sails as it took a little while for the hosts to reestablish consistent pressure on Bethlehem’s goal, and on a night when it would have hoped to stretch its lead in the Eastern Conference to six points, a draw was not what FCC had in mind.
2. Likely the most disappointing aspect of the game for Steel FC was the sending off incurred by Oliver Mbaizo, who put pressure on his teammates as he let a simple yellow card turn into a red as the 20-year-old showed immaturity by letting the situation continue instead of retreating to the back line. It’ll be a learning moment for the youngster, but with Steel FC claiming a point on the road it didn’t end up being quite as costly as it might have for the visitors.
3. There’s nothing that you’d consider a rivalry between Bethlehem and Cincinnati, who came into the USL together in 2016, but over the past two-plus seasons the sides have always seemed to manage to develop an intensity in their meetings that provides a fascinating undercurrent. Wednesday night’s game was no exception, as for the second time this season honors ended even between the two playoff contenders.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Fabian Herbers, Bethlehem Steel FC – Herbers produced a great finish to salvage a point for the visitors despite being down to 10 men for most of the second half.
FC Cincinnati vs. Richmond Kickers – June 16, 7:30 p.m. ET, Nippert Stadium
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. New York Red Bulls II – June 20, 5 p.m. ET, Goodman Stadium