CINCINNATI – FC Cincinnati took an early lead and rallied to level in the second half but eventually fell 3-2 to La Liga side RCD Espanyol in international friendly at Nippert Stadium before a crowd of 16,135 on Saturday night as most of Head Coach Alan Koch’s squad saw action on a festive night for the club.
“Fun game tonight,” said Koch. “We obviously knew tonight we were going to play against a team that plays at much higher level than us, and I think they showed it at times in the game. I was very pleased with how our guys played, too. It’s a weird business and a weird sport, though, because I don’t think we were that great in the first 45 minutes, and we drew, 1-1. Then I thought we were a lot better in taking it to them in the second 45 minutes, and we essentially lost the second 45 minutes.”
FCC jumped out to an early lead when Emery Welshman took a Will Seymore pass after the midfielder had turned over possession 35 yards from goal and found Russell Cicerone breaking into the penalty for a first-time finish from 10 yards into the left corner of the net past Espanyol keeper Diego Lopez. It was the first goal for FCC in an international exhibition in the club’s history.
“Carl Lindner just told me about five minutes ago that I was the first to score,” said Cicerone. “That was a nice surprise to get after the game.”
Espanyol equalized on the half-hour mark when Victor Sanchez intercepted a loose pass at the back by FCC and finished off the chance with a cheeky chipped finish over goalkeeper Spencer Richey. The Spanish visitors then took the lead in the 69th minute when a blocked shot fell to Sergio Garcia to shoot low into the left corner of the net from 12 yards.
Cincinnati equalized in the 76th minute as current USL assists leader Emmanuel Ledesma fired home an outstanding finish from 25 yards that curled into the top-left corner of the net, but three minutes later Espanyol took the lead for good when a sharp first touch by Leo Baptista on a pass from Garcia created space for a powerful low finish to the bottom-right corner of the net.
While the night ended in defeat, it proved a productive one for the hosts as among those to see action was midfielder Tyler Gibson, who made his first official appearance for the side after suffering an injury in preseason that saw him miss the opening four months of the regular season.
“Growing up, you’re watching it on TV,” said Gibson of the experience against La Liga opposition. “It’s been my dream to play at the highest level. Getting to play and match up against them is awesome, to see where you measure up and everything and see what kind of level they actually are. Once you’re out there playing, you think of course they have quality. I think the level is not too far off to be honest.”
Goalkeeper Mark Village also made his first official appearance for FCC as 21 players saw action throughout the night, making it a positive night overall for the club.
“Tyler [Gibson] is an obvious one, because obviously seeing one of your players go down in preseason, we’ve all been with him every step of the way,” said Koch. “Highly emotional to see him go out and play. Very happy for Mark Village, just before he came off he made the double save. Seeing young [Russell Cicerone] score that early. We gave a lot of players opportunities tonight.”