FC Cincinnati and the Tampa Bay Rowdies played to a 1-1 stalemate at Nippert Stadium in front of a crowd of 15,227 on Wednesday. Two teams jockeying for position in the MLS expansion race battled as USL Eastern Conference rivals for the first time. An evenly played contest turned in Tampa’s favor when FC Cincinnati winger Kadeem Dacres was shown red for a studs-up tackle in the 75th minute. The home team’s defense was able to hold firm though. They preserved a 1-1 scoreline under heavy pressure from Tampa in the final minutes of the match.
MLS Expansion Rivals Share Spoils in Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati entered the match on a high after dismantling Saint Louis FC 4-0 at home last Saturday. Tampa Bay was looking to recover from their first loss of the season this past weekend, which came at the hands of Louisville City FC.
Tampa Bay jumped out to an early lead courtesy of a vicious long range strike by former Bundesliga standout Marcel Schäfer. FC Cincinnati lost possession just inside their own half in the 7th minute of play. Justin Chavez relayed the ball to Schäfer who found space to dribble at goal. Rather than look for a pass, he put his head down and launched a 30+ yard strike that clattered in off the inside of the post.
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FC Cincinnati was stunned and down a goal, but regrouped quickly and played back into the match. They found an equalizer in the 36th minute from a corner kick. A threatening run into the left side of the box by Jimmy McLaughlin was put out of play to create the opportunity. Kenney Walker delivered a powerful arcing corner onto the head of center back Harrison Delbridge who climbed over his defender to head into goal.
The half finished at 1-1 and was characterized by increasingly physical play between the two sides.
The physical play continued into an evenly played second half. Tensions continued to rise, and the referee issued three yellow cards before a pivotal moment in the match occurred.
Tampa cleared a Cincinnati free kick high into the air. Kadeem Dacres tried to control the ball with his foot outside of the box. It bounced away from him, and Dacres tried to reclaim it with a high boot. Tampa’s Deshom Brown was rushing out of his own box to clear. He made contact with Dacres outstretched leg and went down in a heap. The referee issued a red card offense and FC Cincinnati was reduced to ten men.
FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch said of red card after the match. “My opinion is that it wasn’t a red card, we’ll obviously have to go watch the video…we’ll have a discussion tonight as a club and see what the right way is to go about addressing that (whether to challenge the red card at the USL level).”
The home side bunkered-in and got men behind the ball for the final 15 minutes of play. A save and a few body-sacrificing blocks were required, but FC Cincinnati’s defense held and the match ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
Koch: “We’ll Take a Point Tonight”
FC Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch didn’t like how his team started, but thought they rebounded well until the red card eliminated the possibility of a win.
“We addressed things, came out with a positive mindset, and clawed ourselves back into the game. We’re disappointed we didn’t get the three points, because we showed that we could deal with situations, but in the context, we’ll take a point tonight.”
Tampa Bay reclaims the top spot in the Eastern Conference with Wednesday’s result. They move back above Louisville City FC on goal difference. They have played one more game than the Kentucky club however. FC Cincinnati moves up to fifth place with the draw. They face that same Louisville City FC side on Saturday for their third Eastern Conference showdown in the space of eight days.
Photo Credit: Ryan Meyer / Orange and Blue Press