By: Micah Price ~Staff Writer~
FC Cincinnati (FCC) secured a win and a home playoff game on Saturday in front of a record crowd of 24,376 fans.
Currently third place in the Eastern Conference of the United Soccer League, the team played its final home game of the regular season. The Orange and Blue defeated Orlando City B 1-0 on a goal from newly acquired forward Casey Townsend.
“I got the slightest of touches on it,” said Townsend, formerly of Major League Soccer side Chivas USA, in a late press conference after the game. “I barely got a touch on it as it was, so it was mostly [Eric Stevenson].”
Although he made sure to give credit to his teammates, Townsend’s goal in the 81st minute gave the first-year Cincinnati club a small lead which they would not relinquish, despite the best efforts of Orlando City.
FCC saw the better of the ball in the first half, but neither side was short of chances as they traded shots early. The two teams entered the locker room at the half scoreless, each having narrowly escaped conceding good scoring chances.
The second half started quickly, and FCC hit the ground running with several quality chances from forwards Sean Okoli and Andrew Weideman but were still held scoreless.
Okoli, who is tied for the league lead in goals with 15, combined with Weideman for 12 shots and five of Cincinnati’s attempts on target.
The breakthrough came after 80 minutes of play when a curling cross from Eric Stevenson found Townsend in the box, glanced off the top of his head and slid into the back left corner of the net too quickly for Orland City keeper Mark Ridgers.
The record crowd stood up in stoppage time to cheer FCC to a win that will see them back at Nippert Stadium for a home playoff game. The match will be the first playoff game in club history and is set for Oct. 2 at 4 p.m.
FCC will close out its first regular season with a match this Saturday, Sept. 24 in Pittsburgh at Highmark Stadium. The match will kick-off at 7 p.m. with a livestream on the USL YouTube page.
Despite threatening weather and Oktoberfest still raging downtown, FCC was able to break its own league single-game attendance record, set earlier this year in May against Pittsburgh. Just several weeks before that, FCC had broken the record set in 2014 by the Sacramento Republic.
If Saturday was any indication, support for the fledgling club is only growing.
“It was electric,” said John Schoepf, membership coordinator of The Legion, the college student supporters group. “The atmosphere has gotten crazy over the past couple months.”
FC Cincinnati head coach John Harkes agrees.
“We certainly don’t take it for granted to have this type of fan base. Overall, it has been a tremendous year so far. We enjoy them. When the fans come out and support us like that, we want to reward them,” Harkes said.
Including Saturday’s game and several exhibition games earlier this year, FCC has seen a total of 303,166 fans pack Nippert Stadium in its first season, a league record.