Ah, a cup competition. Considered by some to be the purest version of the game, single elimination knockout tournaments like the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup can serve as pretty unique experience for clubs and fans alike. Not only is it another chance for your team to prove themselves, but it’s also a chance to do it against new teams we’ve never faced before – potentially higher or lower in the American soccer pyramid.
This week, when Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action returns to Nippert Stadium, we’ll be playing the role of the Goliath to the visitor’s David. But we all know how that story turned out. So take a look at the full match preview below to get a look at who we’re playing and whether you can expect the “magic of the cup” to make an appearance.
If you're a 2017 season ticket holder, you already have a designated ticket as a part of your package that will be applicable for this match. Your season ticket or wristband labeled "Match 17" and "Exhibition” will be applicable for this match only. See photo above for reference. If you have a season parking pass, there is also a pass labeled "Match 17" and "Exhibition", and it too will be accepted at your designated garage for this match only.
For non season ticket holders, tickets for the Open Cup fixture are currently on sale and available for Zone 1, Zone 2, Family sections and General Admission seating at normal FCC USL pricing.
When we hosted our first-ever Open Cup match last year, we kicked things off against a strong fourth-tier side from the semiprofessional National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). This year, we’ll be doing the same when AFC Cleveland of the NPSL’s Midwest Region comes to Cincinnati. But even though AFC Cleveland are mostly composed of amateur college players, don’t take them lightly: the team lifted the NPSL National Championship in 2016 and are returning many of those players for their 2017 campaign.
FCC: Well, things haven’t gone according to plan of late. But that’s the beauty of cup competitions: oftentimes, form flies right out the window. With squads frequently being rotated, it’s not unusual to see guys who haven’t seen regular minutes in the league get a chance to fight for a starting spot and really shine. But given the team’s recent run of form, there’s absolutely a pressure there to get a result, too.
AFCC: Given that the NPSL is a league stocked primarily by college players on summer break, AFC Cleveland’s season has just gotten underway. Their first match of the year? That came in the previous round of the Open Cup when they traveled to analogous fourth division side Des Moines Menace of the USL-affiliated Professional Development League (PDL). Cleveland traveled to Iowa and survived a crazy final 15 minutes to win 3-1 to advance to the second round here in Cincinnati. Their second match of the season came this past weekend when league foe Dayton Dynamo visited and earned a come-from-behind 3-3 draw to open their NPSL campaign.
"Any week with three games in a short amount of time is a challenge for a club, but we look forward to embracing a good mid-week challenge. It will be another opportunity for our team to come together and for the individuals to showcase themselves. Cleveland are an excellent team, and we look forward to focusing our energy on a cup game and are excited about playing in a historic competition."
- Head Coach Alan Koch
FCC: As mentioned above, it’s not unusual to see squads rotated during these midweek Open Cup fixtures. That’s meant to help give guys that aren’t getting frequent minutes some competitive action, as well as to give a breather to a few of the regular players within the squad. Watch for a handful of those regulars to compliment those who have been on the fringes of the first team. And one of the players who hasn’t been involved of late but likely will be: Djiby, whose league suspension doesn’t apply to the Open Cup competition.
AFCC: With the NPSL being a semi-professional division, turnover from year to year in squads can be pretty unpredictable. But given the AFC Cleveland won the NPSL national championship last year, they’ve managed to return 15 members of their trophy hoisting side. Vinny Bell (#9) is one of the club’s all-time leading scorers, including two in the national championship match last year. But the hottest foot on the team, however, is returning defender and Case Western Reserve University alum Chris Cvecko (#16). An All-American his senior year at Case, Cveko managed three goals in just two matches this season.
This will be the first meeting between the two clubs at opposite corners of the state.
Though it’s only mid-May, it’s going to feel like a mid-summer day in Cincinnati tomorrow night. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 80’s throughout the match, with 50% humidity making things a little bit muggier. The good news, however, is no rain is expected.
Unlike regular season home matches, there will not be any broadcast of any type for Wednesday evening’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action.
Yes, you read that correctly: there will be nothing on local or national television, and no internet stream either. The only way you’ll get to take in the action is to either head to Nippert or to follow along on the social media channels below.
Same as above: there will be no radio broadcast of this match
If you can’t make it, social media will be your best way to take in the action. As with all of our other matches, follow us on Twitter at @fccincinnati for live updates throughout the game. Halftime and full time updates will also be available on Facebook. To get live looks from the match, follow us on Instagram and Snapchat at 'fccincinnati', too.