CINCINNATI, OH -- Despite a second-half goal from defender Dekel Keinan, FC Cincinnati fell 1-2 to Sacramento Republic FC in the side's final preseason match prior to the start of the 2018 regular season.
With the loss, the Orange & Blue fall for just the first time this Spring following three wins and two draws in the team's six-week preseason.
"We're very disappointed with the performance today," offered head Coach Alan Koch after the match. "That wasn't even close to where we need to be at this stage of our preseason."
However, that's not necessarily a bad thing in the coach's mind.
"It's important to lose in preseason... it humbles you, and brings you back down to earth. We'll get over the disappointment of losing, we'll go back and watch the game and likely see a lot of the positives."
The visitors from Sacramento, making the return preseason leg in Cincinnati after hosting FCC during the 2017 preseason, almost immediately put the Orange & Blue under pressure. They dictated much of the possession in the opening 20 minutes of the match and forced FCC's starting goalkeeper Evan Newton into action early with a fine diving save after headed effort on a Sacramento corner in the fourth minute.
It would take until the 13th minute until FCC threatened Sacramento's goal. After Emmanuel Ledesma was cut down 30-yards from goal, Kenney Walker's service on the ensuing freekick found the head of defender Forrest Lasso. But while the big defender did enough to get his head on the ball, some excellent defending forced his header off target.
Five minutes later, it was the Republic squandering a free kick of their own, as Alemán's service found Cameron Iwasa at the back door, but he turned his shot wide of Newton's goal.
The team's traded chances -- and cautions -- in the 10-minute stretch that followed. First, a yellow was shown to FCC's Lasso following a sturdy challenge on the near touchline. Then on 25 minutes, Sacramento's Cole Seiler dropped forward Tomi Ameobi with a tough challenge of his own at midfield, earning him a yellow. A high boot from Dekel Keinan on the edge of our own box that brought down Eissele soon followed, but the card's stayed in the referee's pocket.
The visitors were rewarded for their early dominance in the 33rd minute, however, when Cameron Iwasa snuck the second of two quick Sacramento shots inside the far post after the FCC keeper turned away the first effort from Alemán.
The Republic goal seemed to snap some life into the FC Cincinnati side. On 38 minutes, a nifty bit of interplay between Ledesma, Corben Bone and Justin Hoyte freed the latter for a clean look on goal, but Republic goalkeeper Josh Cohen did well to snuff out the chance. And just seconds before the halftime whistle, Keinan -- wearing the captain's armband -- popped up to get his head on a cross from the defender Blake Smith. But again, Cohen came up with a big save to preserve his side's lead entering the halftime break.
Both sides opted to keep the same sides at the start of the second half, and things pretty much picked up where they left off in the first with FCC continuing to grow in confidence in attack.
Forward Tomi Ameobi and winger Jimmy McLaughlin found some chemistry in the early running. First, it was Tomi flicking a lobbed ball over the Sacramento defense for an onrushing McLaughlin, but Cohen was able to snatch it up before he was able to get a toe on the ball. Ten minutes later, Cohen again just managed to beat McLaughlin to the ball with a well-timed tackle with his feet on the edge of the box to deny a clear chance on goal.
Unfortunately, FCC were soon punished for being unable to take the opportunities they were creating.
The visitors added a second goal on 72 minutes, as our defense failed to clear their lines and Villyan Bijev fired home from a narrow angle to make it 0-2.
Again, conceding seemed to give a jolt of energy to the squad. Second half substitutes Nazmi Albadawi and Will Seymore breathed some life into the midfield and opened up some space for the likes of Daniel Haber and McLaughlin on the wings.
And in the 84th minute, they found a breakthrough of their own. After seeing a McLaughlin cross blocked out for a corner, Dekel Keinan rose above the Sacramento defense to power home Haber's service to pull one back for FCC.
The Orange & Blue created a handful of additional opportunities in the closing minutes -- including a golden chance from Ameobi after he beat a man in the box only to see Cohen again off his line to stuff it. But ultimately, the equalizer never came.
The result sees FCC finish the preseason with a promising 3-2-1 record, but definitely still leaves the team with lots to work on before next weekend's USL regular season opener at Charleston Battery. That match will be a 7pm kickoff on Saturday at Charleston's MUSC Health Stadium.
FCC's first regular season home match will take place three weeks later when we renew our River Cities Cup rivalry with Louisvile City FC on Saturday, April 7th. Tickets for the 7pm kickoff are available now on our website or by calling our staff at 513-977-KICK.
SRFC: 33' - Iwasa (Alemán)
SRFC: 72' - Bijev (unassisted)
FCC: 84' - Keinan (Haber)
FCC: Ameobi, Bone (Albadawi 77'), Hoyte (Bahner 77'), Keinan, Lasso, Ledesma (Haber 73'), McLaughlin, Newton, Ryan, Smith, Walker (Seymore 77')
SRFC: Cohen, Gomez, Taintor, Partain, Eissele, Alemán (Kneeshaw 88') , Seiler (Espino 69'), Bijev, Hall, Villarreal, Iwasa