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Match Preview: 5/12 at Charlotte Independence

By D.J. Switzer, 05/10/18, 5:30PM EDT

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With eyes shifting towards next week's midweek U.S. Open Cup debut at Gettler and a return to Nippert the following Saturday, many seemed to have forgotten that there's league action to attend to THIS weekend first.

However, that action is coming on the road as FC Cincinnati looks to renew our Queen Cities Cup rivalry with Charlotte Independence at the Sportsplex at Matthews in Matthews, NC, this Saturday at 7:30pm.

While we know some are making the long trip North Carolina's biggest city, the rest of you both near and far can catch the game on local television on Star64 (WSTR) or by catching the stream on ESPN+

A Little Background

The aforementioned and famed Queen Cities Cup -- founded way back during our inaugural season in 2015 -- is contested annually between the clubs representing Cincinnati and Charlotte.

And while the philosophical debate rages on as to which is the one and true "Queen City" and the contest for the Cup that bears her name has been closely contested on the field, the silverware has lived in our Queen City for each of the last two seasons. Though the Orange & Blue have lifted the cup each of its two years in existence, the margin for victory each time has been pretty narrow.

In just four previous meetings, we've edged out the pony riders with a 2-2-1 all-time record. 

The 2016 season saw us open up our first ever match at Nippert Stadium with a dramatic 2-1 win on the back of an Austin Berry header and an acrobatic scissor kick from Sean "Ugo" Okoli. It wasn't until late August that we met again, with a 2-3 loss being enough to see take the first ever title on the away goals rule. Then in 2017, we drew the home fixture in June with a tame 1-1 scoreline before traveling to Matthews to win the away leg 1-0 in September to retain the cup. 

And with two meetings yet to come this season, the question remains: can we retain the title for a third straight year? 

What to Expect

Looking at the current form of Saturday's hosts, our odds are looking decent.

Despite starting the season with two straight wins, Charlotte enter the match having failed to win in their previous five and haven't scored a goal since March 31st.  And their two season-opening wins came against the sides sitting at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference table -- Ottawa and Toronto. That poor run of recent form sees the Independence sitting 12th in the table on just 8 points and with a -7 goal difference. 

And with centerback Henry Kalungi missing the game through suspension, they'll be even more wounded. That's particularly true when you consider that their last time out was the first time all season they switched from their normal 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-4-3, in which Kalungi played the pivotal central defender role. Will Coach Mike Jeffries be willing to tactically gamble again with him out?

Considering that backline will be coming up against one of the hottest offensive teams in USL, that might prove risky.

The Orange & Blue enter Saturday's matchup having gone four matches without a loss including three straight wins. They've done so on the back of 12 goals during that four-game stretch, a quadrupling of their output over the previous four matches. 

That said, there's also the small matter of leaking three times as many goals per game during that time frame than in the previous three matches. So while we're scoring more freely, it has potentially left us a little more exposed at the back. And with players like Jorge Herrera (#10) in Charlotte's attack, a tightening up in that region of the pitch wouldn't be a bad thing.

The question is, what FC Cincinnati team will we see this weekend? 

With a few niggling injuries in the squad and our first midweek action last week, we saw head coach Alan Koch rotate his squad for the first time. And it didn't seem to hurt us much, if at all. And with midweek action looming once again, it's possible we could see him rotate once again.

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