CINCINNATI, Ohio — A pair of goals from Sean Okoli proved to be the difference as FC Cincinnati defeated FC Montreal 2-1 on a hot and humid night at Nippert Stadium. A crowd of 14,267 braved the heat to cheer on FCC, making it the seventh consecutive match with over 10,000 for the home side.
“Our guys worked hard today,” said FCC head coach John Harkes. “Personality makes the game in terms of shape and balance. We are a team that loves to create and move forward. We are always trying to look for balances on the team. We focus on the process and the lessons that we learn from each match. I am proud of the guys and the way they went out and competed today.”
After strong offensive pressure for most of the first half, FCC finally got a breakthrough goal. In the 34th minute Andrew Wiedeman served a long ball into the eighteen yard box. Okoli back-heeled it past a FC Montreal defender and was brought down from behind by defender Simon Lemire to set up the penalty. Okoli placed his penalty kick shot into the left corner to put FCC up 1-0. It was Okoli’s third goal from the spot and FCC’s fourth overall. The goal marked Okoli’s sixth for the Orange and Blue.
FCC had a chance to add another goal right before the half, but Harrison Delbridge could not get a handle on a deflection from Tyler Polak’s free kick and the half ended with FCC holding a 1-0 advantage.
Just minutes into the second half FCC did double their lead and it was Okoli once again. Eric Stevenson took a ball down the sideline and broke into the 18-yard box. Stevenson crossed the ball to the opposite side of the box where Okoli was waiting. The forward took a right-footed one-time shot and surged the ball into the back of the net to give FCC a two-goal lead.
“I have been working on my craft and being a professional for three seasons,” said Okoli. “I am just figuring out things in my game. I always knew that I just have to stick to my process and believe and everything will take care of itself.”
Okoli came off in the 70th minute and made way for the veteran Omar Cummings who almost gave FCC a third goal minutes after coming on. Stevenson chipped a pass just outside the six-yard box where Cummings headed it to himself and then ripped a shot at point-blank range. However, his effort was just tipped over the goal by the keeper narrowly missing the crossbar.
FC Montreal would pull a goal back late in the match through a Mastanabal Kacher one- time effort. After a poor header clearance, Kacher shot the ball from the eighteen and snuck it past Mitch Hildebrandt into the left corner of the goal to cut FCC’s lead to 2-1. It marked the second straight week FCC allowed a goal in stoppage time.
The Orange and Blue are now unbeaten in eight USL matches and improved to 5-1-2 at Nippert Stadium.
FCC is 8-3-3, 7-2-3 in USL play with 24 points. FC Montreal dropped to 1-10-0 in the USL.
FCC held a 12-10 shots advantage and Hildebrandt collected two saves on the night.
The Orange and Blue are back in action at home next Saturday, June 18, against Toronto FC II. This will be the second meeting this season, with FCC defeating Toronto FC II north of the border 2-1 in back in April.