Victory over Miami FC propels FC Cincinnati to U.S. Open Cup semifinals

MIAMI, Fla. - Looking like a team of destiny, FC Cincinnati will advance to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals after beating Miami FC on the loser's turf Wednesday night.

A game-winning goal from Djiby broke the nil-nil stalemate more than an hour in and pushed the Orange and Blue to a 1-0 victory. Goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt was a hero again, making a point-blank save with his toe with seconds ticking down, and he and the FC Cincinnati defense extended their Cup shutout streak to five games and a modern-era tournament record 510 minutes.

"I’m incredibly proud of our team, our staff, the club, the traveling fans who came and supported us,” said Head Coach Alan Koch. “I think we were all part of something truly special tonight.”

FC Cincinnati will return home to Nippert Stadium for its Aug. 15 East semifinal match against the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer. The West semifinal will pit two MLS teams, the San Jose Earthquakes vs. Sporting Kansas City, on Aug. 9. If FC Cincinnati and San Jose win, FC Cincinnati would host the Sept. 20 final.

By continuing its amazing run through the tournament, Cincinnati's United Soccer League team became the first non-MLS side to reach the semifinals since the Richmond Kickers did it in 2011. The last non-MLS team to win the Open Cup was the Rochester Rhinos in 1999.

Djiby became the first player in the modern era to score four game-winning goals in the tournament. The winner came in the 68th minute with an assist by Justin Hoyte, who started the play by beating Hunter Freeman on the left side near the six-yard box. The defender sent a left-footed cross to the near post to Djiby, who flicked the ball past Daniel Vega to end the scoreless draw.

“This game was very important for the fans and for the club,” said Djiby, who has scored all of FC Cincinnati's goals in the Open Cup. “It was a big chance for us to go for the semifinal. We played against a very, very good team. We played with energy and played to make our city happy. That’s our job.”

The Orange and Blue defense held steadfast against Miami FC's powerful offense, which had outscored its previous four Cup opponents 11-5 and piled up 33 goals in 17 matches in winning the North American Soccer League Spring Season title.

Following Djiby's goal, the defense stepped up to make several critical plays.

In the 53rd minute, Miami FC earned a corner kick after Harrison Delbridge was forced to send the ball over the FCC goal, but the ensuing kick was cleared easily.

Hildebrandt raced off his line in the 59th minute to deny Stefano Pinho, who came in with four Open goals and was driving unchecked toward the goal. An ensuing corner kick led to a dangerous header by Kwadwo Poku, but Djiby dropped back to defend and countered with a header on the second ball to clear.

Delbridge delivered two key defensive plays against Poku - first in the 62nd minute when he knocked the ball away at the goal line and then in the 66th minute when he forced Poku to take a shot that flew behind FCC’s goal.

Miami nearly tied the game in the 76th minute following a foul. Freeman curved a free kick to the far post to Michel, but Hildebrandt blocked the shot.

Hildebrandt had just enough magic left for one more big play.

In the 88th minute, Poku danced his way around the Orange and Blue defense to the net. Hildebrandt managed to get a foot on it and pushed it wide, and Vincenzo Rennella just missed heading the rebound into the net.

RELATED: Recap of FC Cincinnati's previous Open Cup victories.

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