CINCINNATI - FC Cincinnati isn’t untouchable after all, but still keeps finding ways to win.
The first-place Orange and Blue (20-3-6) survived an ugly showing against the worst team in the United Soccer League on Sunday, as Corben Bone’s two late goals lifted them to a 4-3 win over Toronto FC II in front of 27,275 fans at Nippert Stadium.
FC Cincinnati extended its unbeaten streak to 18 games, now has won seven straight and clinched a top-2 finish in the USL Eastern Conference.
Bone, who celebrated his 30th birthday Sunday, scored the game winner in the 88th minute when Emmanuel Ledesma found him wide open at the back post on a cross, which Bone easily tapped in. Nine minutes earlier he had finished off a give-in-go with Jimmy McLaughlin in traffic to even the game at 3-3.
Ledesma moved to sole possession of the single-season league record for assists with three helpers, moving him to 15 through 29 matches.
Forrest Lasso and Fanendo Adi tallied first-half goals for FC Cincinnati, while Toronto’s Tsubasa Endoh notched a hat trick. The visiting Reds are 3-21-4.
Here is a deeper look at the game:
1. Disappointing Win: FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch came into his post-game press conference sighing and shaking his head as though his team had just lost.
It didn’t matter so much to him that FC Cincinnati was playing the last-place team in the Eastern Conference -- it felt more like a loss than a win because of the way Cincinnati managed the game. The defense gave up way too much space to Toronto’s attackers, specifically Endoh, and FCC wasted several corner kicks and free kicks, many of which fell short and did not get through the Reds’ defense.
Cincinnati dominated possession (64.2 percent) and didn't do nearly enough with it.
"I may be getting old and grump, I guess, but I'm not happy,” Koch said. “Today I was not happy with our performance. I was not happy with how we managed the game. Collectively and individually, we made some horrendous decisions in the game. I don't want to take away from Toronto because I thought they played very well. Endoh scored some fantastic goals, but we gave them opportunities tonight."
“You do not need to lose a game to learn,” Koch added. “You can learn just as much from a game by winning the game. I'm glad and happy for the guys they won the game, but I'm going to leave here just as disappointed as if we had lost the game because we didn't manage the game the way we needed to.”
2. Defensive Letdowns: Endoh scored all three of Toronto’s goals from outside the box, and all three goals were very much preventable. Complacency in the back half of the lineup seemed to attribute to Endoh’s opportunities, and he took advantage of the space he was given.
The first goal came after a bit of a mishap when Adi lost the ball and tracked back to try to regain possession. But he collided with Lasso and neither one ended up with it. Instead, the ball moved around FC Cincinnati’s defense and eventually kicked out to Endoh on the left flank.
Endoh took his shot from about 28 yards out to the far right corner, past the outstretched arms of Spencer Richey for a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute. FC Cincinnati responded on a Ledesma free kick that Lasso headed in at the back post. Then in stoppage time before the half, the hosts took a 2-1 lead when Adi juggled a long ball from Ledesma and neatly tucked it in from the outside of his right foot.
Toronto managed to sneak another goal in before halftime, though, with Endoh putting in the equalizer moments before the whistle sounded, and he scored his final goal in the 73rd minute for another lead.
“(Tsubasa) Endoh is a fantastic finisher; he capitalized on those moments today,” Koch said. “No disrespect to Toronto, I thought they came in and they played very well. They had a good game plan -- they almost executed it -- but we gave a quality player way too much space, first off. And, we didn’t play the way we needed to play. Thankfully, we have enough individual and collective class to go out and get a positive result, and at the end of the day that’s the most important thing.”
Cincinnati has only once allowed an opposing player to score a hat trick. Louisville City’s Chandler Hoffman did it in the first half at Nippert on April 15, 2016.
3. Late Subs Make Impact: Trailing 3-2 with about 15 minutes left, FC Cincinnati made some changes while utilizing its last sub, and that ended up being key. Danni Konig replaced Adi up top to get some fresh legs at the 9 position, and McLaughlin, who had entered for Nazmi Albadawi in the 67th minute and was playing on the left side, swapped sides with the left-footed Ledesma to put both in more comfortable spots.
Three minutes later, McLaughlin and Bone worked together in the midfield on a series of one-two balls before McLaughlin threaded the final pass to Bone in the box to create a 2-on-1 with Toronto goalie Caleb Patterson-Sewell. Bone equalized from 10 yards out into the top left corner.
“I’ve been around Jimmy (McLaughlin) a long time now, and I think we understand each other pretty well on the field,” Bone said of the fellow third-year FC Cincinnati player. “So, anytime we start moving the ball pretty quickly, I think we can create chances. On the goal, that’s basically what it was, just passing and moving and reading each other’s minds. He put the ball in a great spot, credit to him. It was an incredible pass and I had the easy part of just tapping it in, really.”
Koch felt that Konig’s play was key as well.
“Adi got pushed around all night long and he worked, but Danni came in and really fought and competed until the very end and he created space and Corbs was the benefactor,” Koch said. “It took those two to score those goals.”
PLAYER PERFORMANCES OF NOTE
Fanendo Adi: Adi’s second goal for the Orange and Blue was another beauty. Ledesma sent him a long ball, which he trapped with his chest, then flicked over his head to turn, headed the ball in front of him and then perfectly struck the ball with the outside of his right foot to the lower right corner of the goal. He had two shots on goal and conceded three fouls while battling for 75 minutes without getting calls he was begging for.
Corben Bone: Bone’s birthday was a good one. He put in a strong 90 minutes of work, scoring the final two goals for the win, creating three chances and leading the team with seven tackles. On the last goal, he didn’t celebrate because of cramps, but laughed when asked if that was the result of turning 30. “My birthday’s been good to me,” he said. Bone also scored the game-winner against Louisville City in FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 victory last week. He now has eight goals this season, and that was the first brace of his FC Cincinnati career.