Aodhan Quinn wasn’t about to celebrate his heroic moment in front of his old team, but he said afterward he was ecstatic for his new FC Cincinnati squad.
The midfielder’s equalizer goal in the 79th minute gave FCC a 1-1 draw against Louisville City FC in front of a crowd of 20,437 fans Saturday at Nippert Stadium.
Quinn walked away without any grand gestures of joy, which he said was out of respect for his former club, but he knew it was an important goal for the team. FC Cincinnati had given up a first-half tally but rallied from behind for the second straight game to earn the tie.
Here are the top 9 takeaways from the first match in the River Cities Cup rivalry:
1. Successful home stretch
FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch was plenty pleased to get another point in the United Soccer League standings after a grueling three games in an eight-day span.
The club finished with five points for the first home stretch, which included games against the top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference. Louisville City (3-0-2) was sitting in second place behind the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who FCC tied on Wednesday, and ahead of St. Louis FC, who had lost 4-0 at Nippert last Saturday.
“Big picture I’m very happy with the results,” Koch said. “If it was just three games against teams at the bottom of our conference, I wouldn’t feel that way, but to play against three of the top teams -- and all three were very good teams – and to get five out of nine points this early in the season, where we are still building, we’re happy. We are not ecstatic by any means, but we’re happy with getting five points.
"We’re very happy with how our group is going in the right direction. The performance tonight wasn’t going the right direction, but the character we showed was definitely going in the right direction.”
2. Déjà vu result
FC Cincinnati went into halftime down 1-0 after Brian Ownby banged a shot off the far left post from about 25 yards out in the 20th minute after beating Quinn on a cut to the middle from the right flank.
Ownby’s goal was the second straight long-range tally that rocketed past Mitch Hildebrandt, after FCC allowed a similar goal to Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Louisville had withstood plenty of FCC pressure to that point and made the most of one of the few opportunities it had in the first half, but the home side needs to figure out how to close in better on defense to avoid those kinds of letdowns.
“I’m very happy with how the guys applied themselves, but I’m not happy with how we played,” Koch said. “We’ll go critique it to death, to be honest, and make sure we adjust a couple things.”
3. A matter of time
It was only a matter of time before FCC was rewarded for its efforts in the attacking third on Saturday. The club had the possession advantage in the first half and just missed on several close opportunities in the second half leading up to the goal.
Austin Berry almost scored on a header in the 60th minute, but Louisville’s Kyle Smith came up with the goal-line clear, heading it out of danger. FCC had a trio of chances soon after that but once again came up empty, and in the 74th minute, Djiby Fall almost intercepted the ball from Louisville keeper Tom Dobrowolski inside the 6-yard box.
4. Pushing forward
FCC’s offense was helped down the stretch by a tactical personnel move, as Koch pulled defender Tyler Polak to get Daryl Fordyce in and add another body to the attack.
That’s when the opportunities really started to come for FCC, which finished with 50 percent possession time and 10 shots (two on goal), compared to 14 for Louisville City (four on frame).
“We adjusted roughly in the 60th minute,” Koch said. “We knew we wanted to get something out of the game. I’m not afraid to play like that against a team that is one of our rivals and lose 2- or 3-0. I would rather go for it and give our fans and our team the best chance to get something out of the game.”
5. Memorable first goal
Quinn’s heroic goal came after Louisville failed to clear a cross in from Andrew Wiedeman. Corben Bone intercepted the ball at the top of the box and tapped it to an open Quinn, who drove it home for his first goal of the season.
“I’m really happy for him,” Koch said. “He’s a class act on and off the field ... I’m ecstatic for him to get rewarded for his efforts. I’ve said before we don’t care who scores the goal, but obviously it was extra special for him tonight to get himself on the score sheet.”
Quinn, who was back in the starting lineup after sitting out Wednesday, said he didn’t know why he was that high up the field at that point, but when the ball popped in to him, he knew it was a simple finish.
“I was ecstatic for the team because we got back into it,” Quinn said. “I thought the character we showed, we deserved that goal.”
6. Down a man, again
The point in the standings didn’t come without cost. Standout forward Djiby Fall, who leads the league with six goals, was sent to the locker room with a straight red card in the 87th minute after a cleats-up tackle.
FCC now has three red cards over the last four games, including two in a row after Kadeem Dacres was sent off with one Wednesday and thus missed Saturday’s match. The club had one red card all of last season but the one-game suspension to goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt was overturned by an appeal.
“We obviously have a lot of red cards -- it’s three now in six games,” Koch said. “I don’t think it’s anything that we’re being overzealous or anything, but the USL is a very physical league and you have to play physical within the rules of the game, obviously, and maintain your discipline. We are getting pretty good at playing the last few minutes man down. Hopefully that doesn’t continue, but I think the guys dealt with it again very well.”
The teams combined for 30 fouls with FCC giving up 17 of them, and there were five yellows distributed, three to the home side.
7. Tired bodies
Koch was especially pleased with the result given how tired his players were after the busy week. Louisville came into the game well-rested after playing its last game April 15.
“What I’m most impressed with is the character,” Koch said. “To go down against Tampa on Wednesday and come back, and then go down again tonight. We kind of threw everything at them at the end, played three in the back for the last 30 minutes, trying to get something out of the game, and I tip my hat off to the players for getting something out of nothing tonight.”
8. Testing the weather
A gloomy day didn’t keep too many fans away.
The stadium had plenty of open seats at the start of the game, but fans kept trickling in to the surprise of some sunshine warming some of the higher rows of the lower bowl. The club had sold 15,000 tickets – including more than 11,500 to season ticket holders – as of Wednesday night, and early forecasts showed rain all day Saturday. Come gameday, it had changed to mostly cloudy and temperatures in the low 50s.
The crowd of 20,437 fans was the fifth largest of 18 regular-season home matches in club history.
“The fans were excellent,” Koch said. “When we went down, they picked us up, and the players could absolutely feel their energy, and I think that’s a big part of why we got something out of nothing tonight.”
9. Looking ahead
It’s been a grueling three-game, eight-day stretch for FCC, but the schedule allows for a little more rest for the near future. FCC won’t play another midweek game until July.
FC Cincinnati returns to action April 29 at Bethlehem, where it dropped a 2-0 loss in its last road game April 9, and plays the next weekend at Richmond. The Orange and Blue will be back at Nippert on May 13 to host Orlando City B for the first of three straight Saturdays at home in May.