HARRISBURG, Pa. – FC Cincinnati players celebrated after clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs Saturday night, but coach Alan Koch reminded them that there’s more work to be done.
“There’s a lot of people going crazy in the change room right now - as they should be,” Koch said after a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Penn FC. “I’m smiling. I’m happy. We’ve all worked our backsides off to get where we are, but we’re hungry for more.
"You can hear the players inside. They’re congratulating each other. But we’re getting ready for Wednesday. We want to win the regular season title for both conferences,” Koch said according to a release from the club. “We’re going to keep pushing each other.”
With the home-field advantage for the conference playoffs secured, FC Cincinnati (21-3-6, 69 points) is now one victory away from claiming its first United Soccer League regular-season title after its eight straight win. The Orange and Blue extended its unbeaten streak to 19 matches.
Shut out for three-quarters of the match, the Orange and Blue won it the hard way.
After Penn FC took a 1-0 lead into the half, Emmanuel Ledesma scored his 14th goal of the season in the 68th minute to even it up. Corben Bone, who has become "Mr. Game Winner," then netted the go-ahead goal in the 84th minute, and FC Cincinnati withstood a heavy Penn attack in the closing minutes to take the victory.
Bone got his third consecutive game-winning goal and extended his best goal-scoring season in Cincinnati with his ninth goal. Bone has scored in five of FC Cincinnati’s last seven matches.
Earlier in the week, Ledesma connected with a deaf FC Cincinnati fan from Philadelphia who sent him and Dekel Keinan a video message in sign language that was captioned. Ledesma promised he would dedicate a goal to him if he scored, and Ledesma pointed to him after his goal. Ledesma and Keinan met with him after the game and gave him an FC Cincinnati jersey and scarf.
“We gave him a little gift, but I think the special gift today is the three points and the title,” Ledesma said after the match.
FC Cincinnati will remain on the road to face the Richmond (Virginia) Kickers on Wednesday night.
“Our goal was to finish at the top of the conference and win the regular-season in our conference and we did that tonight. I think it’s an amazing achievement,” said Koch. “I think in three years we’ve been building towards achieving something, and I feel like tonight we achieved step one. There’s a lots of other steps that we want to achieve this season, but tonight was a very, very special night.”
FC Cincinnati tied the USL record for victories in a season (21), set by New York Red Bulls II in 2016.