For 75 minutes, everything was going great for FC Cincinnati. Before a sellout crowd of 33,250 fans at Nippert Stadium, the USL upstarts led the New York Red Bulls, 2-0, and appeared to be headed to the U.S. Open Cup final with its sixth shutout in six games. But then it was 2-1 and after that Bradley Wright-Phillips went to work.
FC Cincinnati's dream of becoming only the
third non-MLS team to reach in the Open Cup final in the MLS era ended when BWP scored on a pair of headers, the second in overtime, to send the Red Bulls into the final against Sporting Kansas City
for only the second time with a 3-2 win.
So close. FC Cincinnati beat two other MLS clubs, Columbus and Chicago, both before crowds of more than 30,000, so its strong start against the Red Bulls came as a
no surprise even it was missing suspended Djiby Fall, who had scored all four goals it had scored in the earlier rounds.
First, Corben Bone, then Austin Berry, both
former MLS players, scored to put FC Cincinnati ahead, 2-0. But that second goal proved to be a poisoned goal. The Red Bulls laid siege to the FC Cincinnati goal, and the hosts never gained control of
the game after Gonzalo Veron reduced the FCC lead to 2-1 in the 75th minute when he pounced on a deflected clearance.
"Any time you're up 2-0 in a game and you don't win," said FC
Cincinnati coach Alan Koch, "you're going to be disappointed at the end."
Non-MLS teams in Open Cup final:
1996: D.C. United 3 Rochester Rhinos 0
1999: Rochester Rhinos 2 Colorado Rapids 0
2008: D.C. United 2 Charleston Battery 1
Another resurgence. The Red Bulls' comeback, with Wright-Phillips leading the attack, should have not come back as a surprise. They have been one
of the best teams in MLS for the last two months -- 9-2-1 in all competitions -- and BWP has scored in each of his last five games.
He finished off a Tyler Adams' cross with a
header to the near post to even the scored three minutes after Veron's goal and he won the game in the 101st minute with another header off a Sal Zizzo cross. FC Cincinnati only survived
regulation because another BWP header rattled the crossbar in the 90th minute.
“When we went two goals down," said Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch. "I knew that it was going to
take something special,” he said. “But if there’s one team that can do it, it’s us.
Big picture: FC
Cincinnati's exit won't take away from what it has accomplished for soccer in Cincinnati and the Open Cup. The crowd of 33,250 fans was the third straight Open Cup record FCC set for a non-final.
It isn't every day that MLS commissioner Don Garber and U.S. Soccer president Sunil Garber travel to an Open Cup match -- at least before the championship game -- but they were
part of the audience at Nippert Stadium Tuesday night. Not even on the radar two years ago, Cincinnati has risen to the top of the MLS expansion pack.
Even if unlike FC Cincinnati's last
home game, against the Fire, Tuesday's game wasn't televised nationally, it made watching the streamed broadcast must-watch soccer viewing for serious fans.
That all couldn't take away
from the bitter taste of FC Cincinnati's late collapse but was something Koch didn't want anyone to forget.
“If you put that aside," he said, "and look at this run, and what
it’s done to galvanize this club, this city, and especially these fans you can see how much it has meant to everyone involved.”
August 15 in Cincinnati, Ohio
FC Cincinnati 2 NY Red Bulls 3.
CIN: Corben Bone (Danni Konig, Andrew Wiedeman) 31
CIN: Austin Berry
(Kenney Walker) 62
NY: Gonzalo Veron 75
NY: Bradley Wright-Phillips (Tyler Adams) 78
NY: Bradley Wright-Phillips (Sal Zizzo) 101
NY Red Bulls -- Meara; Adams, Perrinelle (Zizzo 46), Murillo, Long, Lawrence (Veron, 59), Felipe, Davis (Etienne 74), Muyl, Kljestan,
FC Cincinnati -- Hildebrandt; De Wit, Hoyte (Schindler 73), Berry, Delbridge, Bahner (Dominguez 89), Quinn, Bone, Walker, Wiedeman, Koenig (McLaughlin 71).