Cincinnati Prevails in Open Cup Quarterfinal

Keeper Mitch Hildebrandt and FC Cincinnati's defense blanked NASL powerhouse Miami FC to advance to the US Open Cup semifinal. Image, NASL

By JAKE NUTTING

Open Cup logoFC Cincinnati and Miami FC had both experienced incredible runs through this year’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, each knocking off two Major League Soccer teams to reach the quarterfinals. One of the lower division teams, though, was bound to see its Cup dream cut short as the two lower-division teams clashed in South Florida on Wednesday night.

In the end, it was Cincinnati from the United Soccer League that persevered to notch a second-half goal and dispatch Miami 1-0 front of a crowd of 10,415 at Riccardo Silva Stadium.

The narrow scoreline is nothing new for Cincinnati, which has now posted four identical 1-0 wins in the knockout competition. Cincinnati’s defense rose to the challenge presented by Miami’s stacked attack that has run roughshod over most of the NASL so far this year and had recorded 11 goals in its earlier Open Cup matches.

With Cincinnati staying compact and organized throughout the match, Miami only managed to wrangle three of its 12 shots on net. Led by Harrison Delbridge, Cincinnati’s back line blocked four shots and kept attackers Stefano Pinho and Vincenzo Rennella from registering a single shot on net.

The visitors continually put Miami’s defense in uncomfortable situations and kept the possession battle at 50-50. Keeper Daniel Vega nearly gifted Cincinnati a go-ahead goal midway through the first half when he sent a clearance straight to the chest of Aohdan Quinn 25 yards out, but the attacker sent his attempt a yard over the crossbar.

After weathering a stretch of pressure from Miami out of the break, Cincinnati struck the fatal blow to the home side in the 68th minute.

Midfielder Justin Hoyte sparked the winner with a terrific burst of speed past Hunter Freeman down the left edge of the box before sending the ball toward the near post for Djiby Fall. Cincinnati’s leading scorer did not disappoint, flicking the ball past Vega to record his fourth goal of the tournament.

Miami continued to push forward for an equalizer, but contrinued to struggle breaking through Cincinnati’s defense to earn a quality scoring chance.

Kwadwo Poku had a golden opportunity to level the match for Miami and replicate the magic of his late winner over Atlanta United in the last round. In the 89th minute, Poku penetrated Cincinnati’s back line with an individual run and blasted a shot on net only to have keeper Mitch Hildebrandt get enough of a touch to knock it away. Rennella was waiting to knock home the rebound, but he couldn’t manage to get his head on it.

The win catapults Cincinnati into the semifinal round against visiting New York Red Bulls on Aug. 15, making it the first lowe- division team to reach the semifinals of the Open Cup since the Richmond Kickers in 2011.Cincinnati’s is sure to pack Nippert Stadium, as it did in its last meetings against MLS competition.