Djiby Fall of FC Cincinnati scored the game-winner in the 117th minute against AFC Cleveland in the Second Round of the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: FC Cincinnati
It took FC Cincinnati until the 117th minute of extra time to break through, but the USL club found a goal off the head of returning forward Djiby Fall to put away AFC Cleveland, 1-0.
The game was played on May 10 at Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati in front of the biggest crowd to witness a Second Round US Open Cup game in the Modern Era (1995-present). Even if there weren’t exactly 12,790 bodies inside the stadium, it was still by far the largest crowd to witness a Round 2 game. (announced attendance figures are usually based on “paid attendance” which includes fans who have Open Cup games included in their season ticket packages)
This game marked the first matchup between teams from the cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati in the Modern Era (1995-present).
Cincinnati has been struggling in league play due to injuries and scoring threat Djiby Fall in the middle of six-game USL suspension for biting an opponent, so playing a US Open Cup match at home against the defending NPSL champions offered a chance to regroup.
“Obviously, us playing at home, being a team from a higher league, we’re supposed to go out there and we’re supposed to win, but that doesn’t always happen in cup soccer,” FC Cincinnati manager Alan Koch said.
Cincinnati outshot Cleveland 44-6, but the game remained scoreless until deep into overtime, as Cleveland goalkeeper Alex Ivanov kept his team in the match despite the lopsided attacking statistics.
Djibi, who was able to play against Cleveland because his suspension does not apply to Open Cup play, clearly was energized by his first match in three weeks. He logged 16 shots, but couldn’t get the ball past Ivanov until late in the 120-minute game.
Cincinnati launched 15 shots in the first half, but Cleveland was able to keep the match scoreless.
The visitors had two fine chances in the second half, but were unable to score.
Early in the second half, Cleveland’s Ryan Ware sent a rocket that bounced off the left post and in front of the net, but teammates were unable to put the loose ball into the net.
In the 58th minute, Cleveland nearly scored as a header that was deflected on net, forcing Cincinnati keeper Dallas Jaye to make a save off the line.
With the match still scoreless, Cleveland fell back as the match wore on, content to let Cincinnati control possession as AFC’s players put everyone behind the ball as they played out the rest of regulation.
In overtime, Cincinnati took control of the match, dominating possession and stifling any opportunity for Cleveland.
Finally, in the waning minutes of the second overtime period, Djibi sent a header out of the keeper’s reach off a cross from Andrew Weideman and into the net for the game-winner.
With the win, FC Cincinnati earns another home game in Round 3, this time against fellow USL side Louisville City FC.