Neither side appears to be budging on the disputed Louisville City FC claim that Futbol Club Cincinnati striker Djiby Fall bit a Louisville player during Saturday's chippy 1-1 draw at Nippert Stadium.
FC Cincinnati, in a Sunday statement issued to our news partner The Cincinnati Enquirer, indicated it would stand behind Djiby in the face of the biting accusation made post-match by Louisville head coach James O'Connor.
Meanwhile, Louisville City FC also issued a Sunday statement to The Enquirer indicating its support for O'Connor's version of the events.
The whole debate stems from apparent contact between Djiby and Louisville midfielder Niall McCabe after Djiby was issued an 87th-minute red card by referee Mark Kadlecik.
USL spokesman Nicholas Murray told The Enquirer Sunday morning an internal review of the alleged incident was being conducted, but did not comment further.
In the FC Cincinnati statement, President and General Manager Jeff Berding defended Djiby's character and said his club found no evidence to substantiate the biting claim in its internal review of the incident.
"It is unfortunate that Louisville City's head coach has once again made serious post-match allegations against FC Cincinnati. James O'Connor said during post-match comments that Djiby bit one of their players, that the referee acknowledged this occurred and that the allegation would be included in the referee's post-match report," Berding said in the statement. "We have been in communication with the USL this morning. USL officials are reviewing last night's match and these very serious allegations and we expect a determination of some sort (Monday).
"We have seen no evidence to substantiate the allegations made by Louisville City Head Coach James O'Connor and it is our belief his post-match comments are not true. Djiby is in the midst of his 14th season as a professional soccer player and received just the second red card of his career last night. Any attempt to portray Djiby as a dirty player is extremely unfair. ...At this time, the club will not offer additional comments and asks that any further inquiries be directed to the league office."
Louisville City FC responded later Sunday afternoon with a statement of its own in which it elaborated on its version of events.
“After last night’s game, the referee indicated to Louisville City FC assistant coach Daniel Byrd that he witnessed the incident where Djiby Fall contacted Niall McCabe and would include that in his report," said Johnathan Lintner, Louisville City FC's director of communications, in the statement. "The USL is now reviewing the matter, and we will wait for league officials to come to a proper resolution.
“We do not support the claim that our head coach, James O’Connor, has ‘once again’ made an allegation toward FC Cincinnati. While a heated match-up for our supporters, the rivalry has been an enjoyable one between the clubs, and we look forward to continuing it later this year in a respectful manner.”
Part of Berding's comments appear to be in reference to a growing list of brushes between O'Connor and FC Cincinnati.
In 2016, O'Connor criticized FC Cincinnati's professionalism for going ahead with a warm-weather, July 23 game on the artificial surface at Nippert Stadium. Louisville City lost the match, 2-0.
One of O'Connor's players sustained burns on his feet during the match and missed time for the injury, according to Louisville City.
This past offseason, O'Connor commented to a columnist in general terms on former player Aodhan Quinn's contract after Quinn signed with FC Cincinnati. Terms of financial dealings within USL aren't discussed publicly. O'Connor didn't mention any specifics, but what he did say could be perceived as skirting the line of a USL and industry norm.
While it wasn't an allegation, O'Connor jabbed at Quinn's game-tying goal in the 78th minute of Saturday's 1-1 draw, saying it was "cheap."
O'Connor also sat in on now-former FC Cincinnati head coach John Harkes' post-game press conference following the teams' June 25 match. The coaches mistakenly were directed to the media dais at the same time, but O'Connor elected to stand nearby for Harkes' remarks – an uncommon move for almost any sports-media setting.
In his post-match remarks Saturday, Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch didn't indicate any awareness of biting allegations against Djiby.
Speaking specifically in reference to the action that led to Djiby's red card, Koch said he was too far from the incident to render a judgement on the referee's decision.
"I don't know if it was a red card or not," Koch said. "I'll have to go assess it... This one was too far away."
Djiby figures to miss a game through suspension for the red card, which was separate from the alleged biting.
While inappropriate in every conceivable context, biting has been further stigmatized within the context of soccer in recent years after numerous, on-field biting offenses made international headlines.
In post-match remarks first reported on by Courier-Journal.com's Danielle Lerner, O'Connor spoke at-length on the alleged Djiby bite, adding he felt there was no place in the game for that kind of behavior.
"After the red card, there's obviously an incident where he (Djiby) goes and he bites Niall McCabe. The referee's acknowledged it. This is after the red card, so the league has an onus, now, to deal very strictly with that. There's children watching the games. My son would have watched that game tonight and there is absolutely no place whatsoever for that type of behavior in the game.
"We'll let the league deal with it. We'll let the referee put his report in, but really sour incident there that's really frustrated us as well because I hate to see things like that. You play the game fair and you play properly... Niall's got a bite mark on his face. You'll see it after the incident, he got a red card and we've got it. But look, I don't want to say too much. I'll let the league deal with it and I'll let the referee deal with it, but, I mean, it's – there's absolutely no place for that in the game."
O'Connor's remarks have proven controversial, but that isn't new territory for the head coach, who recently signed a contract extension with Louisville City.
The 2016 season saw O'Connor fined and suspended by USL for comments made in a post-game presser following a loss to Orlando City B.
The USL has not commented publicly on a timeline announcing the findings of its investigation into the alleged biting incident.
The Enquirer's Patrick Brennan contributed to this article.
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