2020 Match Reports

Goalless, yet relentless: FC Cincinnati draws Fire

FC Cincinnati kept another clean sheet Wednesday against the Chicago Fire, but the 0-0 result was disappointing because of the chances created, coach Jaap Stam said.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Miller

FC Cincinnati appears to have solved its defensive woes. This year’s club is a far cry from the one that leaked an MLS-record 75 goals last season. Now it needs to turn its attention to the other end of the pitch.

In eight days, FCC flipped the narrative after a disappointing 3-0 loss at Soldier Field and came away with a 0-0 draw against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night in Nippert Stadium. It was another display of resiliency for the club under first-year head coach Jaap Stam.

“Being here last year, I believe it’s completely night and day,” said defender Greg Garza via videoconference after the match. “That’s something Jaap has brought in, keeping us all accountable. All of us feel that a little bit more pressure from the sideline. Coming together, we have a bit more chemistry. We’re deeper than we were last year. Like tonight, we had different guys step up.”

It was FCC’s fifth clean sheet in the past seven matches, equaling its total from the 2019 season. But Wednesday’s match left it feeling like it deserved more. FCC finished with eight shots, three on target.

It was another match chock full of missed opportunities. But another step forward.

“It’s not frustration, it’s more disappointment because we didn’t win,” Stam said via videoconference. “The players get in front of goal and react very quick. They need to have composure. It’s a shame, sometimes you get into situations you can win the game, all the effort and work we put in, we don’t finish it off.”

But the results keep coming. With nine points from nine matches, FCC finds itself on the cusp of a playoff position. But it still leaves an empty feeling. FCC has not scored a goal since July 28, when Jurgen Locadia netted a penalty in the 81st minute against the Portland Timbers in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida.

“In soccer, if you don’t score your chances, it’s going to be a difficult game,” midfielder Haris Medunjanin said via videoconference. “We created more chances in the first half. Everybody today was locked in. We didn’t give a lot of chances to Chicago. We were confident on the ball. But it’s a game of scoring goals.”

FCC began Wednesday’s match on the front foot, keeping nearly 77% of the ball during the first 10 minutes.

Its first scoring chance came in the second minute when Medunjanin’s free kick was headed on target by Maikel van der Werff but into the waiting arms of Fire keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

After Frankie Amaya sent a shot wide in the ninth minute, Locadia had his shot cleared away from goal by a Fire defender and later got the ball in a decent position for a clean look, but his first touch was too heavy.

“The first 25 to 30 minutes we were flying,” said Garza who made his first start since July 11. “We had a lot of mobility on both sides of the ball.”

After dominating the first 30-plus minutes of the match, Chicago missed out on its first real chance when a redirected shot slipped past the post by a few inches.

FCC spent enough time in the Fire’s final third to grab a goal or two, but the half ended scoreless with Stam’s club having the better of the stat sheet while managing six shots including the only two on target.

It began the second half in much the same way as the first.

In the 55th minute, it was more frustration for Locadia, who was clear on goal, but his shot from point-blank range was flipped over the bar by Shuttleworth who lunged forward to put a glove on it.

“His mentality is still very good,” said Stam of the Dutch striker. “The majority of the games he plays, he makes an impact. He gets in positions to score. There’s a little tension, pressure maybe. The ball will eventually go in. A lot of it has to do with confidence.”

It appeared Chicago had broken the deadlock when Ignacio Aliseda maneuvered for a clean shot and scored in the 70th minute. But the FCC players vehemently pleaded for a handball in the buildup, and VAR confirmed, waiving off the goal.

There were eight minutes of stoppage time due to a few injury stoppages and the VAR review. And the Fire enjoyed the better of the chances in added time, including a free kick on the edge of the box after a foul by Mathieu Deplagne resulting in a corner, but nothing came of it and the two Eastern Conference rivals shared the points.

FCC went into Wednesday’s match feeling like it had a score to settle after losing 3-0 to the Fire at Soldier Field. In that match, a Fabian Herbers goal in the second minute and an Alvaro Medran strike eight minutes later shocked FCC, and it chased the match the rest of the way.

“We had a bit of that revenge feeling from losing to these guys 3-0 a few days ago and we showed that,” Garza said. “The team did very well on both sides of the field. We just need to take advantage of that last moment.”

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