Sunday night’s match against D.C. United represented an opportunity for FC Cincinnati, a chance for two straight wins, to build off the momentum of the win over the Columbus Crew and to reintroduce itself to the playoff picture.
Coach Jaap Stam’s club was as close to being favored in a match as it had been since joining MLS last year. United — which hadn’t won a match since Sept. 2 — was playing its third match since firing head coach Ben Olsen.
But as things turned out, FCC lost 2-1 to D.C. at Nippert Stadium in yet another opportunity missed. And there aren’t many more of those remaining on the schedule.
“Difficult game,” said Stam on the post-game video conference. “Not a game in terms of how we wanted to play. We were not accurate in our passing or good in our movement. You need to bring that every game you are playing. If you can’t bring that, it makes it difficult to get results. It wasn’t enough. We all need to know we need to do better.”
Two minutes into Sunday’s match, Haris Medunjanin found Brandon Vazquez, whose header went just wide. But after FCC controlled possession for the first 10 minutes or so, United had a lengthy spell on the ball.
FCC responded with a decent counter-attack off a United corner but ended up settling for a Joseph-Claude Gyau shot from outside the box that was easily corralled by D.C. keeper Chris Seitz.
Vazquez then took a try from a tough angle, but again Seitz made the relatively easy save.
Then disaster struck in the 36th minute.
FCC goalkeeper Bobby Edwards, who made his second straight start with the top two keepers Spencer Richey and Przemyslaw Tyton – out injured, attempted to catch a free kick while falling out of bounds. Edwards dropped the ball, and United’s Donovan Pines slotted it home to make the score 1-0.
Edwards and his teammates pleaded for a video review to determine if the FCC keeper landed out of bounds first, but there was no replay. Stam said the ball was headed out of bounds anyway.
“I don’t know what Bobby was thinking,” Stam said. “That ball was going behind. He made the decision to catch that ball. If you do that, you need to catch it.”
Both clubs were dealing with significant injuries and without their No. 1 keepers.
FCC played without Allan Cruz, Jurgen Locadia, Yuya Kubo and Maikel van der Werff. It also lost defender Saad Abdul-Salaam to a hamstring injury in the 53rd minute.
“We always speak about making our own luck,” said Stam. “You do that by working hard. I’m not saying the players aren’t doing that. You need to win your battles.”
United was missing its keeper Bill Hamid along with Junior Moreno, Paul Arriola, Felipe Martins, Mohammed Abu, Ulises Segura, Steven Birnbaum, and Yordy Reyna.
D.C. led at halftime for the first time this season. United also owned 55% of the possession and outworked FCC for much of the half.
FCC found an equalizer in the 66th minute when Seitz could not hold on to Siem de Jong’s shot and Vazquez slotted it home to make the score 1-1.
“I was ready to pounce believing there was going to be a rebound,” said Vazquez. “I sprinted toward the keeper and that’s exactly what happened.”
A couple minutes later, Nick Hagglund’s effort off a corner kick came directly to Seitz.
United regained the lead in the 77th minute when Chris Odio-Atsem slotted home a rebound off Edwards’ save to make the score 2-1, giving Chad Ashton his first victory as interim head coach.
“We can’t concede like that,” said Stam. “We needed to get back into the game. You want to maintain a certain pressure on them after the equalizer, then we give the ball away again. You make it difficult for yourself to win games. It’s becoming difficult to get points.”
FCC (4-11-4) snapped a five-match winless streak with a 2-1 victory over the Crew on Wednesday. It was the Orange and Blue’s first victory over its in-state rival since joining MLS, but it couldn’t build off that momentum on Sunday.
The Orange and Blue were outworked for most of Sunday’s match, with D.C. owning a 59 to 48 advantage on duels and 15 to 5 on tackles.
“The mood coming into this game was good,” said FCC forward Rashawn Dally. “We came off a big win last week. We wanted three more points. I thought the energy was great. Just unfortunate it didn’t go our way.”
It was the second meeting this season between FCC and United with the teams playing to a 0-0 draw at Nippert Stadium on Aug. 21 in the first game following the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.
Sunday’s match was more eventful, but FCC couldn’t come away with any points.
“We were distracted on some plays,” Vazquez said. “We make an error, we leave a guy open — it’s just errors that can be fixed. There is always next weekend to look forward to and this week to emphasize these things and get better.”
FC Cincinnati vs. D.C. United
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati
Result: D.C. United 2, FC Cincinnati 1
FC Cincinnati Starting XI:
Bobby Edwards (GK), Saad Abdul-Salaam, Nick Hagglund, Tom Pettersson, Andrew Gutman, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Haris Medunjanin ©, Frankie Amaya, Brandon Vazquez (goal 66′), Joseph-Claude Gyau, Alvaro Barreal
Bench: Rashawn Dally (Abdul-Salaam 54′), Siem de Jong (Mokotjo 60′), Caleb Stanko, Beckham Sunderland, Zico Bailey (Barreal 86′) Hassan Ndam, Jimmy McLaughlin, Tommy McCabe
D.C. United Starting XI:
Chris Seitz (GK), Chris Odoi-Atsem (goal 78′), Donovan Pines (goal 36′), Frederic Brillant, Joseph Mora, Edison Flores, Julian Gressel, Moses Nyeman, Yamil Asad, Erik Sorga, Gelmin Rivas
Bench: Earl Edwards Jr., Axel Sjoberg, Oniel Fisher (Nyeman 87′), Kevin Paredes (Flores 72′), Griffin Yow, Ola Kamara (Rivas 65′)
DC – Donovan Pines 36’
CIN – Brandon Vazquez 66’
DC – Chris Odoi-Atsem 78’
DC – Yamil Asad (caution) 27’
DC – Moses Nyeman (caution) 32’
DC – Chris Odoi-Atsem 90+3’
7:30 p.m. Saturday vs Minnesota United, Nippert Stadium