FC Cincinnati’s three-game road trip was so successful some fans might almost be reluctant to see the club return home.
The Orange and Blue capped off a three-game road swing unbeaten Saturday with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Stadium. The goals came swiftly, with Houston’s Tyler Pasher scoring in the third minute and FC Cincinnati’s Alvaro Barreal answering in the fifth minute.
The result comes on the heels of shutout wins at Chicago Fire FC and at Toronto FC. FC Cincinnati (11 points, 3-2-5) collected seven points in the three matches and shoots up the Eastern Conference table to 11th place. The club has growing momentum on its side with the season’s first Hell is Real Derby match coming Friday against the Columbus Crew at TQL Stadium.
Houston is now seventh in the Western Conference with 12 points (3-6-3).
“Now with these seven points that we got in these three games, hopefully people believe again in this team,” said midfielder Haris Medunjanin via videoconference after the match.
Medunjanin made his first start of the season in the absence of Allan Cruz, who along with Ronald Matarrita, was called up to the Costa Rican national team in preparations for the Gold Cup. Edgar Castillo started at right back in place of Matarrita.
Paired with the come-from-behind victory at Montreal and the draw in Nashville to start the season, FC Cincinnati leads the East with points on the road with 11 (3-2-2 record).
The road trip results could be a sign that the club is turning a corner. Chicago and Toronto reside at or near the bottom of the table, but they were victories FC Cincinnati needed to have to rise from the basement.
“Who would’ve thought that we would have gotten that?” center back Geoff Cameron said of the results of the road trip. “It just shows the resilience of our guys and the path that we want to go. We’re coming together. It’s just kind of fine-tuning things and sticking together and fighting for one another and getting that team chemistry, that cohesiveness. I think that’s starting to show.
“If we did this (against Houston) four weeks ago, we would have lost the game. That just shows you the steps that we’ve gone through and improved over the last few weeks.”
FC Cincinnati faced an early 1-0 deficit. In the third minute, a Sam Junqua pass from the left wing leaked through to Pasher, who smashed it in.
But just moments later, a long pass from Cameron found its way through to Barreal. Barreal, one on one with Houston goalkeeper Marko Maric, slotted it inside the near post to equalize.
“It was very important,” Medunjanin said. “(Houston’s) goal came from nowhere. We couldn’t believe the guy was so free there for the second ball. But we reacted fast. We created the chance, and Alvaro finished it perfect.”
Barreal is now FC Cincinnati’s leading goal-scorer with three and put in a full shift Saturday, bearing the brunt of physical activity.
“I talk with Alvaro a lot in what I expect from him and what he needs to do — not always what he needs to do for me but what he needs to do for himself,” FC Cincinnati coach Jaap Stam said. “If he has a certain intensity of working, uses his pace, uses his creativity, then it becomes easier for him to play games.
“You can see that Alvaro is making steps. He’s being decisive — his quality on the ball is getting better every time.”
Barreal had three of FC Cincinnati’s 11 shots. Houston had 21 shots, with each side taking four on target. Vermeer and Maric each had three saves.
Houston’s best chance for a game-winner came in the 20th minute when Vermeer dived to his right to save a shot from Junqua.
FC Cincinnati should have scored late in the first half when Barreal scuffed a shot. Isaac Atanga wound up with the ball, but at close range his shot was saved by Maric.
Houston had several chances at goal in the game’s dying minutes, but none were on target.
Houston Dynamo vs FC Cincinnati
BBVA Stadium, Houston
Result: FC Cincinnati 1, Houston Dynamo 1
Houston Dynamo Starting XI:
Marko Maric (GK), Maynor Figueroa, Sam Junqua, Tim Parker, Zarek Valentin, Memo Rodriguez, Derrick Jones, Joe Corona, Fabrice Picault, Maximiliano Urruti, Tyler Pasher (goal 3′)
Bench: Boniek Garcia (Jones 74′), Darwin Quintero (Pasher 74′), Kyle Morton, Michael Nelson, Jose Bizama, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Adam Lundqvist, Ian Hoffman, Mateo Bajamich
FC Cincinnati Starting XI:
Kenneth Vermeer (GK), Joseph Claude-Gyau, Geoff Cameron, Gustavo Vallecilla, Edgar Castillo, Haris Medunjanin, Yuya Kubo, Alvaro Barreal (goal 5′), Luciano Acosta (C), Isaac Atanga, Brenner
Bench: Przemyslaw Tyton, Avionne Flanagan, Nick Hagglund (Barreal 90+2′), Franko Kovacevic (Atanga 77′), Ben Mines, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Arquimides Ordonez, Tom Pettersson, Caleb Stanko (Medunjanin 77′)
HOU — Tyler Pasher 3′ (Sam Junqua)
CIN — Alvaro Barreal 5′ (Geoff Cameron)
HOU — Maynor Figueroa (caution) 48′
CIN — Yuya Kubo (caution) 55′
HOU — Zarek Valentin (caution) 70′
HOU — Boniek Garcia (caution) 81′
Next up: vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. Friday