FC Cincinnati extended its winning streak to four MLS matches on Saturday night at Soldier Field, defeating the Chicago Fire 2-1. It wasn’t always pretty but the Orange and Blue, unlike previous seasons, found a way to win. After the game, manager Pat Noonan said of the fourth straight win, “It’s a mentality. And they’re figuring out how to do this as a group with a lot of different players contributing to us being able to win some games.”
Noonan opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Alvaro Barreal getting the starting nod on the left wing after a solid performance midweek in an otherwise ugly U.S. Open Cup loss.
The Fire pressed FCC aggressively to start the match and the Orange and Blue struggled to play through to more dangerous parts of the field. FCC found a bit of a rhythm about 15 minutes in, neatly breaking the press to threaten Chicago’s backline. Though the attack came to nothing, Luciano Acosta won the ball high up the field in the counter-press and forced a corner. After the ensuing short corner, a Junior Moreno shot from outside the 18-yard-box went just wide of Gabriel Slonina’s goal. FCC’s press generated a chance shortly after but Brandon Vazquez put his shot wide of the same post as Moreno.
A sloppy Ian Murphy pass in the 22nd minute seemed to gift an opportunity to the Fire but FCC’s backline recovered and forced a shot from distance that never threatened Chicagoland native Roman Celentano. The Fire appeared to be on the front foot until the 32nd minute when Barreal attempted a hopeful long ball towards Brandon Vazquez. Vazquez couldn’t bring the ball down but Fire center back Rafael Czichos looped a header over his own goalkeeper into the net.
Celentano kept FCC in the lead heading to halftime with a solid save after Chris Mueller weaved his way into the penalty area and put a shot on target.
The second half was defined by FCC’s defensive work, both in its own box and higher up the field. In the postgame, Noonan said, “our defensive mentality is excellent, we’re still not sharp enough with the ball. And that’s what’s having us grind out these results in ways where we can’t really create enough late in games to be able to play higher up the field and look for…some late goals.”
FCC had opportunities on the counter-attack in the second half but just were not quite in sync.
Though Jhon Duran leveled the score off a corner in the 83rd minute, FCC continued to press the Fire. Two minutes later, after pressure from Brandon Vazquez forced Gaga Slonina into a bad giveaway in his own box, Acosta pounced and, after some nice footwork, gave FCC the lead again, this time for good.
CHI – Jhon Durán (Xherdan Shaqiri) 83’
CIN – Own Goal – Rafael Czichos 33’, Luciano Acosta (unassisted) 85’
CIN: Roman Celentano, John Nelson, Ian Murphy, Nick Hagglund, Alvas Powell, Junior Moreno, Obinna Nwobodo, Álvaro Barreal (Tyler Blackett 77’), Luciano Acosta (C) (Haris Medunjanin 89’), Dominique Badji (Arquimides Ordonez 66’), Brandon Vazquez
CHI: Gabriel Slonina, Boris Sekulic, Jonathan Bornstein (Jhon Espinoza 82’), Rafael Czichos (C), Wyatt Omsberg, Chris Mueller (Jairo Torres 73’), Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabian Herbers (Brian Gutierrez 60’), Gaston Gimenez, Federico Navarro, Chinonso Offor (Jhon Durán 60’)
CIN – Junior Moreno (Yellow Card) 7’
CIN – Luciano Acosta (Yellow Card) 20’