It took one mammoth offensive performance to finally bury FC Cincinnati’s past futility under rubble. After a rough home victory against Charlotte FC and a rocky road draw against New York City, the Orange and Blue needed an emphatic win.
This one could be felt from miles away.
FC Cincinnati (10-12-8, 42 pts.) took their aggressions out on a rebuilding San Jose Earthquakes (7-9-13, 30 pts.) squad. The resulting 6-0 victory was FC Cincinnati’s largest victory ever as both a USL and MLS squad. It also puts the Orange and Blue into positive goal-differential territory, a vital statistic for playoff position tie breakers.
Saturday’s match began a string of three straight against Western Conference foes. FC Cincinnati’s only win against a Western foe was a 1-0 win at Minnesota United in May. While the team was shuffled quite a bit due to Luciano Acosta’s yellow-card suspension on Wednesday, the Starting XI returned to the same formation and composition as the win against Charlotte FC.
The ‘Quakes entered the match with a big 2-0 victory over Vancouver, but they had only bested one foe on the road—a 3-2 win at LA Galaxy in mid-July. The team kept their starting lineup unchanged from their last win.
FC Cincinnati started the half hot and with more of the possession. A good deal of the offense played through Alvas Powell on the right, presenting FCC with their best shot in the 12th minute. His looping cross to Brandon Vazquez was on point, only for the striker to head the ball into goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski’s hands.
Much of the last 20 minutes of the first half forced goalkeeper Roman Celentano to flash his leather. The ‘Quakes peppered Celentano with five shots on goal in ten minutes. Roman sprawled for a sharp free kick from Cristian Espinoza in the 28th minute, then slapped away three consecutive shots in the 38th minute. By this point, San Jose was dominating possession, forcing Cincinnati to clear the pressure.
“Obviously, every game, I’d like to keep the clean sheet, and that’s a big focus for me and the back line,” Celentano mentioned afterwards. “As we keep getting goals on the board, we just got to make sure we’re keeping our heads and not get too comfortable. I think the boys did a great job defending as a team tonight.”
At the last breath of the first half, the Orange and Blue finally broke the seal. San Jose caved from the press in the 45th minute, and the offense pin-balled the ball around the box before Acosta found Alvaro Barreal on his left. The Argentinean needed a stutter step to fire a left-footed shot past Marcinkowski. His fifth goal of the MLS season made the score 1-0.
While possession ultimately fell in San Jose’s advantage, the Cincinnati offense proved to be too stout to counter. Minutes after the restart for the second half, Vazquez received a set piece and popped a header toward the box. Matt Miazga could not receive the pass, but Brenner struck the free ball for his 10th of the year.
“The first half, there was the momentum for San Jose, and they played well,” Brenner noted through his interpreter after the match. “Nothing was changed (into the second half), just the mindset was the same to keep pushing and pushing.”
FC Cincinnati continued to get good fortune and better looks at the goal. The Video Assistant Referee halted play in the 70th minute, as Acosta had gone down from a foul by San Jose’s defender Rodriguez in the box. Referee Ismir Pekmic pointed to the penalty spot, and Acosta buried his eight goal of the year to make it 3-0.
The feel-good moment came in the 77th minute. Brenner threaded a pass into the box for Yuya Kubo, who first-timed the pass past Marcinkowski to make it 4-0. The goal was Kubo’s first of the year and his first since October 2020.
Ultimately, the evening belonged to FC Cincinnati’s Brazilian striker. Brenner’s strike in the 90th minute and converted penalty in stoppage time gave him his second hat trick of the 2022 season. This time, his three-peat gave FC Cincinnati a resounding 6-0 victory.
Brenner grinned when asked what he would do with tonight’s game ball. “At my mother’s house, she’s waiting for my first hat-trick ball (against New York City). At her house, she has something for memories of me. That’s where she’s going to put this.”
The win puts FC Cincinnati squarely in the playoff picture, currently in sixth place in the East with four matches left. The win also finally vanquished FC Cincinnati’s past ghosts—they are assured of not ending the season in last place.
Pat Noonan addressed the team’s response to FC Cincinnati’s midweek 1-1 draw in his press conference. “What we expected was a strong response to a poor performance. The point was good, but we didn’t perform well. I think (tonight) is the sign of a team that’s continuing to mature and grow and find ways to improve and respond in a strong way. We got a really good performance and a very important three points.”
FC Cincinnati now heads to Utah to play Real Salt Lake next Saturday. San Jose continues their road trip with a mid-week contest against Colorado.
Game 30 – FC Cincinnati vs. San Jose Earthquakes
TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Result: FC Cincinnati 6, San Jose Earthquakes 0
FC Cincinnati Starting XI (3-5-2):
Roman Celentano (GK); Nick Hagglund, Geoff Cameron, Matt Miazga (Ian Murphy 73’); Alvas Powell, Obinna Nwobodo, Luciano Acosta (c) (Yuya Kubo 73’), Junior Moreno (Dom Badji 83’), Alvaro Barreal (Ronald Matarrita 78’); Brandon Vazquez (Sergio Santos 78’), Brenner.
Bench: Alex Kann, Allan Cruz, Ray Gaddis, John Nelson..
San Jose Earthquakes Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
JT Marcinkowski; Tommy Thompson (Paul Marie 82’), Rodrigues, Nathan, Tanner Beason; Eric Remedi, Jackson Yueill (c) (Niko Tsakiris 73’); Cristian Espinoza (Shea Salinas 72’), Jamiro Monteiro (Jack Skahan 82’), Cade Cowell; Jeremy Ebobisse (Ben Kikanovic 73’).
Bench: Matt Bersano, Oskar Agren, Jan Gregus, Judson.
CIN – Alvaro Barreal 45’ (Acosta)
CIN – Brenner 47’ (Vazquez)
CIN – Luciano Acosta 71’ (PK)
CIN – Yuya Kubo 77’ (Brenner)
CIN – Brenner 90’ (unassisted)
CIN – Brenner 90+5’ (PK)
YC – Jamiro Monteiro 8’ (SJ, foul)
YC – Nathan 46’ (SJ, foul)
YC – Geoff Cameron 57’ (CIN, foul)
YC – Brenner 90’ (CIN, excessive celebration)
at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m. Saturday, September 17th, Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, UT)