It’s taken eight seasons for FC Cincinnati to start its campaign on home soil. Despite the rocky 2023 debut in front of a sold-out crowd, the Orange & Blue came away with their first win of the season.
Riding the waves of an unprecedented 2022 excursion, FC Cincinnati came out of the gate to win its first season opener since 2018 and its first MLS opener. FCC rode goals from Sergio Santos and Obinna Nwobodo to take down a rebuilding Houston Dynamo squad 2-1.
Cincinnati (1-0-0, 3 pts.) came into the match with much of the expected Starting XI intact. Brenner, having recently returned from Brazil, started on the bench, while Santos filled his spot atop the formation. Alec Kann failed to make the bench due to a leg issue. Additionally, Santiago Arias and Yerson Mosquera made their debuts with the Orange & Blue.
Houston (0-0-1, 0 pts.) was juggling a relatively retooled lineup, but some of its offseason pickups were not yet ready. Forward Amine Bassi was held out with an injury concern, while Ifunanyachi Achara and Djevencio van der Kust were still awaiting documentation to clear for the match. Much of the other questionable players made the lineup and bench.
Despite FCC’s star Brazilian scorer being on the bench to start, Santos dominated the first-half headline. In the 19th minute, Santos took a threaded pass from Barreal to deposit a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Steve Clark. The lead was almost doubled with Brandon Vazquez getting a shot in the 21st minute, but it skirted wide of the frame.
The Dynamo dominated possession in the first half (61-39), putting on loads of pressure the rest of the time. Midfielders Coco Carrasquilla and Ivan Franco had looks on net midway through the first half, but Roman Celentano handled both shots on frame.
Stoppage time was just long enough to benefit Houston, however. Celentano failed to collect Hector Herrera’s corner kick in the second minute of stoppage time, leaving Tate Schmitt to head the ball in. The defender’s first of the season made it 1-1 at halftime.
FC Cincinnati came out of the halftime break with a bit more urgency to score, finally capitalizing from pressure in the box. Lucho Acosta started the opportunity with a back-heel to a breaking Barreal. The left wingback’s cross to Santos in the 48th minute was deflected into the middle of the 18-yard box, only for Obinna Nwobodo to slam a deflected shot past Clark. His first goal of the season and first in the MLS made it 2-1.
Houston soaked up much of the possession in the second half and threatened with more accurate set pieces from Herrera. In the 65th minute, Franco had a wide-open attempt in the box off a corner kick. However, Celentano managed to sprawl to his left and tip the ball away from frame.
Another free kick resulting from a foul in the 85th minute bounced to defender Ethan Barlow atop the box. This time, Celentano had to dive to his right to keep the shot out, preserving the lead.
While Houston had 20 total shots and seven on target, the Cincinnati defense stood its ground over nine extra minutes to preserve the Orange & Blue’s first win of the season.
Despite the win, coach Pat Noonan expressed his frustrations after the match.
“The positive was we won, so credit to the group for figuring out a way to walk off the field with three points, because it certainly was not our best performance,” Noonan said.
Noonan also credited a lot of the momentous win to the crowd in the sold-out stadium.
“One of our goals is improving our home record and our performances in front of our home fans,” he said. “Certainly, the growth of the group and how we ended last year gives the fans something to be excited about, but we also need to reward them with our performances in this stadium.”
“The crowd gives us a lot of energy on the field,” Celentano also mentioned after the match. “We just need to give them something in return. It’s crazy the amount of support we get…we just have to repay them with three points.”
This win also continues FCC’s small undefeated streak against Houston, winning twice and drawing once.
FC Cincinnati’s reward for a first win of the season is a trip to Orlando, where the Orange & Blue had their first win of the season last year. Houston’s road trip continues with a match in New England next Saturday.
Match 1 – FC Cincinnati vs. Houston Dynamo FC
TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Result: FC Cincinnati 2, Houston Dynamo FC 1
FC Cincinnati Starting XI (3-5-2):
Roman Celentano (GK); Nick Hagglund, Matt Miazga, Yerson Mosquera (Ian Murphy 73’); Santiago Arias (Alvas Powell 87’), Obinna Nwobodo (Yuya Kubo 87’), Luciano Acosta (c), Junior Moreno, Álvaro Barreal (Ray Gaddis 86’); Brandon Vazquez, Sergio Santos (Brenner 62’).
Bench: Evan Louro, Marco Angulo, Dominique Badji, Quimi Ordonez.
Houston Dynamo FC Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Steve Clark; Franco Escobar (Griffin Dorsey 71’), Ethan Bartlow, Teenage Hadebe, Tate Schmitt; Hector Herrera (c), Artur; Corey Baird (Nelson Quiñónes 72’), Coco Carrasquilla, Iván Franco (Brooklyn Raines 90+5’); Sebastian Ferrera (Thor Ulfarsson 78’).
Bench: Andrew Tarbell, Daniel Steres, Micael dos Santos, Beto Avila, Charles Auguste.
CIN – Sergio Santos 19’ (Barreal)
HOU – Tate Schmitt 45+2’ (Herrera)
CIN – Obinna Nwobodo 48’ (unassisted)
YC – Artur 10’ (HOU, foul)
YC – Tate Schmitt 81’ (HOU, foul)
YC – Alvaro Barreal 84’ (CIN, foul)
at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4th, Exploria Stadium (Orlando, FL)