Following a season-opening win that left much to be desired, Pat Noonan’s FC Cincinnati side travels this weekend to Florida to take on Eastern Conference rivals Orlando City.
Noonan made clear following his team’s 2-1 win over Houston last Saturday that the result was one of the few good things he could take from the contest.
“Early on in the season when teams aren’t at their best, you emphasize the importance of winning,” Noonan said. “That was one of the things that we succeeded in tonight. But from myself on down to, I would say, every player on the field outside of the reserves that come in and I think did a pretty good job, I’m only able to pick out a couple guys that had a strong night. When you’re only able to pick out a few guys that had a strong night, you’re going to struggle. Credit to the group for getting a result when we were below average, both individually and collectively.”
Implicit in Noonan’s comments are both that he expects an improvement in team performance and recognizes this will be needed for the team to achieve its pursuit of higher goals for the 2023 MLS season.
New signings Santiago Arias and Yerson Mosquera, a right back and center back respectively, received praise from Noonan for their performances. There were other good moments during the win, of course, including the team’s goals, first by forward Sergio Santos and then the winner from midfielder Obi Nwobodo. Alvaro Barreal had a strong match rampaging down the wing from his left back position. Noonan credited his team’s efforts at winning possession during the game, but in the same breath, bemoaned FCC’s struggles to keep the ball. Houston enjoyed 62 percent possession on the night.
“When we did turn them over, too often, we lost the next pass, and it became us chasing the game a little bit,” Noonan said. “Having said that, we still could have created or scored a couple more goals in transition with our defensive pressure. Probably the strongest part of our game tonight was winning balls and in the attacking half and turning that into some chance creation. We’ll take the win and try to improve certainly leading into next weekend.”
The only injury worry for the Orange and Blue on Saturday is Arias, who took a kick to the leg vs. Houston, but soldiered through the match. If the team’s new acquisition is not available, look for Alvas Powell or Ray Gaddis to deputize.
Oscar Pareja’s Orlando City also opened its season with a win, defeating New York Red Bull 1-0 on a Facundo Torres second-half penalty and a clean sheet from goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. Possession for the night was nearly even, but Orlando was outshot by Red Bull 14-6.
“For us, it was a big challenge to find the spaces that we normally do,” Pareja said. “I think the best part of the game for us was that we kept intensity all the time and our heart was great today.”
Torres is accompanied in the attack by forward Ercan Kara, who scored 11 goals in 2022. Other stalwarts for the Floridian side include midfielder Mauricio Pereyra and defender Rodrigo Schlegel.
So, two teams who were happy to escape week one with a win, but are both looking to improve on overall performance, will meet this weekend.
Match 2: Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati; 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 4, Exploria Stadium, Orlando, Florida.