Most fans easily remember the first match vs Seattle. Year One, starting out in MLS, thinking we can manage with Manu Ledesma and Fanendo Adi. Leo Bertone hits a wonder goal and then Seattle starts what would be a years-long nightmare. This time it was their first. It took four years but Seattle finally made the trip to play on our turf and FC Cincinnati returned the favor and beat Seattle for the first time. Unlike previous matches, FCC has figured out what kind of team it is. Noonan soccer is on display in full force and beating six-point, six-goal, Seattle is the statement win fans have been craving. Orlando made us doubt and Seattle made us believe. Let’s dive into what Cincinnati is doing right, wrong and then sum it up in final takes.
Let’s talk about the prior doubts and how FC Cincinnati dealt with them.
After two matches, the trio of Vazquez, Brenner, and Acosta was still without a goal. They had been great distractions but you need your core to be putting balls in the back of the net. Tonight, Brenner did just that after being fed by Junior Moreno and Lucho Acosta. This is the FCC we remember that creates havoc and then capitalizes on mistakes. There were a couple more chances, but in the end, they were not needed. If you get a winning goal from the core when you need it, things are fine. Time to shrug this doubt off and playing Chicago may eliminate any remaining issues on this point.
The defense is stingy. I don’t know how Noonan has done it. Despite using many of the same players, FCC’s back line is rock solid. Of course, we have seen early season problems, as there have been moments when someone gets beat one-on-one. But, overall, FCC is shutting down most plays and getting lucky on a couple of others. After three matches, the Orange and Blue have allowed a single goal. Pinch yourself, because yes, you did just read that about an FC Cincinnati defense.
Cincinnati has depth as well. It didn’t take long to be tested but Santiago Arias has missed two matches and FCC hasn’t missed a beat. Ray Gaddis was flying up the wings and getting involved with Alvas Powell relieving him and holding Seattle off in the final minutes. Moreno created pure havoc in the midfield, punishing the Sounders for any slight passing mistake. Yuya Kubo then came in and kept the pressure on. These are all names you already know but this year no points are falling off at the end of matches. The biggest sub of the night ended up being Ian Murphy who needed to fill in the back line and seemly take over for Nick Hagglund. Players understand their roles and subs have turned into an area of strength.
On the night, FCC had two big flubs that could have cost them. First, Roman Celentano got a bit overzealous and came way out of the box on a Jordan Morris break. He did not get to the ball in time and left his net wide open for the taking. Feeling the pressure, the ball was hit crossbody at a poor angle and Seattle couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity. Celentano didn’t get called on much for the rest of the tilt as the Sounders couldn’t figure out how to get to him, but overall he has been solid. A little better judgment on those balls and Celentano is one of the top keepers in the league.
Then, we have Hagglund’s red card. Taking that card ended up being the correct decision. Stopping a goal-scoring opportunity and it resulting in no PK and no future goal means he can sleep well. However, he did get turned around on that break and couldn’t recover. It occasionally happens, but winning those battles is of paramount importance against good teams. Hagglund saved his club two points in the end and will miss the match next week as a result.
- FC Cincinnati players are playing with passion. We saw it as Matt Miazga didn’t back down in what turned into a small shoving match. The fans did their part by getting involved in all key moments, including referee calls. Players fed off the crowd by raising their hands and asking for more noise, especially in the moments the ref had the match paused. TQL Stadium is changing from a place you get free points to the fortress we knew it could be
- The top of the Eastern Conference is crowded, but your club is tied for first place. These are not easy points to get either. FCC has set itself up early and these points will come in handy when the season gets more congested.
- The referee nearly let this match get away from him. The match was called a little tighter than expected, and as a result, several touch-and-go plays resulted in a stoppage of play. Very different style than what FCC fans saw in prior matches. Oddly, two VAR visits for non-calls, which is ironic considering the other plays fouls were given on. The most questionable item left on the table was a possible 61′ handball on Cincy. The referee never got called to the screen to review it but there is a point to be made if you’re a fan of the losing side.
- Possession favored the home side and it paid off. There seems to be a shift toward FCC playing with more time on the ball and it is working.
Match 3 – FC Cincinnati vs Seattle Sounders FC
TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Result: FC Cincinnati 1, Seattle Sounders FC 0
FC Cincinnati Starting XI:
Roman Celentano, Álvaro Barreal, Nick Hagglund, Matt Miazga, Yerson Mosquera (Alvas Powell 90+4’), Ray Gaddis, Junior Moreno (Yuya Kubo 80’), Obinna Nwobodo, Luciano Acosta (C) (Marco Angulo 90+4’), Brenner (Ian Murphy 86’), Brandon Vazquez (Sergio Santos 90+3’)
Bench: Alec Kann, Dominique Badji, Arquimides Ordoñez, Malik Pinto
Seattle Sounders FC Starting XI:
Stefan Frei, Nouhou (Kelyn Rowe 87’), Jackson Ragen, Yéimar Gómez, João Paulo (Leo Chu 73’), Cristian Roldan (Josh Atencio 87’), Nico Lodeiro (C), Albert Rusnak, Alex Roldan, Fredy Montero (Raúl Ruidíaz 58’), Jordan Morris
Bench: Stefan Cleveland, Xavier Arreaga, Ethan Dobbelaere, Sota Kitahara
CIN – Álvaro Barreal 24’
CIN – Luciano Acosta 39’
SEA – João Paulo 57’
CIN – Nick Hagglund (Red Card) 83’
SEA – Yéimar Gómez 90+2’
at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18, Soldier Field (Chicago, Illinois)