The former USL turned MLS rivals showed why many consider this a budding rivalry. Chippy play, shouting matches, a bevy of yellows, and the home fans one-finger salutes? What more do you need to set the stage for a rivalry? Ultimately FC Cincinnati was able to walk away with all three points from Nashville with a 1-0 result.
FC Cincinnati (3-2-0) had many questions coming into the match. One, in particular, was who would replace Júnior Moreno (international duty), Marco Angulo (international duty) and Yuya Kubo (knee injury) in the midfield. That replacement for the night ended up being Malik Pinto, midfield signee from Princeton. Pinto had zero competitive minutes with FCC and made his debut in the starting line. This was a risky proposition considering he’d be facing 2022 MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar. However, Pinto was ready for the test. He was never caught out of position and completed all 22 of his passes on the night. Not a bad showing coming from the third-choice 8.
“Malik, other than just the fatigue and cramping, I thought he had a solid game,” FCC manager Pat Noonan said. “After the first maybe five minutes, he looked like he got way more comfortable connecting simple passes. I was really pleased with Malik’s performance.”
Another question FC Cincinnati fans had coming into the match was when would star striker Brandon Vazquez open his goal-scoring account. He was not called up this week to the USMNT for international duty. But this did not discourage him from having a great showing in Nashville. Vazquez collected a rebound from a Joe Willis save in the 48th minute to net his first goal of the season, with that goal ultimately being the game-winner.
“I think if you were watching or saw just the reaction after the goal, that was important for him, and certainly it came at an important time for us in the game,” Noonan said. “Hopefully that is just the start of what I think Brandon himself and a lot of us expect in terms of finishing plays off.”
Nashville SC (2-1-2) is a bit on the ropes, dropping its second straight match. Despite winning the possession battle 61 percent to 39 percent, the opposition could never create sustained pressure on FCC’s backline. Mukhtar was also never really a threat in the match. The former MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner had an abysmal 0.07 xG (expected goals), but Willis had a solid night with 6 saves for Nashville between the sticks.
Nashville SC 0 – FC Cincinnati 1
Date: March 25, 2023
Venue: GEODIS Park
FC Cincinnati Starting XI:
Roman Celentano, Álvaro Barreal, Yerson Mosquera, Matt Miazga, Nick Hagglund, Ray Gaddis, Malik Pinto, Obinna Nwobodo, Luciano Acosta (C), Brenner, Brandon Vazquez
Bench: Alvas Powell 90’, Santiago Arias 64’, Dominique Badji 90’, Sergio Santos 76’, Alec Kann, Joey Akpunonu, Arquimides Ordoñez, Ian Murphy, Bret Halsey
Nashville SC Starting XI:
Joe Willis, Daniel Lovitz, Jack Maher, Walker Zimmerman (C), Shaq Moore, Dax McCarty, Hany Mukhtar, Jacob Shaffelburg, Sean Davis, Fafà Picault, CJ Sapong
Bench: Anibal Godoy 61’, Luke Haakenson 76’, Jan Gregus 76’, Teal Bunbury 70’, Elliot Panicco, Alex Muyl, Josh Bauer, Taylor Washington, Brian Anunga
CIN – Obinna Nwobodo 21’
CIN – Malik Pinto 45’
NSH – Shaq Moore 56’
NSH – Teal Bunbury 72’
CIN – Matt Miazga 72’
CIN – Álvaro Barreal 80′
vs Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1, TQL Stadium