FC Cincinnati leaned on a solid defensive stance and a picture-perfect pass from Santiago Arias and Luciano Acosta to defeat Chicago Fire FC 1-0 at TQL Stadium.
FC Cincinnati (12-3-1, 39 pts.) has now won six straight overall and nine straight at home, while Chicago (3-9-5, 17 pts.) suffered their first loss in Cincinnati since the 2017 U.S. Open Cup.
The Orange and Blue came into this contest with somewhat of an unfamiliar lineup to the trained eye. Five of the 11 starters from the match on Wednesday against NYCFC started on the bench. Head Coach Pat Noonan opted to use Acosta atop the formation with Arquímides Ordóñez, who made his second overall MLS start.
The Fire’s starting lineup contained much more rotation compared to their lineup in Wednesday’s 0-0 draw against Toronto FC. Designated player Xherdan Shaqiri and former “FCC legend” Kei Kamara began on the bench. Former FCC goalkeeper Spencer Richey also started for the injured Chris Brady.
The first half was predominantly controlled by Cincinnati, but no real punches were landed. The biggest chances were mostly around the 38th minute, when both Yuya Kubo and Alvaro Barreal had glimpses in the box, only for both attempts to be blocked at point-blank range
While Chicago did not have a single attempt in the first half, Cincinnati also failed to register a shot on goal. The Orange and Blue were held scoreless in the first half for the first time since their 2-1 win over D.C. United in May.
With the team still intact after the halftime reset, FCC had a few solid attempts. Alvas Powell and Ray Gaddis both had solid advances into the Chicago box in the 52nd minute, but Ordoñez was unable to turn for a solid shot on net.
Both teams put in their typical starters around the 60th minute, but the momentum finally swung in Cincinnati’s favor. In the 83rd minute, Arias sent a long right-footed cross into Chicago’s box, and Acosta controlled the first touch, cut it back to his right foot and pounded a right-footed shot past Richey. Acosta’s seventh goal of the season made it 1-0, a result that lasted the rest of the game.
“I don’t really remember (the goal), but it was a good play by Santi to find me in the space,” Acosta said through an interpreter. “People were saying it was maybe a bit similar to my ball to Sergio (Santos) in Chicago. But, I brought the ball down, had that one-on-one with the goalie, and I scored.”
Arias also spoke about the similarity between Lucho’s pass to Santos in Chicago earlier in the season.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on since preseason, knowing where your teammate is and looking for the pass,” he said. “It was a great ball when Lucho played it to Sergio, same thing here. It’s a great ball, but it’s all about looking for the moment and finding the pass.”
The clean sheet for FCC is the team’s eighth of the year. More impressively, it was the first time under Pat Noonan that FC Cincinnati held the opponent to zero shots on goal.
“The first 45, there wasn’t maybe enough ball rotation to find different ways to get in the box to create our chances,” Noonan said. “But in the second half, there were a couple of slight adjustments just in terms of how we wanted to position ourselves to be a better threat in their back line and make them think about different things to allow the striker position and wing backs to get into the box. I was really pleased. You felt like it was going to come down to one moment for either team, but we found it in a pretty impressive play with Santi’s delivery to Lucho and an excellent touch and finish. Like I said, it was a gutsy performance, and it’s nice to see our guys come out on top.”
FC Cincinnati’s win was their ninth home win in a row to start the season. The record for consecutive home wins to start an MLS season (10) belongs to San Jose in 2002.
The Orange and Blue now get a “break” from the MLS season, but face Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the next stage of the U.S. Open Cup at home on Tuesday. Chicago hosts their own home match against Houston on Tuesday as well.
Match 16 – FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire FC
TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Result: FC Cincinnati 1, Chicago Fire FC 0.
FC Cincinnati Starting XI (5-3-2):
Roman Celentano (GK); Ray Gaddis (Santiago Arias 70’), Alvas Powell, Matt Miazga, Yerson Mosquera, Alvaro Barreal; Obinna Nwobodo, Yuya Kubo (Brandon Vazquez 61’), Marco Angulo (Junior Moreno 60’); Arquimedes Ordoñez (Dom Badji 61’), Luciano Acosta (c) (Malik Pinto 86’).
Bench: Alec Kann, Nick Hagglund, Ian Murphy, Gerardo Valenzuela.
Chicago Fire FC Starting XI (4-4-2):
Spencer Richey (GK – c); Arnaud Souquet (Rafael Czichos 69’), Wyatt Omsberg, Kendall Burks, Alonzo Aceves; Fabian Herbers, Jairo Torres, Federico Navarro (Maren Haile-Selassie 62’), Brian Gutierrez (Xherdan Shaqiri 62’); Georgios Koutsias (Kei Kamara 62’), Kacper Przybylko (Gaston Giménez 46’).
Bench: Jeffrey Gal, Charlie Ostrem, Missael Rodríguez, Javier Casas.
CIN – Luciano Acosta 83’ (Arias)
YC – Arnaud Souquet 38’ (CHI, foul)
YC – Matt Miazga 54’ (CIN, dissent)
YC – Xherdan Shaqiri 67’ (CHI, dissent)
YC – Maren Haile-Selassie 73’ (CHI, foul)
YC – Alvaro Barreal 89’ (CIN, foul)
U.S. Open Cup, Quarterfinals
vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 7 p.m, Tuesday, June 6th, TQL