In a year of tremendous success for FC Cincinnati, the Orange and Blue entered its third competition of the season in the inaugural Leagues Cup. But it took a dog fight to come away with two points versus MLS foe Sporting KC in a 3-3 affair (4-2 in penalties).
The front line drew all the pre-match attention with Brandon Vazquez and DP signing Aaron Boupendza making their first start together. But it was the backline that stole the show early in the match. In the 9th minute, Nick Hagglund made a diving clearance attempt that inadvertently went into the FCC net, giving Sporting KC its first goal of the match. The following couple of minutes saw Ian Murphy and Yerson Mosquera each pick up quick yellow cards. The poor start was cemented in the 12th minute when the opposition doubled its advantage from a set-piece finish from Dany Rosero.
A recent run of league matches has seen FC Cincinnati survive early deficits, but the team also had a mountain to climb as they found themselves down two goals for the first time at home this season. Captain Luciano Acosta tried to draw a goal back in the 18th minute when he linked up with Boupendza in a lovely one-two before releasing a screaming attempt that was saved by the SKC keeper John Pulskamp. A while later, Vazquez shouldered contact in the box to steer the ball towards goal, but saw it over the crossbar. The night was just not going FCC’s way.
The match soon flipped on its head in the 30th minute when SKC forward Alan Pulido went to ground with Mosquera. In retaliation to a Mosquera shove, Pulido made forcible contact with what appeared to be a head butt. Match official Daniel Huitrón immediately showed him a red card and sent the forward to the lockers. A few moments later FCC found its opening goal off a Murphy header that forced an own goal as the ball rebounded back into Pulskamp.
Momentum was in full swing in FCC’s favor, having just drawn back a goal and facing the next 55 minutes of play with a man advantage. But mother nature had her say, as a lighting strike drove the match into a weather delay. Sporting KC likely saw this as a lifeline to regroup and deploy tactics ahead of halftime.
The second half had moments for both sides. In the 56th minute, Acosta was the recipient of a poor interception attempt from SKC. Acosta was able to find Vazquez in the box to bring the match level. Sporting KC went back ahead in the 68th minute from a penalty kick awarded off an Alvas Powell handball. In the 84th minute, Alec Kann made the play of the game as he stood his ground to make the save on a wide-open 10-yard attempt from Khiry Shelton. As the final moments of the second-half stoppage time drew to close, Acosta had his shot blocked by Rosero’s arm, thereby getting awarded with a penalty kick. Acosta buried his shot to bring the match, once again, level.
Leagues Cup matches do not end in draws. With the score tied at the final whistle, each team is awarded a point towards the competition. However, whoever wins the ensuing penalty kick shootout gains an additional point towards the group standings.
Both teams started the penalties by scoring their first two attempts. In the third round, Yuya Kubo dispatched FCC’s attempt but SKC’s Remi Walter skied his shot over the goal into the delighted Bailey behind it. Matt Miazga made no mistake with his shot in the fourth round. Next up for SKC was Prat Andreu Fontas. Fontas elected to shoot a low shot to his left, but Alec Kann was there to make the save. Kann’s save secured the shootout win and brought TQL Stadium to a thunderous roar as FCC collected a crucial extra point.
“I think the fans got the entertainment value in that one,” Pat Noonan said about the result. “Certainly pleased with how we were able to walk off the field with two points.”
The next Leagues Cup match for FC Cincinnati will be on Thursday, July 27th versus a Liga MX Club Deportivo Guadalajara more commonly known as Chivas.
CIN: Alec Kann, Ian Murphy (Yuya Kubo, 63’), Yerson Mosquera (Marco Angulo, 85’), Nick Hagglund (Matt Miazga, 46’), Álvaro Barreal, Junior Moreno, Malik Pinto (Obi Nwobodo, 46’), Alvas Powell, Luciano Acosta, Aaron Boupendza (Sergio Santos, 63’), Brandon Vazquez
Substitutes not used: Roman Celentano, Arquimides Ordoñez, London Aghedo, Evan Louro, Ray Gaddis, Marco Angulo, Stiven Jimenez
SKC: John Pulskamp, Tim Leibold, Andreu Fontás, Dany Rosero, Jacob Davis, Gadi Kinda (Logan Ndenbe, 75’), Remi Walter, Felipe Gutierrez (Roger Espinoza, 59’), Johnny Russell (Erik Thommy, 59’), Alan Pulido, Khiry Shelton
Substitutes not used: Kendall McIntosh, Robert Voloder, Roberto Castellanos, Kayden Pierre, Stephen Afrifa, Danny Flores, Marinos Tzionis
CIN – Ian Murphy (Yellow card) 10’
CIN – Yerson Mosquera (Yellow card) 11’
KC – Alan Pulido (Red card) 30’
CIN – Junior Moreno (Yellow card) 48’
CIN – Aaron Boupendza (Yellow card) 50’
CIN – Alvas Powell (Yellow card) 68’
KC – John Pulskamp (Yellow card) 83’
KC – Erik Thommy (Yellow card) 90’+2
KC – Dany Rosero (Yellow card) 90’+6
KC – Roger Espinoza (Yellow card) 90’+8
Leagues Cup 2023: Central 3 Group
FC Cincinnati 2pts
Sporting KC 1pt
FC Cincinnati vs Guadalajara July 27th, TQL Stadium (Cincinnati, OH)
Sporting KC vs Guadalajara July 31st, Children’s Mercy Park (Kansas City, MO)