After a long month away from league play, FC Cincinnati (15-3-6) headed north to take on bitter foe Columbus Crew (11-7-6). This time the Crew were the victors with an impressive 3-0 win at home.
The atmosphere pre-match was electric as the FCC faithful descended in force. Hordes of orange and blue filled the streets with the iconic march into the stadium. The Crew put on a pre-match concert and firework show worthy of the hostile environment. The fireworks would only prelude the show Columbus was hoping to put on.
The match started off with a flurry of chances for both sides. Columbus was able to enter the FCC box several times in the opening three minutes. In the fifth minute, Brandon Vazquez had a beautiful look after Aaron Boupendza and Luciano Acosta were able to draw the defense in a narrow position. Vazquez’s shot was saved. Almost immediately after, the Crew’s DP forward Cucho Hernandez was unable to get a clean shot which allowed Roman Celentano to clean up.
FCC knew going into the match that they had a tall task dealing with the offensive pressure the Crew were going to throw at them. Columbus led the MLS in goals scored with 45 on the season. FCC was dealing with attrition as well. MLS All-Star center-back Matt Miazga was suspended from the match due to yellow card accumulation. Center-back Yerson Mousqera was also out due to a tweaked hamstring that occurred in training leading up to the match.
In the ninth minute, Columbus midfielder Aidan Morris unleashed a shot from outside the box that Celentano was able to collect. That shot ended up foreshadowing the first goal, as in the 15th minute Morris sized up another cracking shot from the edge of the box that gave Celentano no chance to make the save. 1- 0 Columbus.
The goal celebration barely had a chance to die down when a ball was played into the box with Raymon Gaddis. It hit off his leg and skipped off Álvaro Barreal’s arm. Penalty to the Crew. Cucho Hernandez was keen to step into the penalty spot. He found his target and sent Celentano the wrong way. The Crew had opened the match with a two-goal lead.
The key for Columbus in that series and throughout the match was their control over the middle third of the pitch. Captain Darlington Nagbe and Morris were able to find open gaps, read balls defensively and defuse any pressure FCC was applying. Pat Noonan had second thoughts as to the type of press FCC was deploying.
“I think if you look at, I guess, their setup, and just the way we were pressing, you know, that starts with me, we got some of those things wrong,” Noonan said. “Just in terms of how we were trying to get the ball and knowing that a team that’s very good with the ball, if you miss your moments, you’re in trouble. But we had too many flybys, too many guys that didn’t set their feet when they were going to the ball, and they were able to dribble out of pressure. And once that first moment’s broken, then they have the ability to move into positions to really cause you some trouble.”
The second half was much of the same as the first half. Loads of shots from Columbus and very few for FCC . FCC created chances in the run of play but often foiled their chances.
“We never allowed us to really move forward as a unit, it was three attacking and the rest trying to play catch up,” Noonan said. “You know, we never got into any kind of attacking structure that allowed us to move the ball in their half the field. So, you know, I thought there was some goals out there to get back into the game in the first half, but then in the second half, we, you know, I just think we struggled all around and our decision-making on the ball was really poor.”
The Crew had one last parting gift for FCC when the 96th minute 2022 MLS NEXT golden boot winner Jacen Russell-Rowe beat Celentano to the near post.
Pat Noonan was asked about FC Cincinnati’s ability this season to put games like this behind them and come out strong for the next match.
“Well, there’s no better moment or more important moment to be able to put a poor showing in the past quickly and focus on the next couple of days of prep to play another very important game,” he said. “So like you said, we’ve responded in good ways before but now will be the biggest challenge in terms of doing that because you lose to a rival and now you have a [U.S. Open] Cup semifinal. So I’m confident that they’ll respond in a good way.”
CIN: Roman Celentano, Álvaro Barreal (Bret Halsey 74’), Alvas Powell, Ian Murphy, Nick Hagglund (Santiago Arias 46’), Ray Gaddis, Obinna Nwobodo (Marco Angulo 74’), Junior Moreno (Yuya Kubo 60’), Luciano Acosta (C), Aaron Boupendza (Sergio Santos 74’), Brandon Vazquez
Substitutes not used: Alec Kann, Arquimides Ordoñez, Malik Pinto, London Aghedo, Gerardo Valenzuela
CLB: Patrick Schulte, Julian Gressel, Malte Amundsen, Sean Zawadzki (Rudy Camacho 90+1’), Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe (C), Aidan Morris, Yaw Yeboah (Yevhen Cheberko 90+1’), Alexandru Matan (Diego Rossi 58’), Cucho Hernández (Jacen Russell-Rowe 90+2’), Christian Ramirez
Substitutes not used: Evan Bush, Luis Diaz, Kevin Molino, Mohamed Farsi, Max Arftsen
CIN – Obinna Nwobodo (Yellow Card) 45+2’
CIN – Santiago Arias (Yellow Card) 76’
US Open Cup Semifinal Inter Miami (H) August 23rd 7:00PM; Star 64, Paramount+, Peacock