FC Cincinnati (17-4-6) had been undefeated in TQL Stadium in 2023 in MLS play but Orlando City SC (13-6-8) came in and laid siege to the fortress and picked up a 1-0 victory.
The match started off with Orlando heavily owning the possession and looking to apply the pressure. FCC was able to absorb the pressure in and around the box. Defensively, it became apparent Orlando head coach Oscar Pareja was daring FCC to show something with a line-breaking run. An early pass to Brandon Vazquez on such a run was left a little in front of him and Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese was able to collect it. A moment later in the seventh minute, Luciano Acosta slipped a ball into the line of Sergio Santos. Santos gathered himself and found the back corner for the opening goal or so we thought. Santos just slightly had a head start in an offside position. The linesman raised his flag and after a long look from VAR, offsides was confirmed.
At around the 23rd minute, Orlando decided to back off their high line and try to capitalize with counterattacking play. In the 35th minute, Orlando City was able to secure a corner and create chaos in the FCC box. Facundo Torres played an in-swinging ball that found Cesar Araujo free at the back post. Araujo didn’t get the cleanest header on frame and a falling Roman Celentano was able to get a right paw on the ball. After a few seconds of a scrum at the six-yard box, FCC was able to avoid danger.
FC Cincinnati’s attacking third woes continued and Acosta played a one-touch ball forward to Vazquez. Vazquez had to adjust his run to collect possession out wide but his service back into the box found no runner.
Moments later, in the 44th minute, Orlando was able to win possession in the middle third of the pitch. Mauricio Pereyra looked to unleash the counter and played a ball forward to Ramiro Enrique. Enrique’s touch let him down and he had to race forward to beat Matt Miazga to the goal line. To the surprise of everyone, he was able to get there and play the ball back into the box. Nick Hagglund and Ian Murphy, who were sure that the ball had gone over the line, were mere bystanders as the ball found Torres at the penalty spot. Torres left no doubt and buried the low shot in the back of the net. The air was sucked out of the building just before halftime.
Back for the halftime break, FCC made changes to their lineup by bringing on Yerson Mosquera at halftime and Aaron Boupendza in the 57th minute. This allowed FCC to play much more directly through the heart of Orlando’s defense. Acosta and Boupendza had a one-two break at the Orlando backline. After navigating past a couple of defenders Acosta unleashed an on-frame shot that required Gallese to punch it away.
In the 61st minute, a beautiful through ball from Vazquez to Boupendza ended with a shot that was unfit for the opportunity. After a spell of sloppy half chances from FCC, Orlando decided to back it in and waste as much time as needed and defend well to secure the lead. Continuing the theme of wasting the few chances, FC Cincinnati was able to earn a free kick at the edge of the penalty area, but Acosta’s shot didn’t make it past the wall.
At the 87th minute mark, Boupendza was able to dazzle his way into the box. After losing the ball for a moment, Yuya Kubo collected it. Kubo found Brett Halsey on a run but the window only allowed Halsey to get a slight bump off his chest. The shot was easily collected by Gallese.
Stoppage time was set at eight minutes but went well past 12 minutes after a series of time-wasting and a rainbow of cards. The final chance came from a possession won by a free kick. Boupendza was able to flick the ball along the penalty box. Acosta ran onto it but his left-footed shot let him down sailing well over the crossbar.
The final whistle then sounded and Orlando was the first visiting team to leave Cincinnati with three points in hand.
CIN: Roman Celentano, Álvaro Barreal, Ian Murphy (Yerson Mosquera 46’), Matt Miazga, Nick Hagglund (Bret Halsey 70’), Santiago Arias, Obinna Nwobodo, Junior Moreno (Marco Angulo 83’), Luciano Acosta (C), Sergio Santos (Aaron Boupendza 57’), Brandon Vazquez (Yuya Kubo 70’)
Substitutes not used: Alec Kann, Alvas Powell, Malik Pinto, Ray Gaddis
ORL: Pedro Gallese, Rafael Santos (Michael Halliday 82’), Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Dagur Thorhallsson (Kyle Smith 82’), Cesar Araujo, Mauricio Pereyra (C) (Martin Ojeda 67’), Wilder Cartagena, Ivan Angulo, Duncan McGuire (Ramiro Enrique 33’), Facundo Torres (Junior Urso 82’)
Substitutes not used: Mason Stajduhar, Felipe Martins, Jack Lynn, Abdi Salim
ORL – Rafael Santos (Yellow Card) 13’
ORL – Dagur Thorhallsson (Yellow Card) 41’
CIN – Luciano Acosta (Yellow Card) 44’
ORL – Cesar Araujo (Yellow Card) 55’
CIN – Aaron Boupendza (Yellow Card) 90+4’
ORL – Junior Urso (Yellow Card) 90+5’
ORL – Wilder Cartagena (Red Card) 90+5’
ORL – Pedro Gallese (Yellow Card) 90+11’
Philadelphia Union (A) September 16th, 7:30 PM; Apple TV+