In a classic case of a draw feeling like a win, FC Cincinnati rallied from a two-goal deficit to earn a 2-2 draw with Philadelphia Union on the road, taking an important step toward a potential MLS Supporters’ Shield.
Aaron Boupendza and Brandon Vazquez scored for Pat Noonan’s team in the second half. FCC played the match without captain and talisman Luciano Acosta, who was suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
The match was contentious in more ways than one. Referee Ismail Elfath issued seven yellow cards in the first half, with a number of off-the-ball and deadball incidents transpiring. The accumulation seemed to signal that red cards were inevitable, and in fact, Yerson Mosquera for FCC and Jack Elliott of Philadelphia were each sent off later in the game after receiving second bookings. The match ended with 12 cautions issued overall.
In terms of the club’s pursuit of the MLS Supporters’ Shield, given for the highest point total earned during the regular season (and with it a berth in next season’s CONCACAF Champions League), Saturday’s result means FCC is eight points ahead of Orlando with six matches remaining. St. Louis drew 1-1 with Houston and is now nine points behind FCC, having played one more game. Philadelphia remains 11 points behind but has a game in hand. New England is 10 points behind with six matches remaining following a road loss at Colorado.
In comments distributed by the club to media, Noonan said after the game that his team was more effective when it avoided getting caught up in off-the-ball drama.
“We started the game in a decent way, and I think as the first half progressed, got just too caught up in the antics and off-the-ball stuff and just lacked discipline,” Noonan said. “And in the end, it ends up having one of our players sent off. And so that was the frustration and the conversation primarily at halftime, but the way the guys responded, and to be on the road against a very good Union team in this building and, and find two goals and get a point, is certainly important. So I’m pleased with the second half and what looked like a version of our group.”
Philadelphia opened the scoring on a hard shot by Jose Martinez in the 23rd minute. The midfielder took a short pass from Jack McGlynn and, finding himself with plenty of space, lasered one past Roman Celentano to make it 2-0.
The Union doubled their lead in the 37th minute with a penalty from Daniel Gazdag. Gazdag had gotten behind the FCC back line and attempted to chip the ball over Celentano, who dove in for the foul in the area. The lead was nearly stretched to three shortly afterward, but Moreno blocked a shot on the goal line after Celentano fumbled a corner.
In the second half, Noonan inserted Boupendza and Ian Murphy, the former having only arrived at the team’s hotel on Saturday morning. The change paid immediate dividends when Vazquez played a pass to Kubo on the left and Kubo in turn found Boupendza unmarked in front of goal to make it 2-1.
The equalizer came from a Philly turnover in midfield. Boupendza picked the ball up and ran down the left before playing an inch-perfect pass to Vazquez who touched it past Andre Blake for a 2-2 score.
Noonan credited his team with a good mentality in fighting back to earn a draw.
“We were just a better version of ourselves in the second half, and we were more disciplined,” he said. “And when we do that, when we play like that, even in tough environments against good teams, we can we can create. We can score. We can win. And so, despite not getting three points tonight, it still feels like a positive—getting a point having been down two goals. So yeah, when we are playing like we did in the second half, and everybody’s playing simple and playing composed and with discipline, we’re a tough team to play against.”
FCC plays again on Wednesday at Montreal.
LINEUPS (courtesy FC Cincinnati)
PHI: Andre Blake, Jack Elliot, Jakob Glesnes, Damion Lowe (Chris Donovan, 90’+3), Nathan Harriel, Kai Wagner, Jose Martinez (Jesus Bueno, 63’), Daniel Gazdag, Jack McGlynn, Mikael Uhre (Tai Baribo, 73’) Julián Carranza
Substitutes not used: Joe Bendik, Matt Real, Jeremy Rafanello, Olivier Mbaizo, Joaquin Torres, Quinn Sullivan
CIN: Roman Celentano, Yerson Mosquera, Matt Miazga, Nick Hagglund (Ian Murphy, 46’), Álvaro Barreal, Junior Moreno, Obinna Nwobodo, Santiago Arias (Ray Gaddis, 90’), Yuya Kubo (Dominique Badji, 71’), Sergio Santos (Aaron Boupendza, 46’ (Alvas Powell, 87’)), Brandon Vazquez
Substitutes not used: Alec Kann, Marco Angulo, Malik Pinto, Bret Halsey
STATS SUMMARY: PHI/CIN
Shots: 14 / 14
Shots on Goal: 6 / 6
Saves: 4 / 3
Corner Kicks: 3 / 3
Fouls: 22 / 21
Offside: 2 / 1
Possession: 42.4 / 57.6