FC Cincinnati kicked off its 2023 MLS Playoff campaign with a resounding 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. The hosts got out to a roaring start, dominating 62 percent of possession and being up 2-0 in the first half. Red Bulls got a foothold in the second half, however, besting FCC in possession, shots and shots on target. However, it was the home team that held firm, not only keeping the visitors off the board but adding a third of their own.
Let’s look at where your favorite FCC players ranked for this match.
Check out Cincinnati Soccer Talk’s post-match report HERE for more details.
- Each player starts off with a six as a standard rating. Six signifies an “average performance” for the match.
- Players will receive additions or subtractions to their score based on individual moments and the overall team performance.
- We’ll look at multiple criteria and statistics from websites like FB Ref, Who Scored and FOTMOB.
- All statistics used will be taken from fbref.com when possible.
- A player may receive a N/A if they are subbed on/off before any quantifiable statistics are available.
Expected Goals (xG): FC Cincinnati – 1, New York Red Bulls – 0.6, per mlssoccer.com
Now, onto the ratings:
Manager – Pat Noonan – 7.5
If I were to rate Pat Noonan solely based on the first half of this match, I may have given him a 10. Forced to start Ray Gaddis at right wingback, Noonan asked the veteran to sag back defensively and pinch inside to help cover the attacking midfielder Luquihnas. This had the effect of freeing up Obinna Nwobodo and Junior Moreno to defend side-to-side and force John Tolkin to create by passing instead of 1v1 dribbling. This tactic seemed to have the New York Red Bulls struggling to figure out how to get both Luquinhas and Tolkin into dangerous positions.
However, a match is 90 minutes long, and Red Bull adjusted at halftime, moving to a 3-4-2-1 formation with Cameron Harper as a left wingback and Luquinhas tucking further inside. Noonan, however, did not adjust. This meant that Nwobodo and Moreno had to sit deeper to account for Luquinhas and Tom Barlow, and Gaddis was pinned wide covering Harper. New York was able to wrestle momentum away from the home side for much of the second frame. Noonan elected to wait until the 72nd minute to make a change and he did so with a like-for-like substitution that still didn’t account for the visiting side’s new tactical setup. That said, his team dealt with the pressure and kept their opponents off the board, so maybe not changing was exactly the right call.
GK – Roman Celentano – 7
Roman was asked to be a huge part of FCC keeping possession in this match. As Red Bulls pressed, the FCC center backs were not shy about playing the ball back to him to alleviate pressure. Things looked nervy at times, as he hit long passes directly to Frankie Amaya in the fifth and 51st minutes and almost lost a backpass out for a corner in the 11th minute before smashing the ball out of bounds for a throw-in. In all, he only completed five of his 16 long passes. However, he was perfect in short and medium-range passes, which is what matters most.
The Goalkeeper of the Year finalist also wasn’t asked to make a ton of big saves. He had a smart save on a Luquinhas snap-shot in the 55th minute that he crucially managed to hold onto so as not to give up a rebound. He also got down quickly in the 81st minute to deny Amaya from a tight angle. The other three shots that he faced were tamely struck right at him.
RWB – Ray Gaddis – 7
I was seriously nervous seeing Ray Gaddis in the starting lineup for this match and he had some moments where he justified my nerves. He lost Luquinhas as he made a run across the top of the box for a Barlow pass and failed to give Yerson Mosquera a shout, leading to the first real chance of the match. Luckily, the Brazilian blazed his shot over the bar. He also had some nervy moments in possession and completed only 69 percent of his passes.
Ray also showed that he hasn’t lost the veteran guile that has gotten him so far in his career. In the 33rd minute, he had an incredible pass down the line to Lucho Acosta that could have led to more had the captain not turned the ball over trying to play Brandon Vazquez in. He also contributed two tackles and three blocks in the match while winning four of his six ground duels. Gaddis might not have relegated Alvas Powell or Santiago Arias to the bench once they’re healthy, but he certainly played a solid enough match to be an integral part of the victory.
RCB – Yerson Mosquera – 6
Yerson Mosquera struggled in possession more than his defensive compatriots. In the 48th minute, he dwelt too long on the ball before inadvisably scooping the ball back toward Matt Miazga, gifting the visitors a corner kick early in the second half. In all, he only completed 68 percent of his passes and had zero progressive carries.
Mosquera also didn’t have a fantastic game defensively. He wasn’t credited for a tackle, block or interception. He was also dribbled once when, in the 81st minute, he charged out quickly on Luquinhas and was left sprawling as the Brazilian carried by him and created a shot for Amaya. However, he was part of a defense that kept a clean sheet. At times he seemed like he was a monster defending the box on set-pieces. Finally, he contributed eight ball recoveries, which was good enough for third on the team.
CB – Matt Miazga – 7
Matt Miazga showed the veteran calmness and leadership that we’ve grown to expect in this match. His 84 percent passing was more than adequate and included two progressive passes. He had a gorgeous, line-splitting pass in the 12th minute that led to Acosta running at the RBNY back line and eventually an FCC corner kick.
Defensively, he was solid but showed a few cracks. Even though his yellow card in the 33rd minute was a bit harsh, he went to ground to try to win a ball with Elias Manoel facing away from goal and not in a dangerous position. He also won only two of five aerial duels. However, in the end, he was credited with one tackle, block and interception apiece and anchored a back line that pitched a shutout.
LCB – Ian Murphy – 6.5
Ian Murphy took a step forward in his bid to become a full-time starter for this team … and good thing too since the news released that Nick Hagglund is done for the season. He tied for second on the team with six duels won, including three of five ground and three of six aerial duels. He also led all defenders with three tackles and won every one of them.
In possession, however, he was a bit of a mixed bag. His 77 percent pass completion rate wasn’t terrible since you’d expect lower numbers against a Red Bulls team that will force you into a lot of long passes. However, he only completed 22 of 30 short passes as well. He turned the ball over cheaply on several occasions, including in the 84th minute when Nwobodo worked incredibly hard to track back and poke the ball away from Luquinhas, only to have Murphy one-touch it right back to Harper.
LWB – Álvaro Barreal – 8.5
Let’s be honest, when you account for Álvaro Barreal’s two bangers, he should be the man of the match. However, I am always reluctant to make the obvious pick and Barreal’s defense left a lot to be desired in this match. In the 14th minute, he decided not to follow a Kyle Duncan run after the fullback played the ball up the line to Omir Fernandez, resulting in Moreno having to do some last-ditch defending and block a cross out for a corner kick. In the 52nd minute, he stopped playing to raise his hands in frustration at a no-call when Badji was tackled late by Duncan and then picked up a yellow card being a bit late to challenge for the second ball. Then minutes later, he lunged in on Duncan unnecessarily, not only giving up the foul but putting himself in danger of a second yellow which luckily wasn’t forthcoming. I’m being aggressively picky here, as he did end up winning five of nine ground duels and being credited with a tackle and two blocks.
Furthermore, especially with Gaddis starting opposite him, we expect Barreal to make his money on the offensive side of the ball, where he tied for the lead with three progressive carries and added two progressive passes. He had a lot to do for the opening goal when he both started and finished the play. Moreno’s pass through to him took him just a bit wide, narrowing the angle and making the finish even tougher. And, if that was a difficult finish, then the one for his brace was sheer mastery. Barreal took a lobbed Acosta pass in stride, lifted it into his own path, then thundered the volley home from a tight angle.
DCM – Junior Moreno – 6
Despite the obvious game plan to not force the ball forward when under pressure, Moreno seemed to constantly do so. He had a really poor turnover in the 12th minute that led to the Luquinhas chance mentioned above. His pass was mishit and also caused Acosta to sprain an ankle trying to stop and pivot to get to the ball. In the 15th minute, he again tried to force the ball to Acosta and was again picked off by Amaya when he had Obi to his right and Vazquez as a target up the pitch (see image below). In the 19th minute, he won the ball well defensively, then played it to a stationary Acosta, allowing Amaya to jump the pass, run forward and hit one of Red Bull’s five shots on target. His 75 percent passing was uncharacteristically low, and he was also credited with a mistouch and a dispossession.
Despite these struggles, Moreno still remained calm under pressure, covered well for Barreal when the wingback got caught forward and had some nice pieces of play. His through ball for Barreal’s opener was well-spotted, if not perfectly weighted. He added two progressive passes and was second on the team with ten ball recoveries. In the end, he was credited with a tackle, two blocks and an interception.
DCM – Obinna Nwobodo – 7.5
Obi Nwobodo allows FCC to play the way it wants to play. He covers so much ground and gets involved in so many passages of play, that Acosta can take lots of defensive plays off. When you face the New York Red Bulls, winning second balls is a must, and Obi was excellent in that category. He led the team in ball recoveries (14), tackles (four) and blocks (four). So why isn’t he graded higher?
I’m not sure if it is too much adrenaline or just too much enthusiasm, but Obi overran so many plays trying to pressure opponents in this match. His missed tackle in the 33rd minute led to the ball ending up at Manoel’s feet, leading to Miazga bringing him down and earning a yellow card. He was credited with being dribbled past a whopping four times, more than any other player on the pitch for either team. He uncharacteristically finished the match by winning only six of his 14 ground duels. He also wasn’t great in possession, completing only 75 percent of his passes and credited with four mistouches.
CAM – Luciano Acosta – 7.5
Lucho Acosta rolled his ankle trying to recover an errant Moreno pass in the 12th minute. I don’t think he looked quite right for the rest of the first half after that. He was caught from behind in transition in the 15th minute. He left a pass forward to Vazquez way short in the 19th minute. He drifted needlessly offside in the 42nd minute, making an excellent Badji flick and Vazquez pass moot. His errant touch in the 52nd minute led to the scrum in which Barreal picked up his yellow card. In the 68th minute, in a moment of the match when the Red Bulls were starting to wrestle some momentum away from FCC and press for a goal, Acosta tried to dribble through three defenders, losing the ball and putting his team under further pressure. In the end, he was credited with three mistouches and two dispossessions.
However, even when he’s not at his best, Acosta still finds ways to make this team tick. He may have had an empty net to aim at to double his team’s lead in the 35th minute, but we’ve seen players miss from that sort of distance. His quickness and craftiness allowed him to pop the ball over an Amaya tackle in the 89th minute before floating the ball over the defense into Barreal for his brace. Finally, though four shot-creating actions is a bit low for the #10, it still was good enough to lead the team.
ST – Dom Badji – 8.5 (Man of the Match)
Was Badji the best player on the pitch on Sunday? No. Was Badji the most important player on the pitch on Sunday? No. But, relative to his expectations, did Dom Badji contribute more than anyone else to FCC’s victory on Sunday? Still probably no, but I’m giving him my man of the match award anyway because I just loved how he played so much. Of course, Dom showed his characteristic grit and determination throughout this match. In the 14th minute, he defended a great near-post run on a Red Bull corner kick well. In the 35th minute, he got his head on Kyle Duncan’s long throw into the box, rushed out to block Tolkin’s shot in the aftermath, then pressured both Reyes and Coronel, allowing Acosta to have an empty net to double FCC’s lead. As a forward, his stat line of two blocked shots, a blocked pass and two clearances was impressive.
What I wasn’t expecting from Badji is what impressed me the most. The Senegalese forward also had some really nice moments on the ball linking up play, including a nice layoff in the build-up to Barreal’s opening goal. In the 61st minute, he got on the end of a second ball and slotted Barreal in on goal, though the youngster’s first touch took him a bit wide, and his attempted chip was never going to beat Coronel. The fact that Badji was credited with only one mistouch in this match is nothing short of amazing.
ST – Brandon Vazquez – 8
Wait, what? An “8” for a forward that had one shot (which didn’t hit the target), four mistouches and three dispossessions?! Yes, you heard me right. I think the contribution of Vazquez in this match was absolutely vital for the success that his team had against the high-pressing New York Red Bulls. Simply put, he was incredibly active getting on the end of long, hopeful passes lumped forward by defenders to clear their lines. He drew two fouls against Sean Nealis in the first six minutes of the match. In the eighth minute, he received a Gaddis pass up the line, got the ball out of his feet and hit an excellent switch to Barreal. In the 11th minute, he did well to come back and receive a Barreal pass, then would have succeeded in returning it with a through ball had the Argentine not slowed his run. Late in the match, he sent Yuya Kubo in behind the Red Bull defense with a lovely chip, but the Japanese international couldn’t hold off Reyes to make anything of it. However, the scramble that followed that play led to Barreal’s incredible volley that put the game out of reach. In fact, he led FCC with five progressive passes and eight duels won.
However, Brandon still showed the lack of confidence that has shaken his form since last season. He did well in the 57th minute to dance past Luquinhas in transition, only to under-hit his cross slightly, allowing Coronel to grab it before it could reach Mosquera at the back post. In the 77th minute, he was quick to pounce on a blocked Acosta cross but then elected to cut the ball to his right instead of shooting first time with his left, and his shot was blocked. If Vazquez continues to play like this throughout the playoffs, he will be a very useful player. If he can regain even a fraction of his 2022 form, he could be the key to an FCC championship.
Aaron Boupendza (72nd minute) – 4.5
Alright, it’s time for caveats. When a player enters a match where his team is leading 2-0 and plays only 18 minutes, it is always going to be tough to make any real contribution. However, even accounting for this, I thought Boupendza wasn’t very good. His first action was in the 74th minute, when he was slow to close down Tolkin, allowing the defender to blow past him on the dribble, then he naively put his hands on the player allowing him to dive and earn the Gabonese a yellow card. The second time he was involved in the action was in the 83rd minute when Kubo put a ball into space for him in transition, but he took his time getting to it, allowing Peter Stroud to tackle the ball away easily. Finally, in his last action of the match in the fifth minute of stoppage time, he was played in behind the Red Bull back line but elected to try to cut the ball to his left when he looked certain to get a shot away with his right, losing the ball and then committing a foul.
In his admittedly short time on the pitch, I’d still expect Boup to have more than his six touches. I’d hope that he’d win more than his one of five ground duels. Finally, I’d hope that he would commit fewer fouls than he drew, but in this match, he fouled twice and was only fouled once. The only reason why he is as high as a 4.5 in this match for me is the fact that the one foul he drew earned Amaya a much-deserved yellow card.
Yuya Kubo (82nd minute) – N/A
Sergio Santos (90th minute + 2) – N/A
Malik Pinto (90th minute + 2) – N/A
Unavailable Through Injury: Nick Hagglund, Santiago Arias, Alvas Powell, Stiven Jiminez
- xG – Expected goals (or xG) measures the quality of a chance by calculating the likelihood that it will be scored from a particular position on the pitch during a particular phase of play
- xA – Expected assist (or xA) is directly related to the xG of a shot that the pass creates.
- Post-Shot xG (PSxG) – Post-Shot xG is calculated after the shot has been taken, once it is known that the shot is on-target, taking into account the quality of the shot.
- Progressive Pass – A pass that advances toward the opponent’s goal where the distance between the starting point and the next touch is:
- at least 30 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are within a team’s own half
- at least 15 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are in different halves
- at least 10 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are in the opponent’s half
- Progressive Carry – Carries that move the ball toward the opponent’s goal at least 5 yards or any carry into the penalty area. Excludes carries from the defending 40% of the pitch.
- Dribble – Moving past the opposing player while maintaining possession of the ball. When a player shields the ball or otherwise uses physical strength to maintain possession, this is not a dribble.
- Key Pass – A pass that immediately creates a clear goal scoring opportunity for a teammate. A key pass does not have to lead to a shot, and thus is different than a shot-creating action.
- Long Pass – Definition depends on the site being used. Typically, a pass that travels a distance greater than 30 yards.
- Mistouch – When a player fails when trying to gain control of the ball without a defender earning a tackle or a ground duel.
- Ground Duel – A challenge between two players to gain control of the ball, progress with the ball, or change its direction.
- Dispossessed – The times a player loses control of the ball after a tackle from an opponent, not including attempted dribbles.
- Recovery – Any action that ends the possession of the opponent without the ball going out of bounds. Recoveries are typically duels (44%) or interceptions (16%), but can happen without any specific action from the player doing the recovery (positioning himself correctly or simply collecting the ball).