After a thrilling 1-1 (8-7) result, FC Cincinnati is headed to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. For the second consecutive year, FCC advances in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a win over the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.
In typical Red Bull fashion, the match started off with a heavy press from New York. The physical nature of the match gave FCC’s defense struggles throughout the first half. It also had an effect on FC Cincinnati’s ability to move the ball forward. FCC had 170 accurate passes in the first but only 39 of them came in the opposition’s half of the field. The physical nature of the match also resulted in an early departure for forward Dominique Badji in the 34th minute. Pat Noonan opened his postgame with these comments about the first half:
“I thought the first 45 obviously, a very intense 45 minutes, not a ton of rhythm with just the amount of fouls,” Noonan said. “And, you know, we have a good look to get the lead on a set piece, didn’t convert, and then you go into the break, wondering how you’re down a goal, and we got punished for the mistake we made right before halftime.”
The goal Noonan alluded to came in the 45th minute when a hasty clearance by Obinna Nwobodo found Frankie Amaya at the top of the box. Amaya delivered a first touch shot low forcing a block from Yerson Mosquera. The rebound ended up at the feet of Tom Barlow who just squeaked the ball through Roman Celentano’s legs. The Red Bulls carried that 1-0 advantage into the halftime break.
The match’s physicality continued in the start of the second half. A very poor tackle attempt in the 53rd minute by Andres Reyes upended Santiago Arias, leaving both players on the ground. The appalling challenge forced match official Victor Rivas to stop a clear advantage for the Orange and Blue as Brandon Vazquez was in a breakaway to the Red Bull goal.
Around the 60th minute, FCC was able to flip a switch offensively. Aaron Boupendza, who had come on for Badji, made a terrific run off a stolen possession in the midfield. It required everything Dylan Nealis had to track back and block Boupendza’s attempt. In the 68th minute, Boupendza would be on the receiving end of an Álvaro Barreal service into the box which he headed just wide of the top right corner.
Boupendza wasn’t done making his impact felt though. In the 76th minute, a poor set piece by Reyes led to an FCC break the other way. After receiving a pass from Boupendza, Luciano Acosta flew down the pitch and found Boupendza at the top of the box with the ball. Perhaps learning from the blocked attempt earlier, Boupendza shortened his run and fired a shot across Carlos Coronel into the back of the net at the far post.
After another series of cards, substitutions, and a red card for Red Bull’s head coach Troy Lesesne, FCC had one final attempt to settle the match in regulation. An Acosta corner attempt found its way on frame. The ball went into the net and FCC players erupted in celebration on what appeared to be a walk-off game-winner. After some confusion, it was established that a foul on Sergio Santos had been called rather than a goal given. Santos was shielding off Coronel and likely pushed a little too far with the slight hook around Coronel’s waist.
The whistle sounded and the result of the match would be decided by penalty kick shoot out. The first two rounds saw successful attempts by both sides. Arias stepped forward but his shot didn’t have much pace and was too close to Coronel, resulting in a simple save by the Red Bull’s goalkeeper. With another series of successful attempts, John Tolkin stepped to the spot giving the face of the New York Red Bulls a chance to force a game three at TQL Stadium. However, Tolkin’s shot dinged off the right post and FCC had another chance.
Matt Miazga was the next FCC player to step to the spot. While he did well to dispatch the attempt, Miazga was assessed another yellow card after a prolonged gesture towards the Red Bull supporter section. That was Miazga’s third yellow card in the playoffs and will be suspended for the next match. Pat Noonan was visibly frustrated with Miazga in the post-game press conference.
“Matt knows better,” Noonan also said. “We shouldn’t be missing him for the next round, as simple as that.”
Another couple of successful PK attempts went by and Mosquera stepped to the spot. Mosquera’s shot was saved by Coronel with an excellent diving attempt and the Red Bulls had another chance to finish the match with Serge Ngoma stepping forward. However, Ngoma’s shot went well above frame keeping the Orange and Blue alive. Junior Moreno stepped up and coolly buried his attempt in the corner of the goal. As the pressure was mounting, Reyes stepped forward for New York. Celentano read Reyes well and blocked the 10th penalty shot to send FCC to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
FC Cincinnati awaits the best of three winner between the Philadelphia Union and the New England Revolution. The second game of that series will be played Wednesday night at 8PM in Foxborough, MA. The Union currently hold a one game advantage after a 3-1 home win this past Saturday.
CIN: Roman Celentano, Álvaro Barreal, Ian Murphy (Sergio Santos 90’+7), Matt Miazga, Yerson Mosquera, Santiago Arias, Obinna Nwobodo (Yuya Kubo 69’), Junior Moreno, Luciano Acosta (C), Dominique Badji (Aaron Boupendza 34’), Brandon Vazquez
Substitutes not used: Alec Kann, Marco Angulo, Malik Pinto, Ray Gaddis, Bret Halsey, Gerardo Valenzuela
RBNY: Carlos Coronel, Ándres Reyes, Kyle Duncan (Cameron Harper 90’+2), Dylan Nealis, Sean Nealis (C), John Tolkin, Frankie Amaya, Daniel Edelman (Peter Stroud 85’), Elias Manoel, Tom Barlow (Serge Ngoma 85’), Luquinhas (Omir Fernandez 90’+2)
Substitutes not used: Ryan Meara, Matthew Nocita, Jorge Cabezas, Dru Yearwood, Wikelman Carmona
CIN – Santiago Arias (Yellow Card) 34’
RBNY – Tom Barlow (Yellow Card) 41’
CIN – Yerson Mosquera (Yellow Card) 75’
CIN – Matt Miazga (Yellow Card) 90’+9
CIN – Matt Miazga (Yellow Card) PK Shootout
PENALTY SHOOTOUT SUMMARY (KICK TAKEN)
CIN: Luciano Acosta (1) – Good
Yuya Kubo (3) – Good
Santiago Arias (5) – Saved
Brandon Vazquez (7) – Good
Álvaro Barreal (9) – Good
Matt Miazga (11) – Good
Aaron Boupendza (13) – Good
Sergio Santos (15) – Good
Yerson Mosquera (17) – Saved
Junior Moreno (19) – Good
RBNY: Omir Fernandez (2) – Good
Frankie Amaya (4) – Good
Sean Nealis (6) – Good
Cameron Harper (8) – Good
John Tolkin (10) – Missed
Dylan Nealis (12) – Good
Elias Manoel (14) – Good
Peter Stroud (16) – Good
Serge Ngoma (18) – Missed
Andrés Reyes (20) – Saved
MLS Eastern Conference Semi-Final: Philadelphia Union or New England Revolution; TBD (November 25th- November 27th) Apple TV+