2024 Match Reports

Cold Opening: FC Cincinnati and Toronto FC open 2024 season with 0-0 draw

Photo by Anders Saling

The most promising home opener in years started bright and seasonal, only to end with a less sunny result.

FC Cincinnati (0-0-1, 1pt.) started its defense of the 2023 Supporters’ Shield with a 0-0 draw that felt both promising and unfulfilling. Despite holding Toronto FC (0-0-1, 1 pt.) scoreless, the Orange & Blue were unable to put their shots on goal past the Reds’ defense in a game that head coach Pat Noonan considered a “sloppy, slow game.”

“Both teams had their moments to find a goal,” he said in a post-match press conference. “You could see the rhythm, intensity, quality—all that was lacking specifically on our side. Probably a fair result. There wasn’t a ton out there for us, in terms of our attack on a consistent basis. Sergio (Santos) had a good look, Lucho had a good look, but a lot of half-chances. I just think the speed of play, the field played really slow tonight, and I think that affected guys’ touches and passes to kind of ramp up the tempo a little bit. We’ll take a look at some things, have a quick turnaround and try to have a better performance on Wednesday.”

The FCC starting lineup felt familiar in strategy, yet unfamiliar in recognition. Noonan rolled out a 3-5-2 formation, but its composition was much different from this time in 2023. Defender Matt Miazga served the last match of his suspension, after it had been reduced during the week. Additionally, forward Aaron Boupendza started on the bench due to a hamstring concern, but came on in the second half.

Pavel Bucha, Corey Baird, Miles Robinson, Kipp Keller and Luca Orellano all started their first MLS matches with the Orange & Blue. Orellano officially joined Cincinnati over the past week on loan from Vasco da Gama in Brazil. Meanwhile, Alvaro Barreal and Marco Angulo were held out of the lineup, as loans for both have been rumored.

Toronto’s Starting XI contained a few notable additions and returns. Richie Lareya returned to the team after loans to Nottingham Forest and Vancouver last season, while midfielder Deybi Flores and center back Kevin Long made their official debuts with the team.

After the pre-match festivities unveiled the 2023 Supporters’ Shield banner and a vivid tifo, FCC started its season with a bit of a feeling-out period. Toronto started much of the early match pressing the backline.

In the third minute, a foul from Obinna Nwobodo on the edge of the box led to a penalty call. After a VAR check, the call was demoted to a free kick outside the box. Lorenzo Insigne’s kick was on target, but Roman Celentano sprawled to parry the shot.

Cincinnati’s own form of pressure challenged Sean Johnson soon after that. In the 15th minute, Baird’s attempt at a bicycle kick forced the Toronto goalkeeper to pop the shot high and out. Robinson appeared to have scored on the following corner kick, only for a foul to reverse the call.

Toronto’s best attempt came in the extra time of the first half. In the third minute of stoppage time, Insigne got a clear shot and deflection in the box, only for his own teammate Prince Owusu to block it with his hand from an offside position.

After 45 minutes, Toronto held more possession of the ball (55/45), but Cincinnati owned more shots (11/5) and shots on goal (3/1).

While FCC improved itspossession in the second half, it did not result in more ball control or good shots on the net. FCC’s best opportunity presented itself in the 59th minute with Yuya Kubo feeding a back-heel pass to Acosta, only for the captain to be denied by Johnson from the edge of the six-yard box.

“We’ve come off of a pretty long preseason and a game in Jamaica on Thursday,” Acosta said after the match through his interpreter. “There wasn’t a lot of time to prepare for this one. That and a combination of the field—the grass was a little long—wasn’t totally prepared for us to play our game today. A lot of combinations, but it’s those small details that make or break a performance like this.”

Sunday was Acosta’s 100th match as team captain for FC Cincinnati.

Much of the remainder of the match played with either team getting the advantage. In the end, Cincinnati owned more of the possession and advantage on net, only for Johnson to make five saves in the effort.

Celentano had two saves to preserve Cincinnati’s second straight clean sheet over all competitions. The scoreless draw was the third 0-0 result during Pat Noonan’s tenure, but the first one to take place at home.

Despite his Man of the Match performance for Cincinnati, Nwobodo was not as satisfied with the result after the match.

“It’s disappointing, because there is nothing I can take more than winning. I prefer to win,” he said. “It’s not going to be an easy season. There is no small team. We just have to start from this past game to learn.”

Cincinnati does not have much time to mull over the draw. Cavalier FC visits the Queen City for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup on Wednesday. Afterwards, the Orange & Blue travel to Chicago to take on the Fire next weekend.

Match #1 – FC Cincinnati vs. Toronto FC
TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Attendance: 25,513
Result: FC Cincinnati 0, Toronto FC 0.


FC Cincinnati Starting XI (3-5-2):
Roman Celentano (GK); Kipp Keller, Miles Robinson, Ian Murphy; Yuya Kubo (Bret Halsey 90+3’), Obinna Nwobodo, Luciano Acosta (c), Pavel Bucha (Malik Pinto 90+4’), Luca Orellano (Alvas Powell 78’); Sergio Santos (Aaron Boupendza 58’), Corey Baird (Gerardo Valenzuela 80’).

Bench: Evan Louro, Quimi Ordoñez, London Aghedo, Isaiah Foster.

Toronto FC Starting XI (3-4-2-1):
Sean Johnson (GK); Shane O’Neill (Sigurd Rosted 80’), Kevin Long, Raoul Petretta; Federico Bernadeschi, Deybi Flores, Alonso Coello (Kosi Thompson 71’), Richie Laryea (Kobe Franklin 70’); Jonathan Osorio (c), Lorenzo Insigne (Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty 62’); Prince Owusu (Ayp Akinola 62’).

Bench: Luka Gavran, Aime Mabik, Latif Blessing, Cassius Mailula.

Scoring Summary:


YC – Jonathan Osorio 2’ (TOR, foul)
YC – Raoul Petretta 34’ (TOR, foul)
YC – Shane O’Neill 54’ (TOR, dissent)
YC – Yuya Kubo 63’ (CIN, foul)
YC – Sean Johnson 82’ (TOR, time-wasting)

Next up:
CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, Round of 32 vs. Cavalier SC, at 7 p.m., Wednesday, February 28th, TQL Stadium (Cincinnati, OH)

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