Player Ratings

Player Ratings: FC Cincinnati 2, Columbus Crew 1

FC Cincinnati took the short drive north to take on a well-rested Columbus Crew in the first Hell is Real Derby of the 2024 season. And, for all of the plaudits that the Crew get from pundits for being the best team in MLS, FCC made them look ordinary, holding them to just four shots on target and doubling their xG.  

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 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 – 1.4, Columbus Crew – 0.7, per

Formation: 3-5-2

Now, onto the ratings:

Manager – Pat Noonan – 10

Pat Noonan would have been forgiven for bringing his team into Field with the intent to defend and counter-attack. After all, we’ve heard so often about how the Columbus Crew are God’s gift to possession and attacking soccer that it would seem the only possible solution for opponents is to hang on for dear life defensively and hope to smash and grab a win against the run of play. Noonan, however, missed the memo and decided to bring his team in with a brave game plan to press Columbus’ midfield, keep possession of the ball and trust his defenders to lock things down when they were inevitably faced with 1v1 situations. And, he was rewarded. Just look at how high he had Pavel Bucha and Obinna Nwobodo pressing to limit the influence of Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris:

The initial game plan wasn’t the only thing Noonan got right on the day. His decision to trust academy product Dado Valenzuela when Alvas Powell needed to be replaced just 13 minutes into the match was bold. A conservative approach might have called for Kipp Keller or Nick Hagglund to be brought on to play right wingback instead. The gaffer also introduced Kevin Kesly at the right time and made the move to drop Dado into the midfield for Acosta as the captain’s legs tired. All in all, I could probably find something to quibble with (only three subs used?!), but if you win the road leg of Hell is Real and look good doing it, you get a 10.

GK – Roman Celentano – 8

Each of Roman Celentano’s three saves was fairly straightforward, including this comfortable save on Cucho Hernandez’s free-kick in the 26th minute that he did well to hang on to with yellow jerseys lurking for the rebound:

Furthermore, the goal that he conceded in the 89th minute would have been an incredible save had he kept it out. What Celentano doesn’t get credit for was equally impressive. In both the 23rd and the 48th minutes, Diego Rossi had chances hit the woodwork. However, had either opportunity actually been on frame, the Orange and Blue shot-stopper looked to have them covered.

Celentano was also extremely calm in possession all night, even when under pressure. He completed all of his short and medium-range passes while completing a respectable six of 12 long balls.

RWB –  Yuya Kubo – 7

I’m going off script here and grading Yuya Kubo strictly as a right wingback, even though he started the match as a striker (see Alvas Powell below). The Japanese international brought a ton of attacking intent and creativity to the position after his impromptu switch in the 13th minute. As Justin Hoyte and I discussed on this week’s Talking Tactics with Coach Gough, even though he failed to convert either of his two fantastic chances to score, him being that dangerous from a defensive position forced the opponent to account for him. In the final moments of the first half, he did well to slip in behind but was thwarted by a lucky toe from Patrick Schulte. Then, at the end of the match, he was in on goal but tried to round the goalkeeper, allowing him to get a hand to the ball. Kubo also added seven progressive actions on the night (four passes, three carries).

Defensively, Kubo was more of a mixed bag. He tied for the team lead with four tackles and added an interception. However, though I don’t fault him for getting pushed over by Rossi in the lead-up to the Crew’s goal, a more natural defender probably would have grabbed the ball or done more to ensure the attacker didn’t come away with possession. He also only won five of 13 ground duels and was dribbled once.

RCB – Miles Robinson – 8

Miles Robinson’s contribution to the backline continues to be immense, even when his stats are not. In this match he was fantastic positionally, both tracking forwards into midfield and dropping intelligently into passing lanes. He had three interceptions, including when he jumped an outlet pass in the 38th minute, carried the ball forward and drew the foul and yellow card for Sean Zawadski. However, Miles wasn’t flawless in his marking. Both of Rossi’s chances mentioned above came off the back shoulder of Robinson. He also let Christian Ramirez get free for a header in the 86th minute, which was luckily put right at Celentano.

In possession, Robinson was steady but not spectacular. He unexpectedly added a key pass and two shot-creating actions. However, he also completed only one of four long passes and tallied only one progressive pass.

CB – Matt Miazga – 8.5

Matt Miazga had a near-flawless performance defensively. Not only did he keep his defensive partners organized as they had to step into the midfield to mark a dropping forward or stretch wide to cover an advancing winger, but he also contributed statistically. Miazga won both of his tackles, blocked two shots and tallied two interceptions. His best moment may have been in the 18th minute when Cucho took him on in transition, but he forced the Columbian into a shot from distance and then blocked that shot. He also led all center backs with six ball recoveries. Miazga wasn’t perfect, however, as he won just two of his six ground duels, including in the 34th minute when he was turned by Jacen Russell-Rowe and then fouled him, picking up a yellow card.

Miazga was also very good in possession. He had a few stray long balls but passed at a 91.5 percent rate overall, including four progressive passes. Finally, he added a key pass and two shot-creating actions.

LCB – Ian Murphy – 8

Any discussion of Ian Murphy has to start with his culpability in the Crew’s late goal. Though the strike wasn’t entirely his fault, he overcommitted on Max Arfsten, allowing him to shift the ball to his left and finish. However, he also blocked a goal-bound shot immediately prior to that and added two interceptions on the night. Murphy also won all three of his tackles and all of his five duels (three ground, two aerial).

In possession, Murphy wasn’t quite as dynamic as we’ve seen him in games past. He logged only three progressive passes and didn’t complete any of his four long balls.

LWB – Luca Orellano – 7

Luca Orellano had a disappointing night in terms of chance-creation, failing to complete a successful dribble while adding only one shot-creating action. He had a dangerous run in behind the Crew defense in the 53rd minute but couldn’t finish at the near post. However, the young Argentinian was immensely important in ball progression. He was second on the team with five progressive passes while also adding five progressive carries and six progressive receptions.

Defensively, Orellano was active but not very effective. He led the team with 11 ball recoveries but was also dribbled twice. In the 64th minute, he slid in recklessly, getting nowhere near the ball and allowing Steven Moreira to cross dangerously, though Kubo was on hand to put the ball out for a corner. He also was slow to recover and help Murphy when Arfsten scored in the 89th minute.

DCM – Pavel Bucha – 8.5 (Man of the Match)

Pavel Bucha is quietly becoming one of the more key players for the Orange and Blue. And, for my money, he helped to break this game open. Certainly, Lucho Acosta deserves plaudits (see below), but Bucha was a fantastic two-way player in this match. Defensively, he tied for the team lead with four tackles while tying for second with nine ball recoveries. He also led everyone, including Crew players, with eight ground duels won while only losing five. Bucha also made some key plays that won’t show up in the stat sheet, like in the 16th minute, when he dropped between the center backs when they got extended and made a vital intervention that kept Cucho from having a free header from six yards out.

Bucha wasn’t just a defensive stalwart, either. He also led the team with two passes into the penalty area and completed three of his four dribbles. He was second on the team with three shot-creating actions, and played a key role in both FC Cincinnati goals, including this assist:

DCM – Obi Nwobodo – 7.5

Obinna Nwobodo played a key part in shutting down the Crew midfield and stifling their ability to transition through the lines. His constant movement and pressure clearly affected his opponents. However, he wasn’t able to quite win the ball cleanly very often. He ended the match with only one tackle while committing a game-high five fouls. In the 25th minute, he dove in unnecessarily on Alexandru Matan at the edge of the box when the Romanian was surrounded by orange and blue jerseys, giving the Crew a dangerous free kick.

Obi had a few statistical areas of significance, however. He tied for second on the team in ball recoveries with nine and in passes into the final third with four.

CAM – Luciano Acosta – 8.5

Acosta showed up big in what many billed as the season’s biggest game to date. His goal was well taken, and his incredible patience to sit the defender down before crossing to the back post for his assist was astounding. He led all players with seven shot-creating actions and was a key performer in ball progression. The captain led the team with nine progressive passes and contributed 13 progressive actions in total.

So why didn’t Lucho get man-of-the-match honors for me? Of course, most of you know that I am loath to give the award to any player simply for scoring or assisting, and Lucho had too many mistakes outside of his magical moments. He led all players with four mistouches and completed only three of eight dribbles. Finally, of his six crosses, only two were accurate.

ST – Gerardo Valenzuela – 8

Dado Valenzuela entered the match in the 13th minute for the injured Alvas Powell, pushing Kubo to wingback and slotting in as a forward. He played his role fantastically, both holding the ball up and linking play. He dropped between the lines to receive line-splitting passes expertly, leading the team with nine progressive receptions. He had moments like in the 60th minute when he turned Moreira with a silky touch before shielding the defender and drawing a foul in a dangerous spot for a free kick. However, the academy product didn’t provide much of the offensive spark that he has when subbing on later in matches, failing to contribute a key pass or a shot-creating action.

Valenzuela also played a key role defensively, which is important for any FCC forward. He contributed three tackles, winning them all, and added a block and two interceptions. He had moments where he filled in for Acosta, tracking runners out of midfield as well. In the 35th minute, he tracked Moreira on a long corner run when it looked like the center back was going to get free in transition. Dado also won a respectable five of nine ground duels. However, he did show a few moments of nativity, like in the 60th minute when he got caught ball-watching and allowed Morris to stride forward and hit a shot that just missed the far post.

ST – Corey Baird – 5

It would appear that scoring his first goal of the season against the Rapids two weeks ago has done little to spur Corey Baird on to better performances. He wasn’t dreadful in this match by any stretch, but he had so many moments where he failed to link play, gifting the ball back to the Crew when FCC was trying to transition. He paired his three mistouches and two dispossessions with a team-low 60 percent passing rate. Of his 21 touches, only six came in the attacking third, and he managed only one shot-creating action.

However, Baird was active defensively and a key contributor to an effective FCC press. He added two tackles and a block.


Alvas Powell (exited the match in the 13th minute) – N/A

Alvas Powell apparently felt hamstring tightness, forcing his exit from the match just 13 minutes in. I felt that it was unfair to grade him even though a substitute with similar minutes played may have received a grade since starting a match is definitively different than coming off the bench.

Kevin Kelsy (67th minute) – 8

Big Kev didn’t have a ton of time to make an impact on the match but managed to, anyway. Obviously, his goal was a necessary moment to break the game open. He drifted to the back post well and buried Matan as he rose to head home.

Kelsy also played a key part in Lucho’s game-winner, holding the ball up in transition before occupying two central defenders in the box while Lucho ran free. His ability to battle central defenders is going to be key to this team going forward.

Malik Pinto (87th minute) – N/A

Availability Notes: DeAndre Yedlin (hip), Bret Halsey (suspension)


  • 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
  • xAG – Expected assisted goals (or xAG) is directly related to the xG that follows a pass that assists a shot
  • 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).
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