2024 Match Reports

Gateway to Success: FC Cincinnati smothers St. Louis CITY SC 3-1 for their sixth straight win

FC Cincinnati's Sergio Santos celebrates his first goal of the season, giving FCC a 3-1 lead against St. Louis CITY SC. Photo by Anders Saling.

The calendar may have turned the page, but the scenery seems the same for the 2024 version of FC Cincinnati.

The Orange & Blue (9-3-2, 30 pts.) continue to roll together three-point efforts, defeating St. Louis CITY SC 3-1 in front of a sold-out TQL Stadium. Luciano Acosta again proved his worth in the MVP discussion, tallying a goal and two assists, while Yuya Kubo and Sergio Santos scored second-half goals to put the match to bed.

St. Louis (3-7-3, 16 pts.) was the recipient of a fluke own-goal in the second half, but was unable to display the performance that had the league talking last season. The 5-1 win over Cincinnati at CITYPARK in 2023 now feels like a distant memory.

Cincinnati opted to rest two players who came off early in the 1-0 win over Atlanta on Wednesday. Kevin Kelsy and Miles Robinson were both substituted for injury concerns midweek and started as bench players. Nick Hagglund and Bret Halsey started the match in their places. DeAndre Yedlin, Corey Baird, Alvas Powell and Aaron Boupendza also missed the match as they continue to recover from injuries.

CITY opted to rotate a large chunk of their starting lineup, resting seven players from Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to LAFC. Notably, designated player Edward Löwen returned to the squad and started on the bench.

In a moment of solidarity, FCC wore white armbands before the match marked with “IL” to honor Löwen’s wife Ilona, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer recently.

While Cincinnati was on the front foot from the opening whistle, it took some time for the Orange & Blue to penetrate the curtain that was St. Louis goalkeeper Roman Bürki. The first opportunity came from a cross in the 13th minute, when Kubo was unable to deposit an open cross from Bret Halsey.

Cincinnati opened their scoring account almost halfway through the first half. In the 26th minute, Acosta was pulled down in the box by Celio Pompeu, and referee Tim Ford quickly pointed to the spot. Acosta’s penalty kick sent Roman Bürki the other way for his first penalty-kick goal of the season and a 1-0 Cincinnati lead.

Acosta provided a scoring contribution in his eighth-straight match with his seventh goal of the season. The goal was also his 150th contribution of his MLS career, making him the 15th MLS player to do so. The only other active player with more is LAFC’s Kei Kamara (144 goals, 57 assists).

Much of the first half involved the defenders stonewalling any St. Louis attack. While St. Louis managed six shots in the first 45 minutes, none were on target, as Cincinnati combined to block four. The Orange & Blue also held the advantage in duels won in the first half (35-30).

Cincinnati managed to break out their biggest offensive output of the MLS season in the second half. In the 50th minute, Acosta quickly directed a pass through defender Kyle Hiebert’s legs, and Kubo polished off his fourth goal of the season.

After the goal, Kubo celebrated with the ball under his jersey, indicating to the fans that a youngster was on the way.

“Last time I scored a goal against Montreal, I forgot (to celebrate),” Kubo noted afterwards. “This time I remembered to do so.”

As good as the vibes were in TQL Stadium, there was a small lapse of judgment. Miazga played the ball back to Roman Celentano in the 54th minute, only for the goalkeeper to not be there to receive the pass. The own-goal made it 2-1, the only wet blanket during a complete win.

The door fully closed in the 80th minute. Acosta skirted around Chris Durkin and served a left-footed cross into the box. Santos scored an easy tap-in goal for his first of the MLS season. The Cincinnati defense held firm to finish their biggest offensive output of the MLS season.

Head Coach Pat Noonan was asked if there was anything to nitpick about the team’s performance, but saw none.

“I really don’t want to, because I think these guys were really, really good tonight,” he said. “And like I said, it’s a challenging week, and St. Louis had the same challenging week, so it’s not like we had less rest. But I just think the way we played tonight, with the ball, you know, how quick we were moving it, how we were able to play out a pressure and attack, I was really pleased with that against a team that certainly knows how to defend against the ball.”

Acosta was humble regarding the milestone he had reached.

“I came to the locker room, and Alvas (Powell) told me, ‘Congratulations. I said ‘Thank you, but why?’ I don’t focus too much on the statistics,” he said. “For me, my focus is here, raising the team up and doing what I can to help, but it’s probably good that I don’t focus on it. My head’s got to be here … It’s the mentality and the will to win and to help the team that supersedes everything. For me, it’s just working on the mentality that’s so important.”

The six-game winning streak has kept Cincinnati in contention for a second-straight Supporters’ Shield. The team remains one point behind Inter Miami CF in the standings, but continues to have a game in hand. St. Louis continues to seek its first road win of the 2024 season.

The Orange & Blue cross the Canadian border again to face Toronto FC on Saturday, while St. Louis returns home to take on the Seattle Sounders.

Match #14 – FC Cincinnati vs. St. Louis CITY SC
TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Attendance: 25,513
Result: FC Cincinnati 3, St. Louis CITY SC 1


FC Cincinnati Starting XI (3-5-2):

Roman Celentano (GK); Nick Hagglund, Matt Miazga, Ian Murphy (Kipp Keller 86’); Bret Halsey (Yamil Asad 67’), Obinna Nwobodo, Luciano Acosta (c) (Malik Pinto 86’), Pavel Bucha, Luca Orellano; Gerardo Valenzuela (Kevin Kelsy 59’), Yuya Kubo (Sergio Santos 67’).

Bench: Alec Kann, Miles Robinson, Isaiah Foster, Stiven Jimenez.

St. Louis CITY SC Starting XI (4-4-2):

Roman Bürki (GK – c); Akil Watts, Kyle Hiebert, Joakim Nilsson, Nikolas Dyhr (Tim Parker 46’); Aziel Jackson, Njabulo Blom (Chris Durkin 60’), Hosei Kijima (Tomas Ostrak 46’), Celio Pompeu (Indiana Vassilev 60’); Sam Adeniran (Eduard Löwen 75’), Joao Klauss.

Bench: Ben Lundt, Jake Nerwinski, Rasmus Alm, Nokkvi Thorisson.

Scoring Summary:

CIN – Luciano Acosta 26’ (penalty kick)
CIN – Yuya Kubo 49’ (Acosta)
STL – Matt Miazga 53’ (own goal)
CIN – Sergio Santos 80’ (Acosta)

YC – Hosei Kijima 35’ (STL, foul)
YC – Ian Murphy 36’ (CIN, foul)
YC – Sam Adeniran 44’ (STL, foul)

Next up:
at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m, Saturday, May 25th, BMO Field (Toronto, ON, Canada)

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