SAINT PAUL, Minn. — A result by any means against a club of Minnesota United FC’s experience would have sufficed, but FC Cincinnati opted for the late, dramatic flair against Minnesota.
The end result was one of the most stunning and storied wins in FC Cincinnati history.
A tired and injury-plagued FC Cincinnati squad, admittedly out of their collective game, scored a late game-winning goal at Allianz Field in Minnesota on Saturday. Brandon Vazquez’s team-leading sixth score of the season proved decisive after he tapped a pass from second-year player Calvin Harris from close range.
Moments after Vazquez silenced the partisan crowd, the final whistle sent Loons fans flocking to the exit doors as FC Cincinnati secured three straight wins for the first time in club history in MLS.
“Incredible. Three straight wins feels good,” Vazquez said. “The team really worked and I think we deserve it.”
The result pushed FC Cincinnati’s record to 5-5-1 (16 points) in MLS.
The fifth win saw FCC surpass its total of four wins for the 2021 season.
Amid fatigue, injuries and other personnel shortfalls as Cincinnati played its third of five games in 15 days, the win also saw the club overcome considerable odds.
“This win is a testament to the mentality of the group,” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said afterwards. “I thought we were heavy-legged. You could see that. When you’re not quality with the ball, you have to figure out how to defend well, and that was a lot of what we talked about before the game – understand the importance of defending as a team.
“We were never able to find our attacking form or any kind of rhythm with a lot of reckless turnovers, but the way the guys defended the box tonight and put their bodies on the line gave us a way to see this game go. ‘a way we could get three points.’
FC Cincinnati was forced to come under an onslaught from Minnesota in the first 20 minutes of the game. It wasn’t until the end of the first half that FC Cincinnati fended off Minnesota’s early push for a goal, and also got their own quality chances to make the game more respectable.
With FC Cincinnati struggling on the right side of their form in the first half, Noonan replaced right-back Zico Bailey, who made his first start of 2022 on the night, with Alvas Powell.
Powell was one of six FC Cincinnati players who had played every minute of the past six games, but his services were required after the FCC found themselves in the game at intermission despite being outplayed early.
When it came time to make substitutions throughout the second half, and as the FCC moved closer to taking a valuable point from Minnesota, Noonan’s substitutions tended to be more offensive than defensive as ‘Alvaro Barreal was brought in for his second game at left-back, and Quimi Ordonez and Calvin Harris were also introduced.
The moves indicated that FC Cincinnati wasn’t just sitting back and defending for a draw. They were aiming for victory, although Noonan noted that attacking moves were also a result of the personnel he had.
“I’m very pleased with the contributions of all the players who came. Calvin Harris – fantastic to help us achieve this goal,” Noonan said. “Quimi – I think he has done very good things with his minutes… Alvaro and Calvin being placed in positions that they don’t know, but the commitment is there from the group. It’s which allows you to find points on an evening when you are not at your best.”
FC Cincinnati battled for victory at the finish line and with Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt Open Cup match at New England Revolution looming, Noonan announced that an unknown number of players would not even be taken into account for participation due to fatigue.
Rookie FC Cincinnati goaltender Roman Celentano shone against Minnesota as he helped save the win.
Making his fifth consecutive start in place of the injured Alec Kann, Celentano made five saves to preserve his second straight league shutout.
A week in nine points
Wins have been rare for FC Cincinnati since joining MLS, let alone back-to-back wins.
Saturday was the club’s first three-game winning streak since its days as a second division juggernaut in what is now called the USL Championship, and those wins have faded significantly as the club has racked up losses in MLS. .
“I think, man, it’s just great. It’s a good feeling,” said four-year FC Cincinnati veteran Nick Hagglund. “I think that goes into everything we’ve worked on this year: building the culture, building the right attitude, the mentality. A day when maybe our football wasn’t at our best and we had can “Being tired legs, we dumped a win against a quality opponent. I think that says a lot about who we are right now and where we’re headed.”
The club’s first-ever nine-point week kicked off in Toronto with FC Cincinnati in last place in the Eastern Conference.
By the close of business leaguewide on Saturday night, the FCC was alone in fifth place — above the cut line to qualify for the playoffs and just one point clear of a top-four position, which guarantees a home playoff game.
The playoffs are and will remain a distant goal with 23 games remaining in the season after Saturday’s win.
However, the signs of an ongoing turnaround at the club are becoming clearer.
A legitimate push for the playoffs and meaningful games deep into the season seems increasingly achievable.
“No question. You could feel it. You could hear it in the locker room. You could hear it and feel it in our stadium when we (get) a home result against Toronto“Winning is important for this club to show signs of progress but also to show that the squad we have is capable of winning games no matter who we play, where we play. As long as we have the mentality that we have shown, certainly over the past week, it can continue.
“I hope we don’t settle because we’ve had a good period. That we understand that we can do that quite often with the commitment that we get from every player, every day and every time we enter the It sounds cliché but when you have that commitment, when you have the membership, when you put in that effort, on nights like tonight when you’re not at your best, you can always find a way to get some results.”
SAINT PAUL, Minnesota – Welcome to Cincinnati.com’s live coverage of FC Cincinnati (5-4-1) against Minnesota United FC (4-3-2) at Allianz Field. Refresh this page throughout the game for live updates and analysis, and follow Enquirer FC Cincinnati beat reporter Pat Brennan on Twitter (@PBrennanENQ) for further updates.
Final: FC Cincinnati 1, Minnesota United FC 0.
• Over 90th minute – GOAL, FC Cincinnati (0-1): Brandon Vazquez.
• Halftime Notes – SAVED: Celentano 2, St. Clair 2; MAPS: Cincinnati 4, MNUFC 8; SOG: Cincinnati 2, MNUFC 3.
• HALF-TIME: Minnesota United FC 0, FC Cincinnati 0.
• Game in progress at 8:08 p.m. ET.
• FC Cincinnati starting XI: Roman Celentano (GK), John Nelson, Ian Murphy, Geoff Cameron, Nick Hagglund, Zico Bailey, Junior Moreno, Obinna Nwobodo, Luciano Acosta, Dominique Badji, Brandon Vazquez.
• FC Cincinnati Bench: Alvaro Barreal, Allan Cruz, Calvin Harris, Nick Markanich, Haris Medunjanin, Quimi Ordonez, Alvas Powell, Harrison Robledo, Kenneth Vermeer.
• Notes on programming: Brenner Souza da Silva is unavailable due to a back injury.