A brutal, brutal loss in The FC’s home opener. A match that the Orange and Blue dominated ends in heartbreak with a 98th minute penalty given to DC United to give them the match 1-0. The penalty itself is soft, and still images of the incident online will not do the call, nor Geoff Cameron, any justice. 

For long stretches of the match FC Cincinnati had DC united pinned deep in their own half. The back 5 of FCC allowed outside backs Ray Gaddis and Alvis Powell the freedom to get forward and they took full advantage of it. Gaddis in particular was putting in perfect crosses and generating a ton of attacking movements from his side of the pitch. You do wonder if Ronald Matarrita would have been enough to get this team the win, but Gaddis’s performance will assure fans that he is more than capable filling in for Mata when the time comes. 

Moreno, Acosta, and Kubo provided the most stable midfield in FC Cincinnati’s MLS era. The passing and movement was crisp. Moreno and Kubo breaking up attacks together was something FCC fans have never seen in TQL Stadium. Kubo in particular, despite being along side Moreno on the lineup graphic before the match, was allowed to get much further forward the whole match.

And once again according to GameFlow FC Cincinnati won the expected goals (xG) battle. This is two matches in a row now where, despite losing in the only scoreline that matters, the advanced metrics suggest they’re doing everything right.

But for all of the “expected” goals, none came, again. Dom Badji and Brandon Vazquez were able to get into dangerous positions and take good shots, something that had even been a struggle last year. But all of their shots either went wide or into the very capable hands of DC United’s keeper Bill Hamid. 

Brenner’s late game substation showed a renewed Brenner, one that was able to fight to stay on the ball and looked dangerous running at defenders. A combination of Badji and Brenner to start the next match might be the perfect combination to score that first goal of the 2022 season. 

Before the match I asked three questions, here is your three answer review of the match.

Do the fans still care?

Absolutely. And I know this because people were crushed by the result. A fanbase that has given up and lost hope would be laughing at this result. But the fact is the team looked much better than DC United the vast majority of the match, the penalty was a soft as you’ll see given in the 98th minute of stoppage time, and the play immediately afterwards nearly saw Cameron equalize with a fantastic header. The scenes if he had put that in… The attendance was down, which was to be expected, but given how bad this team has been for so long, 22,000 fans is still incredible and most teams in MLS would love to have that number.  

Can Kann get his mojo back? 

I think it’s fair to say Kann got his mojo back. Or at a minimum he didn’t scare fans into asking for Vermeer to start. He had a few good saves, broke up a few crosses (which Austin exposed as a weakness) and really was robbed of a clean sheet in the end. Had he stopped the penalty I think he would have quickly become a fan favorite. The Bailey doesn’t have a chant for him yet, but if I may be so bold, I’d suggest “Can’t On Kann”, to the rhythm of “Mitch Says No”. No? Just an idea. 

What’s the backup plan? 

Going into this match we knew Gustavo Vallecilla and Matarrita were likely sitting out due to injury. We also could assume that Brenner wouldn’t be ready for a full appearance and would probably sub in. This meant three key starters would be missing and how Noonan adjusted would be insightful for how they see this season. Last year, despite not having the personnel for it, the coaching staff forced the team to play a 4-4-2 diamond formation. But last year the season was lost, they “punted” if you will, on the last 10 matches.

But this year they arena’t punting! Remember? So would they react to key starters being out? They switched the formation! Imagine that. Sure, a back five is a good idea after giving up 5 goals anyway, but the formation shift matched the players available. Powell and Gaddis had cover to move forward thanks to a third centerback. Kubo and Moreno held down the midfield so they didn’t need to use Allan Cruz, how had a terrible performance against Austin. Two stiles up top keep the team’s identity intact as well as allowed those partnerships to build as the match went on. Overall, it was refreshing to see tactical adjustments to player availability and reactions to the previous match. The backup plan seems to be well established. 

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Overall, a gut-punch of a match for the Orange and Blue faithful. Casual fans will see the scoreline on the local news and razz the “soccer people” in their life, that comes with the territory of losing two in a row to start the season after three historically dreadful seasons. But for those who watched they saw a team capable of taking over a match, generating scoring opportunities, and (almost) keeping clean sheets. The coaching staff has this team in a good place, and if progress can continue this team will be fine. And isn’t that all we’re looking for in an FC Cincinnati team right now?