FC Cincinnati spoiled the evening for Inter Miami CF, winning 1-0 after an Álvaro Barreal goal in the 78th minute was enough to secure the victory Saturday at DRV PNK Stadium.
The victory improved the The Orange and Blue’s record to 20-5-8 (68 points) and ensured FC Cincinnati owned a winning record on the road for the first time in club history, improving to 7-3-7 away from TQL Stadium.
“I like the outcome, how we got there was at times concerning. But what this group of players has consistently done is figure things out.” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said of the result Saturday night. “I was pleased with the way the guys adjusted. But you know, there could have been, if we're being honest, four or five goals from each team. On the defensive side, we need to clean that up. But I still think we did a good job of creating chances and in the end, a good win."
Roman Celentano and Matt Miazga worked together to close the door in the final minutes, with the goalkeeper making two key saves down the stretch and deflecting others away from danger. Miazga did his part by endlessly clearing the line and diverting trouble away from the FCC goal. The clean sheet was Celentano’s 12th of the season, tied for most in MLS.
With the victory, FC Cincinnati knocked Inter Miami CF out of the playoff chase, eliminating them from being a potential opponent for The Orange and Blue in a few weeks time. While FCC has its position in the playoffs locked in regardless of outcomes, the club relished in playing the spoiler on the road.
“We wanted to knock them out,” Miazga said. “They knocked us out of Open Cup, we knocked them out of the playoffs. They're a very, very good team. One of the best teams you played yet this year. But we stuck through the difficult conditions and we got through it with three points.”
With scattered rain storms throughout the match, and humidity in the upper 80 percent range all evening, FCC had to persevere through the conditions to earn the result.
“It’s good to build confidence,” said game winning goal scorer Barreal. “We know we’re going to face a tough team in the playoffs so to earn a win on the road is important.”
The Supporters’ Shield winners return to TQL Stadium on October 21 for their regular season home finale against Atlanta United FC with kickoff set for 6:00 p.m. ET
Barreal Breaks It Open
After a match of close calls and near misses, Barreal opened the scoring for FC Cincinnati, tapping in a shot just moments after appearing in pain after a run.
Yuya Kubo picked up a loose ball 20 yards outside of the box and drove towards the net, creating space to whip a shot on target from an awkward angle. The Miami keeper dove to make the initial save, but Barreal crashed from the weak side to perfectly play the deflected ball and cashed in the chance giving FCC their game-winning goal.
“That goal was for the team,” Barreal said. “To finish the way we’re finishing this season is very exciting, so to get that goal at that time was very exciting.”
The goal was Barreal’s fifth of league play. Earlier this season, Barreal scored a golazo against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC that was nominated for a Púskas Award, FIFA’s award for the most spectacular goal of the year.
Close Calls Define Half
The first 13 minutes of the match were filled with back and forth play and both sides earning close calls on net. Inter Miami CF opened the danger when Tomás Avilés wrapped a shot from inside the box off the crossbar in the ninth minute.
With the danger cleared on that end, FC Cincinnati strung together a pair of passes that earned a beautiful chance head on for Sergio Santos less than a minute later, but he was unable to finish and missed a shot just right of the net. Three minutes later another opportunity presented itself for Santos after Brandon Vazquez tracked down a lob pass that went nearly the distance of the pitch with a beautiful touch and centering pass. IMCF goalkeeper Drake Callander was to the task though, as he dived and punched away the attempt for a corner.
From there The Herons took over, outshooting The Orange and Blue 9-3, including two more shots off the post and a Roman Celentano dive that kept the score sheet clean. IMCF owned 63.5 percent of possession in the first half and outpaced FCC in expected goals with a 0.5 xG to a 0.2 mark.
“Defensively, the way the guys defend the box, the way they defend in isolation, the way they put out fires has been a strength of our group,” Noonan said. “But you can only withstand so many of those moments when the other stuff isn't strong. So that's the part we need to improve on.
“We've got a decent amount of time now to assess this past week and talk through some things and I think the guys will be on the same page and understand some of those things (moving forward.”
(Orange and Blue) Rain, (Orange and Blue) Rain
The complexion of the match changed halfway through the first half when in perfect south Florida form, the skies opened and rain began to fall. While at first it was just a mist, the storm continued and precipitation intensified.
At times it seemed the rain impacted play, and as the grass got wetter and the ball slicker, both sides saw passes come up short and runs delayed. As the half continued, FCC was able to adapt and gain more comfort on the ball, but by that time it was moot as the Florida rain had subsided and only a light, humid misting remained as the half time whistle sounded in a scoreless half at DRV PNK Stadium.
“It was just an energy draining humidity,” Miazga said of the conditions. “We haven't played in that in a while. Some of the shifts the guys put in today were crazy, with the midfielders running back and forth like that…I’m a center back and I was feeling it, I can't imagine that so it was a big effort by everybody.”