Evan Louro debut spoiled as FC Cincinnati puts forward ‘poorest performance’ of the year ‘as a group’

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Seated in his locker at TQL Stadium, Evan Louro remained in his full kit to answer questions from the gathered media. Boots still laced and still dressed in jersey, shorts and socks as if he was ready to take the pitch for another half of soccer.

He sat there for a press scrum, answering every question coming his way. Then when the questions stopped, he continued to sit there. The locker room eventually emptied, each of his teammates giving him props on their way to or from the showers, then departed the locker room in their own time, but he remained. He was the last to leave the FC Cincinnati locker room, only him and the kit men remained as the staffers began to tidy the room and take laundry to the machines.

He might have been the last one in the building. His family had to leave early as his young son was “having a meltdown” per the goalkeeper and had to escape to the comforts of home. He had nowhere to go postgame and sat for as long as people needed him, and when no one needed him any more he sat there for himself.

Louro had made his MLS debut. After years of waiting, working and persevering he got the call and stepped between the pipes. He did so against the team he played for as an academy prospect and as a homegrown player, playing against former teammates he had come up with through the ranks of youth soccer when he finally heard his name called in the starting lineup of an MLS match.

“It was a nice little story of being against my whole team, but I’m glad to get the first one under my belt,” Louro said, giving the gathered press their ledes for them. “Took me a while, but I guess you could say I'm a late bloomer.”

The sour feeling of a loss was painted all over the FC Cincinnati locker room, Louro included. It is a rare feeling for The Orange and Blue. Since the start of 2023, FCC has only returned to their home barracks three times in defeat. Once at the end of 2023, only after they clinched the Supporters’ Shield, and Saturday night when the New York Red Bulls came in and took three points from FCC with a 2-1 victory.

Pat Noonan described the performance postgame as “the poorest performance of the season,” and “not good enough.”

The FC Cincinnati manager said his team was dominated in the midfield, didn’t have the composure to make strong decisions in the attack, were trying to do too much on the ball and weren’t playing like a team. 

“A lot of bad performances. Myself, the players. There were so many guys that just performed below average. When you have that many guys that don't perform, the game looks like that,” Noonan said of the match. “From playing too direct, to not having the right composure on the ball, to our midfield just getting dominated on the night. Just a lot of struggles within the group to have guys step up and play better, and it starts with me.”

“It's not just one player. As a group right now, we're not good enough.”

Louro allowed two goals on 10 shots, and made acrobatic save after acrobatic save to keep FCC in the game as the new look New York Red Bulls attack (whose 11 goals this season is tied for sixth most in MLS) peppered him with shots from distance. But in the binary of soccer, Louro called his performance “fine” as the two goals he did concede were ones he felt he should have stopped.

The first a 0.03 xG shot from at least 5 yards outside the box from Frankie Amaya that the keeper reacted to late then got past him on the far side, tucking just inside the post beyond his outstretched hand. The second came after multiple defenders failed to stop Dante Vanzier and left the attacker with a look on target that Louro got a piece of but couldn’t stop entirely as it rolled into the net off the keeper's flailing hand.

“So so. I mean, we lost and they scored twice,” Louro said of his performance. "So to me that's… I hold myself to a pretty high standard.

“Obviously, the penalty is a penalty and that was pretty cool. I felt pretty comfortable… They're a good team. They put you under a lot of pressure. So I guess to get my first one in you can only go up from here. But it is what it is, I guess it was good to get the first (start) under my belt.”

His manager agreed with the assessment in his statements, praising Louro’s ability to stop the pen but agreed that the second goal was one that Louro could have, and has stopped before. But given the lack of playing time the keeper has had he was good in places and there’s always room for improvement. 

Louro was held prisoner by the result, not being able to celebrate his debut. An unfortunate byproduct of the evening but not one that should make anyone feel sorry for him, Louro indicated.

But he did clearly look to absorb the moment. He was seen taking an extra moment before kickoff looking around and reflecting on the crowd, gave a wave of appreciation to the fans after each half, and spent extra time wandering the pitch postgame before returning to the showers. It also can’t help but be noticed that typically, when the media speaks with players post game the players have already had the opportunity to shower, change and otherwise prepare themselves. 

Many had followed that timetable. But Louro sat, fully dressed in his red keeper kit appearing almost as if he was unwilling to let the night end.

The keeper will have several ways to mark the occasion though. As is club tradition (Louro disclosed) the equipment staff invited Louro to help print and press the jersey he was wearing for the night’s match with his name, number and MLS debut patch as a celebration of his debut. The red goalkeeper kit - another unique wrinkle to the story as it is a color the FCC keepers rarely wear but is available to them  -  is meant to be preserved and stored for him as is tradition, but Louro said he may not let it out of his hands for that. 

The patch, a new MLS initiative in partnership with trading card company Topps, will need to be collected and shipped so it can be included in next year's edition of 1-of-1 trading cards commemorating the debut. Louro said he would be investigating how he can purchase his card, but the current process is a random card pack placement so he may need to visit his local card shop to give himself the best chance of unearthing it.

Where to go from here

FC Cincinnati find themselves in an unfamiliar place of late. After struggling in matches – particularly on offense – to start the season, FCC has found ways to earn results and collect points despite the performances, giving them the runway to take positives from the outcomes but also the learning lessons.

Now, with a loss, the problems feel compounded and the emotions surrounding a loss versus a draw only add to that.

Historically speaking, since Noonan took over as head coach and the current leadership group was established in the locker room, FCC have responded emphatically when things hit a speed bump. Last season FCC was undefeated after a loss, and typically the performances looked far better, or at least more focused, in those post loss matches.

Now, Noonan is looking particularly at what the response is to gauge his level of concern for the group and what he needs to do to point them in the right direction.

“Based on history from these guys, the responses have usually been good. But there's just a lot of (things), myself included. This is not one player that's holding us back. We're just not good enough right now,” Noonan said. “So if we can be honest about that and guys can step up and say, 'I have to be better.' If I can step up and say, 'I have to be better,' then I think we're OK. If we're not recognizing that we're not good enough, then there's a problem there.

"I don't think anybody is going to step into the office tomorrow and the training field and think that we're a great team right now because we're far from our best.”

FCC will have to go on the road twice to rediscover their groove, heading to Montreal and Atlanta before returning to TQL Stadium for a home match with the Colorado Rapids. The task now becomes taking that hard look in the mirror and digging into the solutions, no matter how difficult they may be to face.