It was a tale of two halves for FC Cincinnati Saturday night in Philadelphia, coming back from a two-goal deficit against Philadelphia Union to secure a 2-2 draw against one of the best home field teams in MLS over the last two seasons.
It was just the fourth time this season, and the ninth time since the start of the 2022 campaign, that an opponent had come into Subaru Park and earned points. In that span, FC Cincinnati is undefeated in regular season action against the Union.
“It’s certainly a good point under the circumstances,” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said of the result. “Once you go down one goal to this team, in this building, a point is a good thing. We go down two and there were a lot of improvements from the group, better discipline and better decision making, and we found a point out of the game.”
Brandon Vazquez and Aaron Boupendza earned goals for FC Cincinnati, with Yuya Kubo also etching his name into the score sheet with an assist.
“It's a tough environment. I'm just proud of the boys fighting until the last minute,” Vazquez said. “To have the discipline to get back into the game … the point feels especially big because we had to come back to get it.”
The result improves FC Cincinnati’s record in road matches to 5-3-6, and gives FC Cincinnati 58 points on the season with an 8-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield race.
Vazquez with late heroics
In the 76th minute, FC Cincinnati found another moment of road magic when earning the equalizer from Vazquez. It was the second time in as many road matches that FCC had leveled the score in the 75th or later minute.
Vazquez was able to time a run to meet a curling ground cross from the left side from Boupendza and chipped the keeper with just enough force to cross the line.
“He's an exceptional player that is always somebody you can trust in challenging moments,” Noonan said of Vazquez’s contributions to the club Saturday night and at large. “He’s somebody that you know is going to do what's in the best interest of the team. Tonight was another performance (like that).
“He's always giving the effort. It's never short of him working hard for the team. And he does so many little things that will go unnoticed.”
The goal was Vazquez’s sixth of the season in league play and proved to be the difference maker.
Instant impact from Boupendza
After rejoining the team just hours earlier after his service with the Gabon National Team, the striker made an immediate impact, scoring just three minutes after being subbed on. Boupendza’s third goal of the season breathed life into the game, trimming the deficit to 2-1 with 41 minutes remaining in the match.
Kubo earned the assist with a brilliant run and well-placed pass. Once sprung up the left wing, Kubo and Boupendza were able to outrun the final two defenders and beat the goalkeeper on a cross and finish.
"The minutes that he was out there he was in a really good way for us," Noonan said of Boupendza's performance. The striker was subbed off in the 87th minute to strategically accommodate for playing down a man due to a red card. Alvas Powell came on to add another defender to see the match out. "He's a good player. ...he was able to create a little separation and pick his head up and locate movement in front of goal. Those are his strengths and he showed that to me."
Boupendza and Kubo almost connected for an equalizer just one minute later, as Boupendza headed a deflected shot past Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake, but it was deemed he was offside.
Hosts get on the board first, double lead from penalty spot.
After a series of testy interactions in the opening 20 minutes of the match that saw three yellow cards shown, Philadelphia Union got on the board first with a blast from outside the box by José Martínez in the 23rd minute. Martínez received the centering pass from the far sideline, took a touch and fired it past a diving Roman Celentano, whose outstretched hands could not impede the goal.
Ten minutes later, Celentano received a yellow card on a challenge made on a breakaway from the Union, and the official pointed to the spot for a penalty kick.
Dániel Gazdag broke away unmarked and drew the foul, then was rewarded as he cashed the penalty kick for his 12th goal of the season. Celentano dove the correct way, but the pace on the shot was too quick to stop.
It was all yellow
The first half of the match was defined by the physicality of both teams, with a total of 24 fouls called on both teams. In addition to the fouls, seven yellow cards were issued in the opening stanza with four going to FCC players and three to Philadelphia Union.
"We started the game in a decent way and I think as the first half progress got just too caught up in in the antics and off the ball stuff," Noonan said. "We just lacked discipline, and in the end it ends up having one of our players sent off."
FCC defender Yerson Mosquera earned his first yellow card in the 36th minute when jostling for position on Unions penalty kick. A needless shove put him in the referees book. In the 83rd minute a foul at midfield earned Mosquera his second yellow, was shown a red card and sent off. The sending off came just seven minutes after FCC found the equalizer and forced The Orange and Blue to overcome another obstacle.
In all, 12 yellow card were shown in the match with each team having a player sent off for a second red, making it the most carded game in MLS this season. With the red card shown to Mosquera, he will be unavailable for FCC's next match against CF Montreal.
The Orange and Blue now turn around quick for another road match with CF Montreal, playing at Stade Saputo Wednesday night. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m..