FC Cincinnati fell in the return match of the Hell is Real derby by a score of 3-0 on Sunday night, dropping their MLS-leading record to 15-3-6. The Orange and Blue could not overcome two first half goals in their first match in 16 days and first league match since July 15.
"Certainly a frustrating night and disappointing in terms of how we played,” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said. “Overall, I think, (poor) discipline and decision making led to a really challenging game against a very good team.”
With the loss, FCC was denied their first road win in the series, but still retained an eight-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
In a hole early
Columbus Crew jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead at Lower.com Field and never looked back. After being turned away on a blistering shot in the ninth minute, Crew midfielder Aidan Morris was gifted a second opportunity from a similar spot in the 15th minute and rifled it past Roman Celentano’s diving hands into the upper corner for the game's first goal.
Six minutes later, in an unfortunate circumstance, Álvaro Barreal’s clearance attempt ricocheted off of his right arm while inside the box, giving the Crew a penalty kick that they converted to double the lead.
“We just weren't clinical enough,” Brandon Vazquez said of the performance. “I think it's a good wake up call for the team.
“We've been off a couple of weeks, so to come back and come into a big game like this, we expected more. So that's a good wake up call to start preparing (for the future).”
The early deficit comes as part of a worrying trend of late for The Orange and Blue, who have trailed in seven of their last eight matches.
Celentano keeps us in it
Despite the early goals from Columbus Crew, Celentano stood on his head to give The Orange and Blue opportunities to get back in the match. His six saves tied a season high mark for the sophomore goalkeeper.
“When you're not playing well and teams are creating, you rely on your goalkeeper to make saves and Roman did that tonight,” Noonan said of his goalkeeper's performance. “I think he was one of the few that had a strong showing."
“It's business for him, but at the same time, he's the reason why we're in the game,” Vazquez added. “Having performances like this can keep us in the game and help us win.”
With the first half coming to an end, FCC midfielder Obinna Nwobodo was shown a yellow card after hitting his defender in the head while being dragged down from behind. Due to it being his seventh yellow card caution of the season, Nwobodo will serve a card accumulation suspension in FC Cincinnati’s next MLS match against NYCFC on Saturday.
The yellow card drew the ire of the FC Cincinnati players and coaches, as referee Ted Unkel also showed a yellow card to FCC assistant coach Kenny Arena.
Missed connections and unlucky moments
The FC Cincinnati offense was held scoreless for the third time this season, despite multiple opportunities from attackers that just could not find the back of the net.
Aaron Boupendza was thwarted three times, with each save from Columbus Crew being more spectacular than the last. On the first opportunity, Boupendza beat the keeper, but had his shot cleared off the line by Crew defenders. Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte also made two diving saves to deny the striker.
Vazquez also had a shot on target thwarted.
The FCC offense struggled to create a number of chances due to missed connections between attacking players. Boupendza, whose start marked only his second appearance in league play, along with Vazquez and Luciano Acosta, labored in finding the final finishing moment, oftentimes sending a final pass just wide or making an extra pass when one was not needed. The relationship building is an aspect of training that Noonan has highlighted as being key to future success.
“We'd expect it to be better,” Noonan said of the connection between his attacking players. “(The solution is) conversations, it's continuing to look at the games and training and see how we can be more disciplined and better positioned to get our forwards in front of goal without having to sprint 30, 40 yards to make a play.
“I imagine moments like this will help our group recognize when we're off and when we're not doing simple things.”