In the return to MLS play, FC Cincinnati got back to their winning ways against New York City FC, toppling The Bronx club 3-0 on Saturday night and improving their league-best record to 16-3-6.
With the victory, FCC boosted their home record to 12-0-1 at TQL Stadium, which puts The Orange and Blue just six home points away from setting the all-time home points record in MLS history.
“It was an all around strong performance,” head coach Pat Noonan said of the victory. “After a difficult week leading up to the game, that just adds a little bit of pressure. The whole team stepped up … they responded in a very good way for us.”
After a 42-day break between league matches, FC Cincinnati were wire-to-wire winners. Aaron Boupendza scored in the sixth minute of the match, and FCC locked it down from there, securing their 10th clean sheet of the season while only allowing four shots on net.
FC Cincinnati gained ground in their chase for the Supporters Shield, increasing the lead on MLS’ regular season trophy to 10 points with nine games to play.
It was the third time FC Cincinnati faced off against NYCFC this season, earning a clean sweep over The Pigeons. It is the first time in club history FC Cincinnati had beaten a team three times in a single season across all competitions.
“We've seen (FC Cincinnati players) do this a number of times when they're tested and challenged, I think they've stepped up,” Noonan said of the team's perseverance. “It was a well-executed plan against a New York City side that despite the results is a strong team. To play the way we did and finish the game with a three-nil scoreline, I think that speaks volumes to those players out on the field.``
“You can either go down and feel sorry for yourself or pick yourself up, look yourself in the face and go on,” FCC defender Nick Hagglund said. “I'm just proud … on to the next game and doing the job.”
FCC return to action next Wednesday with a trip to Atlanta United FC for their first meeting of the season. Atlanta United FC will enter the fixture at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and seventh place in the Supporters’ Shield with 41 points.
Boup(endza) there it is
FC Cincinnati got off to the fast start they were looking for, scoring in the sixth minute to set the tone early for the Saturday night showdown.
After captain Luciano Acosta controlled possession and moved the ball across the NYCFC box, he found an opening, dumping the ball off to a wide open Bret Halsey who fired a shot on net. The shot was saved by Luis Barraza, but the rebound found an unmarked Boupendza who headed home the game's first goal.
It was Boupendza’s second goal in MLS after just three appearances in league play. Following the goal, the Gabon native striker unleashed his signature celebration, launching into a running backflip as he chased towards the corner flag.
Moreno doubles lead, Hagglund makes it three
FCC’s second goal of the evening came after an extraordinary effort of persistence, when midfielder Junior Moreno raced down field to finish off a pass from Acosta.
After Acosta won the ball at midfield and dribbled his way deep into the box, NYCFC defenders collapsed on him, leaving little room for a shot. But the streaking Moreno chased his way into an open space and the captain did not miss him, leaving a clean look on an out-of-position goalkeeper, and Moreno struck true in the 52nd minute with his fourth goal of the season.
With NYCFC looking to bring the game back into contention by subbing in two attackers, FCC put the nail in the coffin seven minutes later as Cincinnati’s own Hagglund scored on a set piece from the keeper’s left side, his first goal of the season and fourth of his FCC career.
After a short pass off a corner kick, Acosta sent a sweeping cross that found Hagglund’s head, who redirected in the small space between the keeper’s outstretched hand and the crossbar. Acosta collected two assists on the night and now sits in a tie for fourth with 10 assists in league play.
The goal from Hagglund makes him the 12th different goal scorer for FCC this season in league play.
Roman Celentano earned his FCC-best 10th clean sheet on the season, making four saves and patrolling the box effectively all evening.
It was a team effort to earn the clean sheet, with the defense stymieing the NYCFC offense for most of the evening and conceding very few dangerous moments. All of NYCFC’s shots on goal came in the second half.
The Orange and Blue midfield dominated play and snuffed out any opportunities before they materialized. By winning 42 aerial duels, eight tackles and 26 clearances, danger was eliminated before it could become real.