FC Cincinnati lifted the Supporters’ Shield in front of their home fans Wednesday night, marking the first time The Orange and Blue raised a trophy as a Major League Soccer side as well as their first time at their home grounds of TQL Stadium.
The Orange and Blue celebrated the historic achievement with a sell-out crowd of 25,513 on hand, the 15th sellout at TQL Stadium this season, and 14th of 16 MLS matches.
“This is a big part of why I do this - is moments like this,” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said. “There's a lot of things that go into this job and how fortunate I am that we are to be in this position. But the moment that we get to enjoy tonight, where everybody was putting in a lot of work with the fans of the club, who have obviously suffered. These are the pinnacle moments.”
With 65 points, FCC had secured their position as top of the league with a win last Saturday night in Toronto, and thus rotated the lineup ahead of the final two games of the season with the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs looming large. Noonan deployed a starting 11 with seven changes from the lineup used in the trophy-clinching match.
“These are the memories that you have forever and talk about,” Noonan added. “So, I'm really pleased to be a part of it and I'm happy for the fans of the club that we can all share in this first trophy of MLS play.”
Despite a late attempt at a comeback, FC Cincinnati fell to New York Red Bulls, 2-1. Both RBNY goals came in the first 20 minutes of the match while Landon Donovan MLS MVP frontrunner and Golden Boot leader Luciano Acosta gave FCC their goal, his 16th of the season.
FC Cincinnati travel to South Beach for their next fixture, taking on Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday for their final regular season road match before returning home to face Atlanta United FC on MLS Decision Day 2023 on October 21.
A trophy lifted
With the match completed, FC Cincinnati players and staff celebrated their Supporters’ Shield title with an on-field celebration. Speeches were made by Noonan, Co-CEO Jeff Berding, and controlling owner and CEO Carl Lindner III. FCC captain Acosta lifted the Shield for the first time at TQL Stadium and players took a lap of their home grounds with the trophy to celebrate with fans.
“The grind of the regular season with all the other factors that go into it, that has me really appreciating this trophy,” Noonan said. “It's very hard to win, and to see our group accomplish that, I'm very proud.
“Hopefully, people are going to remember this night for a long time,” Noonan said. “I know I will.”
Each FCC player had an opportunity to run with the trophy and show their supporters gratitude before departing for the evening.
Acosta adds to his Golden Boot total
Disaster nearly struck in the 68th minute, but was quickly rectified by VAR as FC Cincinnati saw a RBNY goal quickly turn into an opportunity from the penalty spot that Acosta converted for his 16th goal of the year.
After coming on in the 58th minute, Acosta provided an immediate impact, dominating the midfield and pushing the attack forward. His hard work paid off when he sent a shot from the side of the box towards the center that struck an RBNY defender's hand. Initially waved off by referee Chris Penso, New York then took the ball the length of the field and scored.
After a quick VAR check, the goal was waived off due to a handball, and Acosta was sent to the penalty spot, where he converted his seventh penalty kick in league play. Across all competitions this season, the captain has earned 18 goals and 17 assists.
With the trophy in hand, FC Cincinnati opted to rotate their lineup and change out seven players that started four days ago at Toronto.
“There were guys that were deserving of minutes, and you kind of just play or make decisions based on just the moment and where we're at,” Noonan said of his roster selections. “So, we've just secured the Shield and knowing that we have to turn it around quickly against Miami, it was how can we go through this three-game stretch without pushing guys too far.”
Alec Kann made his first MLS start of the regular season in substitution of Roman Celentano. Kann had only been utilized in U.S. Open Cup competition this season and had not made a start since the Cup semifinals on August 23. The keeper made three saves and kept The Orange and Blue in the match late.
Additional starters included Marco Angulo, Dominique Badji, Nick Hagglund, Ray Gaddis, Alvas Powell and Yuya Kubo.
“It's not easy when you make that many changes to see the consistency and have a fluid flow with the game without the ball,” Noonan said. “But the guys worked hard. It wasn't our night, but they worked hard.”