FC Cincinnati advanced to the Round of 32 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Wednesday night with a 1-0 win over Louisville City FC at TQL Stadium. The Orange and Blue avoided the upset in what was a difficult fight against one of the USL Championship’s best sides.
The Orange and Blue rotated the squad following last Saturday’s match against Portland and in preparation for this weekend’s trip to face the New England Revolution. Joey Akpunonu, Isaiah Foster and Stiven Jimenez all made their first team debuts.
“These are difficult circumstances sometimes because you expect to go out there and see the best version of all these guys,” said Noonan. “But the reality is they haven’t had a lot of minutes together. I think early on, we needed to have a little bit more composure with the ball and figuring out ways, especially with our center backs, to just be more comfortable.”
Dominique Badji made his first start of 2023 alongside Arquimides Ordoñez, who scored the lone goal of the match. Badji did not find the scoresheet, but did plenty of things right according to Noonan.
“I think Dom did some really good things tonight,” said Noonan. “You know, I don’t think it was always fair to him with how he was creating along in some of his moments where he did a good job of pressuring and creating for himself, but he does a good job defensively.”
LouCity pressed early, threatening Cincinnati’s goal on multiple occasions in the opening half hour, but second-half substitutions turned the tide for the Orange and Blue.
“Credit to Louisville, they were difficult for our group, no question about it. Danny [Cruz] and his guys did a good job. It’s always good to win the rivalry games, the games that have a little bit more meaning with certain players that have been a part of it with the fan base. But, like I’ve said plenty of times before, the important part was that we advanced in the competition, our guys did a good job of winning the game in the 90 minutes.”
The story of the night was 15-year-old Stiven Jimenez, who made his professional debut, with the youngster playing 76 minutes and creating the first big moment of the match, playing Ordoñez through on goal after challenging for a ball in midfield.
“A 15-year-old started tonight,” said Noonan. “That’s pretty cool. He saw good minutes tonight at this stage and that is credit to his growth and his maturity for us, for me and for our staff to say we’re confident in putting him out there and still being able to win a game. I thought there were some things that he did well, but I think his maturity level in the field, the way he sees and reads the game, I was pleased with that.
Jimenez has appeared in all four matches for FC Cincinnati 2 this season, starting three matches and playing 290 minutes.
“I was pretty nervous at first,” said Jimenez. “But Matt [Miazga] came up to me and said ‘Don’t be nervous. Get some touches, play simple and complete your passes.’ And that helped me a lot, I took that advice for when the match started.”
Family and friends were in attendance to watch as Jimenez became the youngest player in FC Cincinnati history to appear in a match for the first team.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment and dreaming of this moment since I was a little kid. I couldn’t sleep the night before knowing I was starting. My whole family came out here to support and that motivated me to play harder.”
Ordoñez would win it for the Orange and Blue late in the match scoring his first goal for FC Cincinnati in the 85th minute.
“I feel like I should have been a bit sharper in the first half,” said Ordoñez. “Every match is preparation and a chance for me to work on my fitness, touches, and overall sharpness. I should have put away the first opportunity I had but I’m just glad we are advancing.”
FC Cincinnati returns to MLS play this Saturday against first-place New England Revolution with a chance to reclaim the top spot in the Eastern Conference. You can catch the match on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV at 7:30 p.m. ET.