While last season produced countless ‘firsts’ for FC Cincinnati, Saturday evening’s 2023 season opener delivered a few more. For the first time in the club’s MLS history, FC Cincinnati began the season with three points and a 1-0-0 record following a 2-1 win over Houston Dynamo FC. Saturday also marked the first time the Orange and Blue played a home match in February, and the team opened at home for the first time ever.
FC Cincinnati’s goals were scored by Sergio Santos and Obinna Nwobodo, their firsts for the club. Saturday marked the club debut of two players, Santiago Arias and Yerson Mosquera. It also saw the on-field debut of the club’s new River Kit.
But the three points did not come easy at the expense of the visiting Dynamo, a team which finished in 13th out of 14 clubs in 2022. Statistically, FC Cincinnati had five fewer shots, never once took a corner kick compared to Houston’s seven, and maintained about 38 percent of the possession.
But in Saturday night’s press conference at TQL Stadium, second-year Head Coach Pat Noonan had nothing but praise for the sold-out crowd of 25,513.
“One of our goals is improving our home record and our performances in front of our home fans,” Noonan said. “Certainly the growth of the group and how we ended last year, I think, gives the fans in the town something to be excited about with our team. But we also need to reward them with our performances in the stadium. And the performance wasn't good enough on the evening.
“But, I think the atmosphere carried us. From last year in the D.C. game, to this opener, it’s night and day. The team didn’t perform better, but the fans did. And that’s a credit to the growth of not just the fan base, but the environment … the fans won tonight, it was a great atmosphere.”
Saturday’s kickoff temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit marked the second-coldest starting temperature for an MLS match in Cincinnati. That did not stop a packed house from delivering the best atmosphere in the Queen City on the evening.
And the ninth sell-out of TQL Stadium by no means will be the last. In 2023, 16 league matches remain, at least two home fixtures in the inaugural Leagues Cup are slated for over the summer, potential U.S. Open Cup ties and with of course another ‘first’ which is hoped for, a home playoff match, there is plenty of anticipation in the Queen City this year.
Saturday night in his press conference, Pat Noonan had one more glistening review of the crowd within TQL Stadium.
“Tonight, it felt different. It felt like despite our performance, the energy was fantastic. And so that carries players in tough moments and that’s important. And that's what we're trying to create, and on a night when we're not good, you need that. So hopefully we can improve our performance, and then when you combine the two, teams will really feel it when they come here.”
After a trip back down to Florida to face Orlando City SC next weekend, the next opponent that Orange and Blue supporters will be able to cause a raucous atmosphere for is defending Concacaf Champions League winners Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday, March 13. Tickets are available now at FCCincinnati.com/Tickets.