Miles Robinson shines on both sides of the ball as FC Cincinnati earn confidence-building victory


FC Cincinnati earned a victory in their first MLS road match for the first time in club history Saturday night, setting an important tone and taking a metaphorical weight off the team’s shoulders early in the season.

It was also the first time FCC captured a league match in 2024, and while obviously not the first win, or even road win, of the year with their success so far in the Concacaf Champions Cup, getting a victory away from home builds confidence and earns a vital three points.

“It's important to win games early on, I say it all the time … you don't want too many games to go by where you're searching, you know, and chasing that first win,” head coach Pat Noonan said on the meaning of the victory. “So I think that's just important for the confidence of the group.”

With a victorious 2-1 result against Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field, The Orange and Blue remained undefeated in 2024 and continued a successful string of games amid a busy opening chapter to the season. Aaron Boupendza made his first MLS start of the year, scoring what is quickly becoming a classic Aaron Boupendza type goal by hitting a strong left footed shot from the top of the box past a helpless diving keeper; and Miles Robinson opened his account with his new club by neatly putting away a corner kick from Luciano Acosta to secure match winner. 

For teams in the Concacaf Champions Cup, year-over-year it proves difficult to be successful in both the competition and in MLS play. With midweek matches every week, teams have to rotate lineups and get results to go far in the tournament while maintaining league play standards to remain in the hunt for regular season trophies and preferred playoff seeding. There are countless examples of it going wrong, but the fact remains that through four matches in 2024, four tests, FC Cincinnati has answered the call and got a result in each of them.

“I think through the first four games, I'm pleased with what we've seen,” Noonan said. “We go into the next four-game stretch and we're going to need to be very mindful of the recovery in how we make our rotations when the time's right. I think tonight was a really strong road performance and hopefully something that will propel us moving forward.” 

Robinson’s performance was, in a way, a coming out party for the highly celebrated free agent signing. The center back had featured in two prior matches, but it was the first time that FCC’s potential with Robinson in the lineup was fully on display.

On top of the game-winning goal, Robinson was a fiend on the offensive end in set pieces, getting his body to multiple crosses to create dangerous situations for The Orange and Blue. While FCC was effective in scoring set pieces or otherwise similar goals in 2023, it has become clear quickly just how different a dynamic Robinson brings to offense in his position and how another weapon in the arsenal is an exciting prospect.

“He's just aggressive … he definitely has a knack for it,” defender Matt Miazga said of Robinson’s ability on set pieces. “It’s definitely a good trait to have. He gets in the right spots … he stuck with his run and was able to get a good goal.

What was most exciting though was for the first time in MLS play, FC Cincinnati was able to utilize its revamped back three center backs of Robinson, Miazga and Ian Murphy. While they weren’t able to keep a clean sheet due to a penalty kick decision prompted by a VAR check, the defensive core shined brightest Saturday night as they dispatched the Fire offense time and time again.

Before danger could even arrive, FC Cincinnati center backs were there to divert the trouble, swooping in to intercept direct passes and shutting down build ups with pressure or a tackle to cause a turnover. Their performance resulted in Chicago taking just five shots on the night (outside of the penalty) with only one reaching its target, prompting praise from their head coach for the superb effort.

“Defensively, it's been strong. We have obviously a ways to go in some of the attacking ideas. … I think Miles is a strong player, you know, we can see that,” Noonan said. “So inserting him into the backline I think you can see we haven't lost much in terms of the way we defend. Whether it's higher up the field, whether it's defending the box, he’s stepped right in and been a presence for us.”

FC Cincinnati is set to start another challenging stretch, with a home-and-home series beginning  Thursday against Liga MX giant CF Monterrey in the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16. Given The Orange and Blue’s upcoming opponents, including two league matches (at home vs D.C. United and on the road at the New England Revolution), FCC needs to bank as many confidence-building victories as possible. And now, having earned a league victory, FCC is ready to turn the page to the next challenge.

“I think these games are the games you want to play, these high-stakes games against great opponents,” Robinson said. “It's always good to start the season strong. I think this can just add to our confidence, and hopefully, we can get some momentum for a win like this into a massive game at home.”