20230304 ORLvsFCC Match 053

FC Cincinnati played to a 0-0 draw against Orlando City SC Saturday night at Exploria Stadium.

FC Cincinnati looked sharp early in the team’s first away match of the season down in the Sunshine State. Luciano Acosta pulled the strings in attack for the Orange and Blue as the Argentine playmaker created several dangerous chances throughout the match.

Acosta showcased his quality two minutes into the match, picking up a pass in the attacking third and dancing around a City defender before playing a perfectly weighted pass in towards Brenner, splitting three defenders in the process.

Brenner, who made his first start of the season after appearing as a second half substitute against Houston Dynamo FC, took a quick touch before having an attempt on goal but curled his shot wide of the far post.

Orlando City did well to absorb Cincinnati’s pressure and countered with early chances of their own. Dagur Thórhallsson created a nervy moment for the Orange and Blue in the 10th minute after a marauding run into the box, but failed to pick out a trailing runner after sending a pass across the face of goal.

Facundo Torres capped a four-minute stretch of attacking play for Orlando in the 14th minute after drawing a foul in a dangerous area. Mauricio Pereyra’s subsequent free kick was blocked by Cincinnati’s wall and dealt with to keep Orlando from finding the opening goal.

The match would go into the break knotted at 0-0 with Cincinnati having controlled much of the first-half action on the back of a strong defensive showing.

It didn’t take long for the Orange and Blue to threaten the Orlando goal in the second half as Brandon Vazquez nearly broke the deadlock in the 51st minute. Obinna Nwobodo, who scored and assisted in Cincinnati’s win over Houston, lofted in a cross from the right side of the box to a waiting Vazquez who hit the crossbar leaving the game scoreless.

Acosta and Brenner linked up once again for a chance in the 54th minute. However, Brenner played provider with a long diagonal ball into Acosta whose touch put him past the Orlando defense and in towards goal. Acosta drove into the box with a burst of pace but pushed his attempt wide.

Despite the chances, Cincinnati were unable to find a breakthrough and the match ended 0-0 with the Orange and Blue earning an important early season point on the road. Offseason signing Marco Angulo made his debut for the club, replacing Acosta in the final minutes of stoppage time as Cincinnati pushed for a winner.

“I think we could have walked off the field with three points, no question,” said Head Coach Pat Noonan following the match. “But early in the season, when you go on the road and when you're maybe lacking sharpness in certain areas, specifically, in front of goal, which you see often, it's still important to find a way to get a point, which, credit to the guys, they were able to do.”

It’s the first shutout of the season for Roman Celentano and co. with Noonan praising the defensive effort from the group.

“Really, really pleased with our group’s performance tonight. We know Orlando's a tough team. I know they had to rotate some bodies, but you know, they still have some good players that were on the field tonight. Our group did a really good job of limiting the moments of isolation where they have a lot of creativity in and around goal, and our set piece defending improved.”

FC Cincinnati’s backline remained largely unchanged from last week’s group that featured against Houston with Ray Gaddis replacing Santiago Arias in the starting XI. Álvaro Barreal, Nick Hagglund, Matt Miazga and Yerson Mosquera all played 90 minutes and held Orlando City to seven shots with only one on target.

“I thought we limited their ability to get in the box and get free service,” said Noonan. "So, that's probably one of our better all-around defensive performances, you know, since the last time we played Orlando at home, which I thought was a really good defensive showing from our group. So, that's a good sign and how we defended on the road tonight.”

FC Cincinnati return home next Saturday, March 11, to take on Seattle Sounders at TQL Stadium with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. ET.