FC Cincinnati’s second season in MLS whipped and whooshed to a forgetful close when the Orange and Blue faced two opponents Sunday afternoon: the weather and Inter Miami CF.
Both teams struggled amid Tropical Storm Eta, but ultimately FCC lost against Miami, 2-1, to end the 2020 campaign.
Here are the takeaways from the match.
Stam: “It’s not like the first half was bad football.”
Cincinnati playing against the wind might be the biggest non-personnel disadvantage the club has faced in its five-year history.
Miami, needing a win to clinch a spot in the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, started the match with a tough defensive press to limit the visitors’ attacking opportunities.
But with FCC playing into gale-force winds, the club fought to break the Miami press and the wind just to cross the midfield stripe. They did, but none of their efforts on goal threatened the home side.
Miami took full advantage of the situation and scored twice inside four minutes to seal a win. Joseph-Claude Gyau was able to pull one back in the 66th minute, but Miami held on, won and secured a postseason spot.
“I am pleased with what the guys are trying to bring,” FCC head coach Jaap Stam said. “Second half, it was going to be different, because the wind is different. They need to defend more. You get a big part of the game, in terms of having possession going forward … We scored that one goal. They tried on pushing to get the equalizer. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get that one.
“I am not saying that the first half was bad, because the first half, due to circumstances, it is not easy to play. At times, yeah, we could have done better, but it’s not like the first half was bad football.”
Gyau scores one of FCC’s top goals of 2020
Celebrating goals after a loss can be a bit awkward, but the winger’s goal shouldn’t be underappreciated – especially in the final game.
Gyau, often the lone catalyst of FCC’s attacking creativity throughout the campaign, entered the match with only an assist. In two seasons with the club, he still awaited a first goal.
So, it was a rewarding moment when his left-footed effort knuckled into the top left corner of the Miami goal.
Had Haris Medunjanin not scored an Olimpico against the New York Red Bulls in September, Gyau’s finish would’ve been the goal of the season.
“It feels good, but unfortunately we lost,” Gyau said. “Our plan was to spoil their playoff run. It didn’t work. Yeah, I am happy I was finally able to get a goal, but it’s just a sad way to end the season.”
Stam also praised his winger for the nice finish.
“Joe is always working hard,” the coach said. “I mentioned it to him before the game, and he scored. It was a great goal. It gives you a little bit of a boost, and they keep on pushing. Unfortunately, they couldn't finish it.”
A new forward of the future?
Franko Kovačevic, who joined FC Cincinnati last month, made a lively MLS debut during the loss.
Kovačević finished the match with three shots and a team-high three key passes, per Opta.
“I'm always disappointed when I lose,” the Croatian said. “For me, this was not as great as a team. As a result, you can see that, but I think the team wanted the win. The coach wanted the win and stop everyone. I think we played well. I think we were better.”
Consider the debut a peek into the 2021 season. Kovačević will still be on loan from TSG Hoffenheim, and will be an attacking option alongside Jürgen Locadia and Brandon Vazquez. Locadia recently promised to have a better 2021, while Vazquez just signed a contract extension.
While that trio combined for three goals in 2020, Kovačević’s energetic appearance was a promising beginning for the end of 2020.
What comes next
FC Cincinnati finished their second MLS season with 16 points from 23 games – 0.70 points per match. That trails behind last year’s 0.73 points per game.
It’s expected that there will be significant roster moves to transform FCC from the bottom club in MLS for two seasons, to a side competing for the playoffs.