The celebration said it all.
Not from Frankie Amaya, who simply wanted a high-five from Adrien Regattin after the goal – but from Regattin jumping into the teenager’s arms to celebrate his first-career MLS goal. Seconds later, their teammates surrounded the duo to congratulate them.
An FC Cincinnati side that lost, 4-0, on Saturday in their derby match, rallied to beat Eastern Conference frontrunners Atlanta United FC, 1-0, on Thursday morning during MLS is Back Tournament group stage play.
The win is Cincinnati’s first in 2020 and arrived in head coach Jaap Stam’s second match in charge.
These are the takeaways from FCC’s win:
Waston: “I think it’s a great win for us.”
In the leadup to Thursday’s match, captain Kendall Waston said he wanted to see a response from the team following the disappointing loss last weekend.
Playing in their first match in four months – and first under Stam – Cincinnati conceded four goals and struggled to create attacking opportunities throughout the majority of the match.
So, how did the team respond?
Stam changed up the tactics and issued a five-man backline. He added a center back and focused on defensive shape and discipline. If an attacking chance arrived, it’d have to be capitalized.
That’s exactly what Amaya’s goal achieved in the 76th minute.
“I think the entire team did a great job,” Waston said after the result. “Everybody was focused on doing what we practiced during the week, just being in shape, being aggressive and looking for the counter-attack. We know we have powerful guys in the side.”
Before this match, Cincinnati hadn’t scored first in a game since their last win in September. For a club that’s had multiple head coaching changes since – and is trying to rebuild – the win over Atlanta was a sign that the club is progressing.
FCC executed their game plan perfectly
The Dutch head coach has made it clear since his arrival that the team is going to need time and patience. Time is exactly what he hasn’t had.
Thursday’s match marked one month since he first met his players in person. Since then, they’ve developed a new playing system and two base formations: a 4-3-3 and 5-3-2.
Against Atlanta, we saw the latter, which meant Cincinnati absorbed Atlanta’s possession, but didn’t allow scoring chances.
Even when Jake Mulraney was sent off for a second yellow, the Orange and Blue stuck to their principles: defend first, then attack.
“Our setup was a little bit more defensively,” Stam said. “We gave them time on the ball, so it looks like they had a lot of possession, but couldn’t create a lot of opportunities. We were calm, disciplined in what we needed to do and waiting for the moments to come out on the break at times.”
Lively runs from Joseph-Claude Gyau, who missed Saturday’s game, provided jolts of attacking energy down Cincinnati’s right flank and opened space for Regattin and Yuya Kubo.
But it was Amaya’s long-range strike that made the difference. Given time – and too much space from the opposition – he punished Atlanta with his first professional goal.
Once the goal came, Cincinnati’s defensive strategy remained persistent.
“Even in possession, we made it difficult for them and they needed to make choices and that’s what we aimed at and succeeded in doing that,” Stam said.
It’s worth noting that FCC also played without two Designated Players – Jürgen Locadia and Allan Cruz – while attacking midfielder Siem de Jong missed the game with a groin injury.
“Phew, it’s been a long time.”
It’s impossible not to smile after this comment from Waston.
Yes, it’s been a while since Cincinnati last won, but the team has been through a lot, too.
Since Stam’s arrived, played have praised the intense practice sessions and wanted to deploy what they learned into matches.
When that first opportunity arrived against Columbus Crew SC, the game led to more questions than answers. So, credit to the players for earning a result against one of MLS’ best teams.
“We have great players in every position,” the center back said. “The thing is that we were sometimes unlucky with the results. We know the quality we have.
“We just have to be focused and believe, especially believe, in what we are doing. No matter if we are down or up in a game, we have to keep with the same mindset. So, this is a great feeling. Winning always brings happiness.”