A stoppage-time goal from the visitors was the difference in FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 loss to Minnesota United FC on Saturday night at Nippert Stadium.
These are the takeaways from the match:
Medunjanin: “You don’t score and you let them stay alive.”
The home side started the match on the front foot, creating chances and controlling possession. By halftime, Cincinnati had 59% of possession and had produced eight shots – but only one on target.
So, the biggest takeaway from the previous matches this season lingered into Saturday night: FCC aren’t converting their goal-scoring opportunities.
“It’s frustrating because you go inside this game to win, because every game you go to win,” Haris Medunjanin said. “I think we started very well, with a couple 100% chances that should normally go in. But you don’t score and you let them stay alive.”
The second half was more even, though, and the Orange and Blue found themselves fighting for a point late in the match. After Nick Hagglund made a fantastic block to deny Kevin Molino a clear-cut chance in the 91st minute, the ball went out for a corner. Seconds later – and under controversial circumstances – FCC conceded another corner, and MNUFC scored.
“In the end, they scored,” Medunjanin said. “I think you can call our season how it is this year – it’s not on our side, and every call is against us. You see it also. They had it touch the post and it came directly to his feet, and (Aaron Schoenfeld) scored. It’s frustrating, but I think we can also blame ourselves. We didn’t score our chances in the first half. Like I said, if you don’t score, you’ll probably lose.”
More about that call
As you can see from the video below, Hagglund made it pretty clear he thought he won a goal kick.
But the match official awarded the corner kick, and FCC failed to defend it properly.
“It’s extremely frustrating, especially where we are in the season, where points are so valuable,” Zico Bailey said. “It comes down to something that’s such a crucial decision, and it’s out of our control. So, it’s just extremely frustrating, but we just have to look towards the next game.”
Rather than debate the decision, the harsh reality is that the match never should’ve come to that moment, when FCC were clinging to a scoreless draw and not protecting a one-goal lead.
“So, we're doing well, we get close to goal, get a couple of shots on target as well, opportunities and then you can’t use them, which is so unfortunate,” head coach Jaap Stam. “Then you concede like this, and you’re still losing the game, which is very hard to take.”
As Stam said – and has said throughout the season – the team needs to use the scoring chances they produce.
For example, say Jürgen Locadia’s shot went in against D.C. United in the home opener, and Maikel van der Werff scored against Columbus Crew SC in August, those wins – coupled with a draw against MNUFC – would give FCC 23 points. They’d sit in the last playoff spot.
Instead, Cincinnati took two points from those three games and are last in the Eastern Conference. Slim margins lead to drastic differences.
Bailey impresses in first MLS start
One of the bright spots from the loss was Zico Bailey’s first MLS start.
Down the depth chart at the beginning of 2020, the young fullback had a promising preseason, but couldn’t translate that into league minutes. But with Mathieu Deplagne and Saad Abdul-Salaam both injured, Bailey stepped in and nearly helped FCC to a clean sheet.
“Individually, I think I did well,” Bailey said. “I did what my job is to do – to be solid defensively and try to help in the attack on the wings. Obviously, the result is not what we wanted but we just got to keep going towards the next game.”
With three games remaining in the 2020 regular season, Bailey’s start came at an opportune time. As some players are inevitably playing for future contracts – the reality of every looming offseason – the 20-year-old is trending upward and is an exciting option in the club’s long-term plans.
“He did very well,” Stam said. “For a youngster, coming in on his third appearance and starting, a very good game. In the first half, very good. Very good on the ball, as well, going forward.
“In the second half, a little bit less, but sometimes you can expect that as well. Sometimes, especially in the second half, you need to pick your moments, but he’s doing well. That’s what we’ve seen in training sessions. That is why he gets the opportunity. So, it’s promising.”
What comes next
FC Cincinnati play their last match at Nippert Stadium on Wednesday night when they host Sporting Kansas City. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Following that game, FCC will have two matches remaining in their 2020 regular season: Nov. 1 at Atlanta United FC; Nov. 8 at Inter Miami CF.
The next time the Orange and Blue host a home game will be at West End Stadium in 2021.