FC Cincinnati’s MLS is Back Tournament run concluded early Wednesday morning when the Orange and Blue drew the Portland Timbers, 1-1, but lost, 4-2, in the ensuing penalty shootout.
The result means FCC are out of the tournament after winning their last two group-stage matches and earning a draw through 90 minutes against the Timbers.
Here are the takeaways from the performance.
“We showed a lot of improvement.”
When Matheiu Deplagne spoke about Cincinnati being eliminated on penalties, it was clear the shootout didn’t change his perspective on the game.
“Penalty kicks are like the lottery,” the defender said.
It was Deplagne who put FC Cincinnati in front momentarily in the 61st minute before the VAR decision ruled the Frenchman was offside on Haris Medunjanin’s free kick into the box.
And he was part of a backline that kept the Timbers quiet throughout most of the night. Even head coach Jaap Stam said the opposition scored on the one mistake Cincinnati made.
But then FCC responded with a converted penalty kick from Jürgen Locadia in the 81st minute.
In truth, the match summarized Cincinnati’s time in Orlando: After a setback, the team addressed it and adjusted, leading to rapid progress.
Yes, if FCC advanced on penalties to the quarterfinals, that would reiterate the club’s recent growth. But losing the “lottery” won’t discount the performance the team delivered against Portland.
“Disappointed because the result is not there for us, but we show a lot of character after conceding the first goal and to organize after,” Deplagne said. “I think we have opportunities to win the game, but that’s it. It’s the knockout stage, so we end, we can end like this, but we showed a lot of improvement during the tournament. So, that’s good for the future.”
FCC found success returning to a 4-3-3
Another example of improvement from the Orange and Blue was how quickly the side adapted from the 5-3-2 to the 4-3-3 after conceding.
The change came when Locadia made his MLS is Back Tournament debut, but it showed Cincinnati can play effectively in both systems that Stam has implemented since his arrival. Siem de Jong and Fatai Alashe also created attacking opportunities that left their head coach pleased.
“I think they’ve done very well,” Stam said. “They’ve helped us (going) forward. After that, I think we were the better team. We created, we dominated. We made the equalizer eventually as well by getting the penalty.”
Stam: “We need to keep on working.”
Although the penalty shootout went Portland’s way, Jaap Stam was pleased to see his players were disappointed with the outcoming, which meant they’re putting pride in their performances.
“We had a chance to win this game, which we didn’t,” he said. “The players are disappointed. That’s a good thing and that’s very, very positive. We need to keep on working. We need to keep on building what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. Then, hopefully, we can make steps and then get points in the league.”
What comes next
The Orange and Blue have been eliminated from the MLS is Back Tournament and will return to the Queen City.
MLS said it’s interested in playing regular season matches in home markets later this year, but there’s no confirmation if and win play will resume after Orlando.
As of now, Cincinnati sits eighth in the Eastern Conference standings with six points from five matches.