FC Cincinnati’s first trip to CITYPARK to face St. Louis CITY SC started on the wrong foot – once it finally got started – and never improved. Following the longest weather delay in club history, the hosts scored on a superb strike in the 3rd minute from Jared Stroud and never looked back in what would turn out to be a 5-1 win for the expansion side.
CITY SC replaced FC Cincinnati atop the Supporters’ Shield standings with their Western Conference-leading 18 points. The Orange and Blue, who enjoyed one week as Supporters’ Shield leaders, fall back slightly, but just one point behind at 17.
FCC had their chances. Head Coach Pat Noonan even said that it “certainly didn't feel like a 5-1 game.” St. Louis had five shots on target by the time it was 5-0 for the hosts in the 57th minute. They finished the game with seven shots on goal compared to five for FCC.
“We had a strong enough group to go out there and get a result,” Noonan said, “You can go a lot of ways with this one, but it certainly didn't feel like a 5-1 game. But it was, so that's where we need to figure out the areas that we went wrong.
“I think [St. Louis] just were far superior in boxes tonight, you know, I think, five shots and five goals is what I saw at one point, so, everything was going in. And then in the moments where we were able to get in and around goal, we weren't decisive, and passing up on shots ... could have gotten our shots off or just not able to win a 1-v-1 duel. So that was certainly the difference in the game and the scoreline. But I thought there was a lot that we did well, outside of those big details, certainly.”
Noonan, a nearby native of Ballwin, Missouri, and the rest of the Orange and Blue experienced CITYPARK and Major League Soccer in the Gateway to the West. A raucous crowd remained for the nearly 10 p.m. local-time kickoff, despite a 2-hour, 11-minute weather delay which saw tornado warnings, lightning strikes and heavy rain in the St. Louis area.
In many ways, the evening saw similarities to FC Cincinnati’s 2022 season-opener at Austin FC.
Then, in the first game under the Noonan regime, the Orange and Blue visited a young Western Conference opponent in a shiny new, state-of-the-art stadium. That night, February 26, both started and ended poorly, with Austin FC’s Cecilio Dominguez’s 2nd minute goal opening what would turn out to be a five-goal barrage for the hosts.
Dominguez’s goal was the quickest goal FCC had conceded in a game prior to Saturday night’s third-minute strike from Stroud.
That dark night for FC Cincinnati was the last time the Orange and Blue had allowed as many goals in a game as it did Saturday night in St. Louis. Saturday also featured an unfortunate own goal, the most-recent since Alec Kann’s against Austin last season.
Of course, as history would prove, Pat Noonan’s squad responded from the ugly blemish in Austin and would go on to set club records in just about every statistical category, most notably in wins (12) and points (49) to clinch the first playoff berth (and win) in the franchise’s MLS history.
This time around, instead of nothing to back up an anticipated and expected positive response such as was the case last year, FC Cincinnati are still 5-1-2 with 17 points through eight games. The Orange and Blue’s head coach was quick to note what he expects in the week ahead.
“The expectations are to have a strong response,” Noonan said. “I think the group is, understandably, down. But I think if you were to walk in that locker room, it wasn't one of those situations where things are being thrown and guys are overreacting. I do think guys understood that the way the game played out, we missed out on the boxes tonight.
“But you can kind of feel when you get walked off the field, played off the field, and when you do some things well, and I don't think we were played off the field, but we just didn't do enough in the moments that we could score goals and they did."
FC Cincinnati have the chance to right the ship next Saturday, April 22 when the Portland Timbers come to town for the first time since the inaugural home game in club history at Nippert Stadium back in March 2019.
The Orange and Blue will enter the night one of just two 4-0-0 teams (LAFC) on their home field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET, and tickets are available now at FCCincinnati.com/Tickets or by calling (513) 977-5425 (KICK).