The Orange and Blue completed a thrilling second-half comeback to split points with Chicago Fire FC on Saturday night in a 3-3 draw at Soldier Field.
It was a quick start for FC Cincinnati who scored eight minutes into the match, the fastest goal of the season so far, as Junior Moreno netted his first of the year.
“I thought we had a strong start,” commented Head Coach Pat Noonan following the match. “But overall, it was an erratic performance. We had a chance to really get some momentum and go up two, but we lost our composure as far as the decision making and simple play was concerned.”
Chicago, still in search of their first win of the season, drew level at 1-1 in the 32nd minute and took the lead 13 minutes later when Rafael Czichos converted a penalty on the stroke of halftime.
“They put us under a lot of pressure,” said Noonan. “And we didn’t do a good job once we were closer to goal and defending in our defensive third. Our ball recoveries and connected passing wasn’t strong and some of our clearances were poor, the big moments before and after the half put us in a situation where we had to work hard to get back in the game.”
That pressure led to a third Chicago goal just 16 seconds into the second half and jeopardized Cincinnati’s unbeaten record. But two goals in three minutes late in the second half rescued a point for the Orange and Blue who remain without a loss.
“Having said all of that, credit to the group for finding a way to get two goals, and really create enough chances where maybe we could’ve walked off with three points,” said Noonan. “I liked the response and being able to be on the road, down two goals, and get a point. Being able to do those things are important, long term.”
With just 10 minutes remaining in the match, Noonan looked to Luciano Acosta to come on and provide a late spark. Acosta, who had been dealing with a knock earlier in the week, made an immediate impact, helping Cincinnati pull one back in the 84th.
“Coach and I talked about it a bit beforehand,” said Acosta on his role off the bench against Chicago. “I knew I wasn’t going to be starting with the knock, but I was available and ready to go. He [Noonan] came to me and asked if I felt good enough to go. I knew the team needed a boost, so I was there for them.”
Acosta showcased his ability to change games with a single pass, picking out Sergio Santos with an exquisite ball into the box from 40-yards out. Santos kept his composure with a soft touch and finished past Chris Brady for his second goal of the year.
“When I lifted my head, I saw that he was free,” explained Acosta on the move leading to the Santos goal. “That was a very difficult pass to make but thanks to God I hit it right and was able to get it into him."
Cincinnati’s number 10 had high praise for the group following the comeback and credited the mentality that helped the Orange and Blue get back into the match.
“The mentality of this group is really strong,” said Acosta. “It was very important for us not to lose this game tonight, and you can see that all of the players we have here, we all want to achieve something, we all want to be fighting for something.”
Santos’ goal energized the side and the Orange and Blue continued to push and pressure Chicago, looking for a late equalizer. Moreno would score his second goal of the match to earn a late point in the 87th minute.
“We never felt like we were out of the match,” said Moreno on his two-goal performance. “Chicago played well after we scored the first goal, they started to possess and we had to drop back, but we never felt like we were out of it. Sometimes the game is like that, you just have to stay with it.”
FC Cincinnati take on Nashville SC at GEODIS Park next weekend before returning home against Inter Miami CF on April 1.