While not ‘punished’ in the outcome in Orlando, FC Cincinnati recognize need to learn from underwhelming performance

20240504 ORLvsFCC Match 100

ORLANDO - The locker room had music playing, but the vibe was clearly off as FC Cincinnati began packing to leave the depths of INTER&Co Stadium in Orlando, Florida Saturday night. The Orange and Blue had earned an important three points over a conference foe on the road and extended a winning streak, but it was clear that the room, as a collective, were not leaving the stadium completely thrilled with what had transpired over the last two hours.

FC Cincinnati had earned a 1-0 victory over Orlando City SC thanks to a lightning quick strike from Luciano Acosta 17 seconds into the match, setting a new club record for the fastest goal scored, which stood as the game winner as FC Cincinnati secured its sixth win of the season and its fourth clean sheet.

But after taking that early lead so quickly and a red card that was shown to Orlando City defender Rodrigo Schlegel 23 minutes into the match for a foul on a Yuya Kubo breakaway that was deemed a DOGSO foul (denial of goal scoring opportunity) after a VAR review, FCC struggled to generate the offense that you would expect from a team playing a man up and even at times looked like the roles could have been reversed. It was actually Orlando playing with the advantage, not the other way around

“We didn't deserve a second goal,” Noonan said postgame. “(It was a) Good start. I mean…I don't know what that was—20 seconds, 17 seconds? So, you don't expect that but a very bright start. Good sequence…then up until the red card, there was just some sloppiness with four or five moments where we just couldn’t control the ball and you find yourself defending.”

The disjointed game seemed to have everything going FC Cincinnati’s way. The early goal, the red card, OCSC being forced to make an early sub and burn a substation window in order to adapt to the red card, another two substitutions of starters due to injury and a largely stunned and quiet home crowd as their club’s odds took a sharp decline.

The perfect version of the night would have been FCC sniffing blood in the water and striking again to put the game out of reach. Another goal or two to have some insurance against the counter-attacking tactic Orlando quickly moved to after the red card.

But FCC struggled to gain the forward motion they needed, generating just two more shots on target through the rest of the match and despite owning 54.7 percent of possession and outnumbering their hosts, Orlando out shot FCC nine to seven and had twice as much xG by the night’s end.

“Once the red card happened, we played scared,” Noonan continued in critique of his team. “We played afraid to make mistakes, we lost the intensity in going to the ball and made safe passes. I think we were afraid to go to goal and leave opportunities for them to transition.”

“So credit to Orlando, they were the better team. Despite playing down a man.”

The resounding opinion postgame from FC Cincinnati players was that they need to learn from this kind of performance and understand how it happened, and what to do to avoid it next week and in the weeks beyond it.

But. It is a win, and a tough place to play where the club has historically struggled to snag points. Earning a win, and doing so with a clean sheet, is something to be pleased about and so it’s perhaps easier to learn a lesson when you’re not exactly made to rue it in the same way that losses, or even draws, make you feel even worse.

“We were trying to figure out how to play. We're obviously away from home, we want to defend the lead but there's still 90 plus minutes to play. So you have to figure out that balance and I don't think today we figured it out well,” defender DeAndre Yedlin said post game. “But that's why I said earlier, there's a lot of things that can be learned from this game and fortunately we didn’t get punished.”

The game did put FCC players in a situation that has challenged them and has been a rare occurrence this season. Only once has The Orange and Blue played with a man advantage this season, and after taking such an early lead it added that complicating factor of wanting to defend rather than go on the offense full on.

“Sometimes that can be even more difficult because now they're really sitting in and you have to break them down and they're trying to catch you on the counter and you can get a little bit too relaxed,” Yedlin added. “Where you're not in a good on ball defending situation… so, they caught us a few times there.”

“These are the lessons, and it's better that we learn these now. So that when the time comes, we're as prepared as we can be.”

The victory extends a three game learning streak for FC Cincinnati, devoid of context that is an excellent place to be going into the next match on the calendar. The first Hell is Real Rivalry game at Lower.Com Field - the first time the two Ohio clubs have met since the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals and since Columbus Crew won MLS Cup.

But instead, FC Cincinnati head back to Milford and the Mercy Health Training Center going “back to the drawing board,” in the words of both Roman Celentano and DeAndre Yedlin.

“This is a good opportunity for us to learn and grow in a unique way,” Noonan added. “We'll talk through why the game looked the way it did. I don't think you lose momentum (but) I don't think anybody in (the locker room) is doing cartwheels because of our performance. We won the game on the road and did things well enough to get a win but didn't perform anywhere near what we know we're capable of.”

“Hopefully, we use this as a chance to learn a little bit about ourselves and grow from it.”

Returners and Concerns

Goalkeeper Roman Celentano made his return to action after missing four matches due to injury and earned his fourth clean sheet of the season, stepping up on multiple occasions on the night to keep Orlando off the board when the counterattack left the FCC defense on the back foot.

“Roman was our top performer,” Noonan said. “He made the plays that we needed him to make to walk out of here with three points. So, (it was) a good first game back for him.”

“Personally, it was just nice to be back on the field with the guys,” Celentano said. “It was just nice to get my feet back under me and be a part of the squad.”

Noonan also noted post game that two of his early substitutes, Yedlin and Acosta, were precautionary.

Yedlin, who exited last week with a hip pointer injury returned to action but was removed in the 53 minute after reaggravating the injury and being unable to continue.

Acosta was removed as a precaution for what Noonan described as “dealing with the outside of his ankle.”

“I don't think it's going to keep him out on the weekend, based on the initial assessment. Hopefully, it doesn't progress into a worse situation. So we'll just kind of see what that looks like in the coming days,” said Noonan.