If there’s one thing we’ve learned about this team in its opening two matches, it’s that they apparently prefer to leave it late.
Fresh off the heels of FC Cincinnati’s come-from-behind draw with KR Reykjavic where both goals were scored in the final quarter hour of play, they left it even later to score two goals in the closing 3 minutes to pip Major League Soccer’s New York City FC 2-1. An 88th minute goal from substitute Luke Spencer — his second in two matches — and a injury time winner from Harrison Delbridge lifted FCC past NYCFC in their second match at the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic in Bradenton, Florida.
However, it was a goal that was shoehorned in between those two goals that nearly derailed all the fun. Less than 30 seconds after Spencer’s opener, New York’s Thomas McNamara leveled the score with what many thought to be a point-saving effort.
“There’s always going to be these teaching moments, and we got a really big teach moment today,” said Coach Harkes post game. “Don’t switch off. Don’t stay in the celebration mode. We can’t afford to do that. But we responded well, and we really went after them and we didn’t slow down.”
When asked what made the difference tonight for his team tonight, Harkes didn’t hesitate, “It was more about the mentality than anything. Our guys were exhausted, and they hadn’t been pushed like that yet. But that’s a good thing.”
After a week of daily trainings and Saturday’s game against KR, you can understand why mental strength was so key for FC Cincinnati tonight. Thanks to a tireless and very well organized defensive performance over the previous 87 minutes, it seemed almost certain that a 0-0 draw was in the cards. But the team managed to dig deep to not only score two goals in the dying moments of the game, but also recover after conceding one immediately after their first. It takes a certain type of mental fortitude.
Match winner Harrison Delbridge echoed those thoughts.
“The guys put in 90 minutes of really hard work against an awesome team. I think that’s one of the hardest games we’ll play against one of the hardest teams that we’ll play.”
The praise for the team wasn’t just internal though. NYCFC head coach and legendary Fench international Patrick Vieira had kind words for his opposition as well.
“I think they were really brave. They played higher and tried to stop us from playing, and they did well to put us under pressure. They were well organized and gave us a lot of problems.”
While many had looked forward to the game due to the star players that Vieira’s team features, the initial lineups left a little disappointment. Three of the team’s biggest names — Italian Andrea Pirlo, Spaniard David Villa and American Mix Diskerud — started the game on the bench. Englishman Frank Lampard wasn’t even in the matchday squad. But even though NYCFC were without some star power, they were still an opponent to contend with. Last year’s breakout star, Poku, was quietly forceful in midfield and helped City to be control the center of the pitch for large stretches of the game. And McNamara’s sweet strike to level things in the 90th minute was a sign of the depth they had at their disposal. And a late appearance from Pirlo and Villa off the bench made things even more difficult.
But thanks to the aforementioned mental toughness displayed by FC Cincinnati’s players, even that threat wasn’t enough.
With the win, FC Cincinnati now sit atop the standings in the preseason tournament. A win on Saturday against Denmark’s HB Køge would seal up the trophy and — perhaps more importantly — the $10,000 prize given to the winners.
It might still be preseason, but the kind of momentum that a tournament win might bring could prove invaluable to the team’s maiden season.