On Saturday, FC Cincinnati scored what can be considered the best team goal since the club entered MLS. It came after a week of change that followed a month-plus of on-field struggles.
In a possession that lasted more than a minute, the Orange and Blue completed 16-consecutive passes before Allan Cruz scored in the seventh minute against the Montreal Impact.
But what was more significant than the passing total was how Cincinnati used possession to break the Impact’s press, then slice through their midfield and backline to score. By problem solving and completing simple passes, the club generated a beautiful goal that would make any team proud.
This article breaks downs the goal and includes perspectives from key players during the possession. But first, here’s a look at the goal:
Playing as a lone defensive midfielder, Victor Ulloa dictated the flow of possession. First, he saw Montreal pressing him and cut the ball back to Justin Hoyte at right back.
“We knew that if we moved them from side to side, eventually they were going to stop pressing us and get tired,” Ulloa said.
Initially, however, Montreal’s press and an untimely decision from Ulloa nearly sent the Impact’s Omar Browne bearing down on Cincinnati’s goal. Ulloa attempted a pass to Hoyte once more, but it was blocked. Fortunately, Kendall Waston regained possession, found Hoyte and the 16-pass sequence began.
From there, Hoyte found Mathieu Deplagne on the right. Deplagne one-touched it back in the middle to Ulloa, who first-timed the ball to Roland Lamah. The quick decisions instantly broke Montreal’s press.
But when Lamah was trapped, he played it to Leo Bertone, who rolled the ball two yards to Ulloa, and the defensive mid slipped the ball left to Frankie Amaya.
By the time this happens, Ulloa has five defenders around him. The decision making to find Amaya, who then passes to a sprinting Greg Garza at left back meant FC Cincinnati sprayed the ball 60 yards across the field in six seconds.
“We switched the ball quickly,” Ulloa said. “It was one of the points the coaches wanted us to do and attack down the flank and that’s exactly how the play developed. We moved it to one side, came back, switched it and then you saw what unfolded.”
During that span, they broke Montreal’s press and left the visitors sprinting toward their goal to recover.
From there, Garza dribbled 25 yards into Montreal territory and found Cruz. The Costa Rican was closed down, though, and played the ball back to Amaya, then Ulloa.
Even though the passes moved backwards, Ulloa was 30 yards more advanced from when the possession started and Montreal lowered its pressure. Additionally, the visitors were spread out.
Amaya quickly recollected the ball and delivered a pass forward to striker Darren Mattocks atop the box. Mattocks held the ball up, then found Garza down the left flank. Garza sent it back to Mattocks.
“I really love playing with Darren,” Garza said. “From day one, Darren and I have had a pretty good relationship of knowing how to play with each other. He’s a guy who loves to play with the ball.
“In that moment, I saw that with his speed and just his ability and agility to get past players, I set him up perfectly.”
Mattocks collected the ball, and instantly decided to dribble past two players and then cut the ball back at the end line.
He did this in the span of 16 yards in two touches.
“Sometimes it’s more instincts,” Mattocks said. “Sometimes you just go with the flow. As soon as I see those three guys, I just pushed it to the end line and just tried to run past everybody.
“I glimpsed and there was like four or five defenders chasing back to the line and I’m 100% sure if I’m going to cut it back, I know it’s open and one of my teammates was there.”
By the time Mattocks is milliseconds away from crossing the ball back, Montreal have five players parallel to the top of the goal area. With Cruz drifting nine yards out, the handful of defenders are marooned and effectively useless.
When Cruz swings his left leg forward to shoot, three defenders are on their heels and the goalkeeper is out of position from covering his near post in case Mattocks attempted a shot from an unrealistically-acute angle.
Cruz one-timed his shot softly and the ball floated high, off the cross bar and dipped behind the line. The delicate shot was drastic in comparison to how forcefully FCC broke down Montreal.
"First of all, I am thankful to God, with my teammates,” Cruz said of his goal. “Without their work, we wouldn't have done it. Thank God we were able to win, since we had a winless streak.”
And that’s how FC Cincinnati scored their first goal in an eventual 2-1 win Saturday at Nippert Stadium. The finish itself wasn’t clean, but the passing was.
If this was an introduction into how the Orange and Blue will play under Interim Head Coach Yoann Damet, it was a promising start.
But what if Cruz missed the shot?
“I was like, ‘Please get in, please get in, please get in,’” Mattocks said before laughing. “We worked so hard trying to cut that ball back.
“It’s good he was there and that felt really good that it went in. Scoring so early in the game eased the pressure a little bit. I thought, ‘OK, we can keep the ball and play,’ and in the first half we kept the ball really, really well.”