ORLANDO, Fla. – A minute or so after the final whistle, Alvas Powell sat on the grass, took off his cleats and laid on his back. Behind him, plumes of purple smoke began to blanket the air.
His reaction embodied the afternoon.
After things started poorly – Greg Garza injured his right calf in a non-contact injury six minutes into the match – FC Cincinnati responded, recovered and eventually led the game.
But just like the Garza injury, problems continued mounting.
Tied at halftime, Cincinnati began trailing 2-1 five minutes into the second half after VAR ruled Kendall Waston tackled Lamine Sane in the box. After Spencer Richey blocked Nani’s penalty, the Portugal international buried his rebound.
He scored again in the 59th minute. Tesho Akindele added his second five minutes later, which was eventually bested by Dom Dwyer in the 82nd minute.
So, by the time Powell laid on the pitch, FC Cincinnati had seen their one-goal lead spiral into conceding five unanswered and an eventual 5-1 loss to Orlando City SC on Sunday afternoon at Orlando City Stadium.
“I think in the second half, that call was a tough one,” Interim Head Coach Yoann Damet said the start of the second half. “We come back from the changing room, and straight after there is this call … We want to change the mentality, and there is still little things that triggers reactions.
“At some point in the second half, we went through emotions at times, but that is part of the process. We know that we are not going to fix everything in two weeks, so we have to keep working.”
And that’s Cincinnati’s reality.
After the 2-1 win against the Montreal Impact last week at Nippert Stadium, Damet preached that FC Cincinnati can’t get caught up in the moment. While the win was momentous – and was the perfect start to his interim role – it was also the beginning of a new foundation. Progress would take time, Damet said.
Sunday afternoon was another reminder of that. Because despite a strong first half that already saw the team overcome a massive challenge (Garza being stretched off), more followed. Even this match can be seen as a massive challenge that needs to be overcome, captain and center back Kendall Waston said.
“I think we are trying to continue working in those aspects and [building] from behind,” Waston said. “In the first half, with more energy, we are doing it well. We have to improve where we are a little bit tired in this condition of hotness, we need to maintain our focus and we are going to continue working on those things.”
FCC left Orlando City Stadium with more questions than answers.
What’s Garza’s injury status in the short-term? He left the locker room wearing a boot on his right foot.
What’s Cincinnati’s next step? After an impressive win against Montreal, the club followed it with the biggest loss in its brief MLS history.
The first question will likely be answered before the second. But that doesn’t mean the team isn’t looking for the right answers.
“We have to keep working,” Damet said. “It’s easy to say that we want to play, it’s easy to say that we want to have the ball a bit more. It’s one of the most difficult things to do. It’s hard work, it’s also being switched on. We cannot after the first obstacle start asking questions about that, we have to keep working, we knew it before. The guys were aware of it and we’re going to build on that, on the positives.”
As Powell laid on the grass, his teammates eventually came to him. Frankie Amaya, who played his first full MLS match, greeted him. Soon, Fanendo Adi, who’s often alongside Powell off the field, came over. Darren Mattocks came, too. Eventually, Mattocks reached down and pulled his teammate up.
The gesture evoked the match: just as the forward gave FCC the lead, the defender tried to keep it. Ultimately, the effort failed. The only thing left to do wasn’t to sulk, but to stand up straight, move forward and leave both the field and the Orlando loss behind.