The Orange and Blue claimed their first road win of 2020 on Saturday night when a Haris Medunjanin Olimpico and another clean sheet pushed FC Cincinnati past the New York Red Bulls, 1-0, at Red Bull Arena.
Here are the takeaways from the victory:
That was a comprehensive performance
From the tactics that head coach Jaap Stam deployed, to the individual execution of the game plan, Cincinnati outperformed New York in all aspects of the match.
The visitors pushed the gas pedal early searching for attacking opportunities in possession and a high press defensively out of possession. The aggressive approach led to scoring opportunities – including a disallowed goal from an offside Brandon Vazquez – and eventually paid off in the 85th minute when Medunjanin scored the game-winning goal from a corner kick.
The win was the club’s first since July 22 – when the teams last met in the MLS is Back Tournament.
“Today, we showed a lot of energy and also quality moving forward,” Stam said. “We kept up a long time in the game … We went forward. We created a couple of very good opportunities. We could’ve scored more goals, but this one from Haris is a very important one. It gives us three points.
“The guys deserve it as well because they have been working very hard for it. It’s credit to them that they have done it. Of course, we are happy with that.”
Medunjanin, who scored his first goal for Cincinnati, said he was proud of the team’s display and execution.
“I’m very happy with the team performance because we came out flying,” the midfielder said. “We had a plan today that we were going to press (New York) Red Bull all game … Everybody was sharp.”
Medunjanin: “I was surprised it went in straight.”
As soon as the 35-year-old saw the ball swing toward goal, tap the back post and go in, Medunjanin turned to the stands, blew kisses and thanked the spectators for their applause of his world-class goal.
The irony, of course, is he had just scored one of the best goals in FC Cincinnati history and no fans were there to see it.
“Yeah, I was surprised it went in straight,” Medunjanin said after the match. “It was like five minutes to go and we pushed everybody in front of the goalkeeper, like we did the first game against (New York) Red Bulls, and I was trying to shoot the ball as hard as I could to the goal. Sometimes you need to have a little bit of luck and it perfectly went in, but I am happy with the three points.”
The Olimpico – the first for an FCC player in five seasons – was Medunjanin’s second corner in as many matches against NYRB that led to a goal.
When the teams last met in July, Medunjanin delivered a near-post cross that hit a New York player and spun into the net. Afterward, the midfielder visibly showed he was surprised that led directly to a goal, but was happy it helped the team. He had the same look Saturday night.
“It was a just result for sure, even if Haris isn’t going to hit an Olimpico,” defender Nick Hagglund said. “But he has hit it twice against the Red Bulls. So, maybe it is not a fluke?”
Hagglund personifies strong performances from rotational players
Saturday’s starting XI might’ve been one of the most intriguing ones Stam has deployed to date.
Whether decisions came from injuries, suspension or tactical reasons, he made four changes to the lineup, and all four served critical roles.
Hagglund made his first start of 2020 and provided flexibility to the backline. He often anchored the defense, while Kendall Waston and Tom Pettersson pushed forward in possession.
“From the back, Nick did amazing job,” Medunjanin said. “He didn't play all year long, and he comes in and shows that he's a very important piece for this team and because his energy in the back is amazing. That's why we could push Kendall and Tom to press forward then and it was much easier for us in the midfield.”
Spencer Richey made his first start in goal since March 7 and delivered his first clean sheet since March 24, 2019, at the New England Revolution.
As for other additions, Frankie Amaya delivered another consistently-sound performance, while Vazquez made his first start since March 1 and nearly scored his second goal in as many matches.
It can’t be understated how players who hadn’t started in months delivered a performance like they’re constantly in the starting XI. As for Hagglund, that was his first start since Oct. 6, 2019 – nearly a year ago.
What comes next
FC Cincinnati return to Nippert Stadium on Wednesday night when they host the Philadelphia Union. Fans are not permitted, and it’s the first league meeting between the clubs since May 2019.