FC Cincinnati are unbeaten in their last two matches thanks to a scoreless draw with the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night at Nippert Stadium.
These are the main takeaways from the match:
FCC earn “important point” in clean sheet performance
Draws at home aren’t typically celebrated – and this one isn’t, either – but it’s worth noting the scoreless draw was a respectable result for FC Cincinnati. More importantly than the point, though, was the game saw Cincinnati press Philadelphia and control large portions of the match.
After beating the New York Red Bulls in a similar fashion this past Saturday to claim the club’s first road win in 2020, Cincinnati responded by nullifying the Eastern Conference’s second-place team’s attack en route to a nil-nil affair.
“An important point, you can say,” head coach Jaap Stam said. “We would have loved to have three. I think we deserved to have three as well … I’m very happy in how we defended, I’m very happy in how we went forward, and also in the chances that we created. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the three points. We deserved that, but that’s how it goes in sports, we all know that.”
There’s been a noticeable shift to how Cincinnati has played in the past two games. If the opening matches of the team’s in-market return focused on sitting deeper defensively, the Orange and Blue have started using a defensive press – a clear sign that the team is improving and confidence is growing.
“We are pressing more, we're not just sitting back and we’re more aggressive and winning a few more balls up the pitch,” Tom Pettersson said. “It is also making us more confident and gives us more confidence when we win balls. The effort was great and we know if we lose the ball we have to sprint back and win it back and we did that.
“We did everything we could, even though it was sloppy a couple times. We have to bring more quality to get three points, that’s never easy to win games in this league. We just bring more quality on the ball and the same attitude when we don’t have it will improve a lot.”
While that suggests FCC need to be more threatening in the final third, they just earned a result against a Philadelphia side that had won five of its previous six games. The lone loss was against first-place Columbus Crew SC.
Nippert Stadium has become a fortress
FC Cincinnati have played at Nippert Stadium four times this season. All four games have finished 0-0.
Two of those draws were against Columbus and Philadelphia – the two teams that topped the table entering Wednesday night. (The Union are now third behind Orlando City SC.)
It’s worthwhile to note Pettersson said Philly never “felt dangerous” about potentially finding a breakthrough goal. That could speak to the Union struggling to create attacking opportunities, but it also proves FCC are progressing under Stam and within his preferred style of play.
“I haven’t even played against most teams in this league, but I heard they are one of the best teams and I think we can compete with them in a good way,” Pettersson said.
The ability to grind out results at home is invaluable – especially as the team approaches a five-game home stand in the midst of a push for postseason play.
Needing more in the final third
Attacking options were limited for both teams, who combined to produce one shot on target. The home side prevented Philly from even taking a shot on goal, while FCC’s lone shot on target came from Joseph-Claude Gyau in the 92nd minute.
Gyau’s stoppage-time shot nearly snuck into the bottom right corner, but it shouldn’t have taken 92 minutes to threaten Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.
Yes, Cincinnati didn’t allow the visitors to attempt a shot on target, but Wednesday night served as a reminder that FCC are still looking to turn attacking potential into goals and wins.
As always in soccer, if you don’t finish your chance, you cannot win,” Haris Medunjanin said. “I think we had the better chances today, and I think we were the better team today. I think we showed we were fighting, showing heart on the field, we were pressing, and we created a lot of chances. But the chances need to go in if we want to win.”
What comes next
The home match was just a tease, as the Orange and Blue return to Red Bull Arena on Saturday night to face New York City FC. FCC will play at Red Bull Arena for the third time in the last four matches – that stretch began with the two clubs meeting on Sept. 12. Cincinnati lost, 2-1.
Saturday’s game will be the first of three-straight away games before five-consecutive matches at Nippert Stadium.