Tonight, FC Cincinnati and the Chicago Fire enter their game at Soldier Field coming off a pair of shutout defeats, par for the course for the two worst teams in Major League Soccer. The clubs are match made in goal-less heaven. Consider this: FCC has been shut out four times this year, while Chicago has been shut out five times over its past six matches. Yet the two teams went about their misery in wildly different manners over the weekend.
In a 2–0 home loss before the first full-capacity crowd in TQL Stadium history, FCC outshot Colorado 22–7 (7–2 on target), yet again displaying a flair for less-than-clinical finishing. High-priced striker Brenner blew a golden chance early on by shooting right at Rapids keeper William Yarbrough. Isaac Atanga used his pace to blow by the Colorado defense in the 34th minute only to—you guessed it—shoot right at Yarbrough with the entirety of the goal available to him. Alvaro Barreal forced a lunging save by Yarbrough with a free kick in the 69th minute. A minute later, Allan Cruz sent a laser over the crossbar, causing FC Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam to look down and rub both hands over his head on the bench. Jurgen Locadia forced another save in the 81st minute. And before the game was over, Nick Hagglund sent a loose ball in the box over the bar; Brandon Vazquez fired a free kick that barely troubled Yarbrough but went down as a save; Barreal flicked on a header that clanked off the crossbar; and Locadia sent his chance on the doorstep of the goal line right at Yarbrough.
Did FC Cincinnati deserve at least one goal? Yeah. But this club has struggled for goals since joining MLS (last in goals scored in 2019 and 2020), and despite the merry-go-round of high-profile additions to their attacking fleet (Locadia, Brenner, Lucho Acosta, etc.), the Orange and Blue have yet to prove they can finish quality chances match after match.
At least FC Cincinnati made Colorado work for it, though. In an emotional atmosphere in Columbus, Chicago fell 2–0 in the final game at Crew Stadium, which was MLS’s first soccer-specific stadium and has hosted a variety of indelible moments for both the Crew (most recently winning the MLS Cup at home last fall) and the U.S. men’s national team (the site of many “Dos a Cero” victories over Mexico). The Fire, apparently nonplussed by the unveiling of their new primary crest last week, managed 15 shots, but none were on target. Columbus goalkeeper Evan Bush was making his first start for the team but probably didn’t even break a sweat as he didn’t have to record a save.
So Chicago (four points from eight matches, 13th in the 14-team East) and FC Cincinnati (four points in seven matches, 14th in the East) meet tonight with the bottom of the East table on the line. It’s the first midweek match of 2021 for FC Cincinnati, which takes on Toronto (five points, 12th in East) on Saturday night in Orlando in another tussle of downtrodden sides.
Against Chicago, FC Cincinnati will finally take on a squad that failed to reach the postseason last year after opening the season by playing seven 2020 playoff teams in a row. Both of these teams could use a victory in the worst sort of way. Let the battle to avoid the basement commence!
Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the managing editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.