The long-awaited first home victory this season by FC Cincinnati, a 2-0 victory over Toronto on Saturday night, squashed a number of unenviable streaks:
• After four draws and five losses—the last of which sparked a chorus of booing at TQL Stadium—FCC finally prevailed in its four-month-old, $250-million stadium.
• The triumph was the team’s first victory since it topped Toronto in Fort Lauderdale on June 26, a span of 12 matches and 76 days.
• As noted by FC Cincinnati play-by-play announcer Tom Gelehrter, the club’s last victory with fans in its home stands came on July 6, 2019. So 799 days passed between that 3-2 decision over Chicago 26 months ago and this past Saturday night.
Again, what a difference a week makes. Two weekends ago, Cincinnati were jeered off their own pitch. On Saturday, the fans provided a standing ovation for the players before the final whistle was even blown. By many statistical measures, the Toronto tilt was an evenly played match, with the teams virtually level in possession (51-49% in favor of FCC), shots on goal (5-4 to Toronto), and passing accuracy (85% for FCC, 83% for Toronto).
But the Orange and Blue had the best chances of the night. Brenner got the scoring started in the 39th minute, toeing in a looping cross from Lucho Acosta. In the 58th minute, Haris Medunjanin’s shot from distance ricocheted off two Toronto defenders and found the back of the net. Medunjanin’s wide grin indicated he was well aware of his good fortune, and the score itself was so charmed that it led you to believe that Saturday could finally be the night to end FC Cincinnati’s home plight.
FCC blew a few chances to really bury Toronto, the most notable of which was Acosta completely bungling a 3-on-2 break in the 82nd minute by overdribbling. However, in the end, this was an occasion to acknowledge the perseverance of Cincinnati’s players. Minutes before being subbed off in the 76th minute, Brenner—who leads the team in minutes played—charged back into the defensive zone to pick the pocket of former U.S. men’s national team stalwart Michael Bradley and win possession back for his side. Yuya Kubo, right behind Brenner in minutes played, was dubbed man of the match for another iron lungs showing in midfield. Alvaro Barreal and Issac Atanga (whose quality is starting to percolate a bit) also turned into major shifts, with Atanga battling through a few knocks to log 84 minutes. If there was one defining stat from the night, it was FC Cincinnati tallying 21 tackles won and Toronto notching just nine.
With the milestone victory, FCC has opened up a five-point gap between itself and last-place Toronto in the East. Next up is a road tilt tonight opposite a surging Atlanta side (30 points, 8th in East) that’s won five of past six matches. The last of those victories was a 3-0 blanking of Orlando City, which sits third in the East. Cincinnati and Atlanta played to a 1-1 draw on July 21 at TQL Stadium.
It’s not in Jaap Stam’s nature to heavily rotate his side away from his preferred starting XI—and FCC lacks the depth for him to do that even if he wanted to—but expect a handful of changes tonight due to quick turnaround. It’s possible that Tyler Blackett and Kyle Scott, the latter of whom signed late last month and is a product of the Chelsea Youth Academy, could make the team sheet vs. Atlanta for the first time. Fresh legs will be required to carry over the good vibrations from Saturday and help stymie a talented opponent that’s found its groove.
Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.