Moral victories have their time and place in the sports landscape. Moral draws? Now that’s pushing the principle, but it applies to FC Cincinnati’s dominant 2-2 draw vs. New England last weekend.
After a 3-0 setback two weeks ago at D.C. United, FC Cincinnati delivered the sort of (almost) complete performance I expected in response, even against the second-best team in the East. The Orange and Blue controlled the match, racking up 22 shots (seven on goal) compared to the visitors’ tally of seven shots (two on goal). Cincinnati vastly outperformed New England in expected goals (1.8 to 0.5.)
The Revolution relied on sloppy finishing by the hosts and All-Star goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic (five saves) to keep them in the match. The visitors were content to let FC Cincinnati control possession (56 percent), a deliberate tactic that has paid dividends for other opponents. In league matches in which FC Cincinnati has cleared 55 percent possession or more, it’s lost twice and prevailed once.
The draw robbed FC Cincinnati of the chance to establish a new MLS record of 11 straight league home victories and also cost them a point in the Supporters’ Shield standings. Dominique Badji, who scored three times in the match (twice for FC Cincinnati, once for New England) described the result as “disappointing” and reiterated the lofty standard the team holds itself to, especially at TQL Stadium. New England’s two scores resulted from dumb luck (Roman Celentano unintentionally parried a long-range shot off of Badji into the net) and a mistake (Ray Gaddis misjudged a clearing header and gave Gustavo Bou a free shot at goal).
On the bright side, FC Cincinnati is inching back to full fitness. Midfielder Junior Moreno remains out after suffering an injury over the international break, and Matt Miazga and Brandon Vazquez are still on Gold Cup duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team. But Sergio Santos made his second straight substitute appearance off the bench, supplying head coach Pat Noonan with another legitimate striker option.
Further, Saturday evening’s match at Charlotte could mark the debut of striker Aaron Boudpendza, signed from the Saudi Pro League to replace Brenner. Boudpendza can officially start training with FC Cincinnati today and shouldn’t require too much endurance build-up after playing 89 minutes for the Gabon national team on June 18.
Unless Badji, named to the MLS Team of the Matchday 22 squad for his efforts vs. New England, continues his strong form (six goals in his eight league starts), Boupendza will slot into the starting XI soon. The 26-year-old’s NOS cylinder of a left foot should duplicate or improve the consistent finishing around the six-yard-box that FC Cincinnati has been devoid of since Brenner departed.
Cincinnati will have the advantage of a full week of rest against Charlotte, which plays tonight at New York City FC. Charlotte entered that game two points out of the ninth and final East playoff spot despite yielding the most goals in the East (35 in 20 matches). Saturday should be an opportunity for the Orange and Blue to rack up their seventh multi-goal effort over their past 11 matches; FCC scored more than once only three times in its first 10 contests.
There will be a pair of matches at TQL Stadium over the weekend, with FC Cincinnati’s home pitch hosting Gold Cup quarterfinal tilts. The first features Guatemala vs. Jamaica at 5 p.m., followed by Miazga, Vazquez, and the rest of the Americans taking on Canada at 7:30 p.m.
Miazga started the first two group stage matches, then played the second half of the final group stage tilt against Trinidad and Tobago. Vazquez has appeared in all three matches as a substitute, and despite tallying a pair goals he’s likely to continue riding pine moving forward. Starting striker Jesus Ferreira has tallied back-to-back hat tricks. Sure, the six goals came against woeful opposition in Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Kitts and Nevis, but given the Amercians’ long standing goal scoring issues at striker it’s hard to see Ferreira being replaced.
Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.