FC Cincinnati Says, “Hell Yes!”

FCC’s best win of the season so far snapped Columbus’ 27-game home unbeaten streak and atoned a bit for last year’s playoff heartache.
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One win in Columbus isn’t sufficient enough to quell December’s heartache or to purge the fiery pits of misery FC Cincinnati have experienced for years in the state capital. The long-term ramifications of FCC’s deserved 2-1 victory in Columbus Saturday evening won’t be known until the eight long months of Major League Soccer’s regular season are completed in mid-October.

But while acknowledging that FC Cincinnati’s win is likely to have little effect on another potential playoff skirmish between the two foes, recognizing the short-term pluses of a Hell Is Real victory is a must, too.

  • Winning against your rival matters, period.
  • Winning against your rival for the first time ever in their home stadium matters.
  • Winning against your rival matters when your rival hadn’t lost in 27 successive home matches.
  • Winning against your rival matters when your rival could be crowned the club champions of North America next month.
  • Winning against your rival matters when the last time you played your rival reversed a 2-0 second-half deficit in your home stadium in the Eastern Conference Final.
  • Winning and going nine points clear of your rival—Columbus has a match in hand—in mid-May matters a bit less, but a nine-point buffer is a nine-point buffer when it comes to deciding homefield in a potential postseason.

“I couldn’t be more pleased for the group to just come in and play the way we did,” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said postgame. “There was certainly a lot of talking points and previous disappointments, but it was nice for (the team) to, I don’t want to say put some of that to rest because it’s one game, but there was enough talk about our struggles against a good team and tonight we just focused on playing a good game and hoping that our performance would result in a good outcome. And I think it did.”

Lucho Acosta, a limited participant in training throughout the week, gutted out 87 minutes and added two more goal contributions, bringing his total to 12 goals-plus-assists on the season. The captain assisted on Kevin Kelsy’s first club goal in the 74th minute and added his sizzle reel with the soccer equivalent of an ankle-breaking crossover with his 76th-minute score.

FCC had to make an early substitution, bringing on Gerardo “Dado” Valenzuela in the 14th minute for an injured Alvas Powell, who was playing for a hobbled DeAndre Yedlin. Yuya Kubo shifted from striker to right back, and Valenzuela, playing alongside Acosta, delivered an impressive showing, with Noonan calling it “his best in an FCC jersey.”

FC Cincinnati’s league-best defense stood tall, limiting a squad full of gifted attacking talents to its second-lowest expected goal output of 2024. When factoring in the quality of the opponent and the stakes of the match, Saturday was the Orange and Blue’s top display of the season. That FCC responded as such following a disappointing 1-0 victory in Orlando was encouraging, too. April’s weird vibes appear to be firmly in the club’s rearview mirror.

FC Cincinnati and Columbus meet again September 14 at TQL Stadium. Hell Is Real will matter once more.

Saturday’s big win marked the first of three matches in eight days for FCC, which faces struggling Atlanta at home tonight before hosting St. Louis on Saturday night. Atlanta, winless in four away tilts, hasn’t won in league play since March 31, a span of six matches.

Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati’s most lopsided result of 2023 was a 5-1 shellacking in St. Louis. The second-year club has 16 points from 11 league matches in 2024, good for ninth in the West, and is also winless on the road (five matches) in 2024.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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