Riding the momentum of a strong start to their USL Championship campaign and a convincing win in their Second Round U.S. Open Cup match due to a brace from Toby Sims, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds traveled to face FC Cincinnati hoping to upset an MLS team that’s still working to find success at the top level. However, it was Alvaro Barreal’s turn for a brace that ended up dispatching the Hounds as Cincinnati won 2-0 after 120 minutes of play.
“I needed it,” he said. “Luckily, I’ve been able to get back on the pitch and I was able to score two goals tonight. It’s been a while without a goal, a while without playing.
“I hope this is the beginning of a new season in the best way.”
This is FC Cincinnati’s ninth win through 14 Open Cup matches and its first USOC win in their current home, TQL Stadium.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) April 21, 2022
With both teams fielding a number of players making either their first starts of the season or earning some of their first significant playing time of the year, neither team could generate much in the way of offensive rhythm early on. Towards the middle of the period, the Riverhounds aimed to control possession rather than to play defensive against their top-tier counterparts. Despite improved pace, neither side would score in the half.
“I thought the first half, we were too often when we won the ball playing negative, and we weren’t able to advance with the ball with any kind of numbers advantage,” said FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan. “I thought we were a little too safe, and they’re organized, credit to Bob and their team, they do a very good job of staying organized and being tough to break down.”
As the second half kicked off, FC Cincinnati mounted their best offensive pressure thus far but Pittsburgh’s keeper Jahmali Waite, in only his second pro start, stepped up to hold off a flurry of challenges and keep his squad in the game. Cincinnati’s Allan Cruz found himself alone near the penalty spot but rang his shot off the right post. Minutes later, Waite handily made a save off a header from just outside the goal area to keep Cincinnati at bay.
As time drew on in the second and neared full time, Cincinnati upped the tempo, seemingly aiming to finish off the game before reaching extra time. Chaos ensued in front of the Riverhounds net with PRSC bunkering in to defend the attacks, eventually ending in a goal line clearance. The game reached 90 minutes still scoreless.
In extra time, Barrealstepped up. In the 95th minute, the midfielder made his way unchallenged through the left side of the box, forcing Waite to engage, resulting in a foul and penalty kick. Barreal easily put that away over the keeper’s left shoulder to give the MLS side the lead. He followed that up with another goal minutes later as a collision between opposing players left the ball to Barreal on that same left side of the box. A cross to the far-side put Cincinnati up 2-0 and on to the eventual win.
“It’s tournament play, you’ve got to find a way to win a game, and we were able to do that,” Noonan said. “Certainly you want to do it in a certain way, which I think as the game progressed, we found more ideas and more objectives that we were looking for, in how we went about winning the game.”