It was a beautiful spring night for the FC Cincinnati home faithful as the hosts broke their New York City FC curse, earning their first win against the only MLS opponent they hadn’t beaten (0-6-2 all-time entering the night) by a final score of 1-0 at TQL Stadium.
“Really strong performance,” said Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan, “Really pleased with the collective but a lot of individual performances from the guys. I thought they were ready to play against a very good New York City team that can make you chase the game. I thought there was a lot of things the guys did well and I’m pleased for a lot of reasons, but especially for some of the guys that don’t get to start week-in week-out.”
The hosts entered the match with an unblemished home record, 7-0-0 across all competitions, while the visiting Pigeons entered winless on the road, 0-4-2 this season. Cincinnati also had the advantage of the upcoming weekend off, with their next match Wednesday, May 17 vs. CF Montreal, while NYCFC has a big upcoming derby match this Saturday against the New York Red Bulls. As a result, Cincy fielded a stronger XI with less rotation.
Of note for Cincinnati, 2019 US Open Cup Champion (with Atlanta United) Brandon Vazquez made his 100th appearance for the club in all competitions, joining Nick Hagglund as the only players to do so for the club. Meanwhile, City had an unfortunate last-minute change to their starting XI as Alfredo Morales was injured in warm-ups and was replaced by Justin Haak.
The action got underway quickly, with Cincinnati and NYCFC trading opportunities within the first 15 minutes, with City’s best chance a deflected shot from near the penalty spot by Gabriel Segal that went out for a corner, while Cincinnati’s Yuya Kubo ripped a long distance effort off a recovered free kick that was parried just over the crossbar by Matt Freese in goal.
The action would continue as Cincinnati picked up two quick yellow cards – Obinna Nwobodo in the 12th minute, followed by Yerson Mosquera in the 21st. The latter set NYCFC up with a dangerous free kick, which was played to the left side of the box and headed just wide of the far post by Tony Alfaro.
Cincinnati was quick to respond with a chance of their own in the 25th minute, as a back post ball from the right wing got by everybody and forced Freese to parry a narrow-angle shot from inside the box. A significantly longer range effort was attempted in the 31st as Vazquez attempted to catch Freese off his line, but the NYCFC keeper was just able to recover and catch the on-frame attempt. Shortly after re-distributing, Cincinnati forced a turnover and found a free Vazquez in the box, who ripped a mid-range shot forcing Freese to tally another save in a busy first half.
The final 15 minutes would bring some calm as neither side generated a significant chance, leaving things scoreless entering the halftime break. Neither side would make a change and we’d begin the second half as we started on the field.
It was slower going in the opening segments of the second 45 minutes, with neither team able to find a critical break-through pass to generate a true chance. But that changed just before the hour mark, as Cincinnati forced a corner. Alvaro Barreal floated a ball into the crowd at the top of the six-yard box and Brandon Vazquez did what Cincinnati fans have grown so used to seeing, as he rose above the crowd to nod the ball past a frozen Freese to give the hosts the opening score of the evening in the 56th minute.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) May 11, 2023
NYCFC would try to find an answer by subbing out their entire front three in the 61st minute, who had a lackluster night on the road not for the first time this season – with Segal, Talles Magno, and Jasson leaving the field for Santi Rodriguez, Gabriel Pereira, and Richie Ledezma. Cincinnati would counter and bring on some firepower of their own a few minutes later in the 67th, bringing on fan-favorite Luciano Acosta in place of Yuya Kubo.
NYCFC would get a chance to do just that with a corner in the 79th minute. A well-taken ball into the center of the box was found by the head of James Sands, but Alec Kann was on hand in the Cincinnati goal to parry the attempt away before the ball was cleared to safety. City would continue to pile on the pressure as their attack opened up, looking for an equalizer and forcing a yellow card out of Matt Miazga in the 81st. But City’s now-open attack would leave their defenders more frequently in one-on-ones, ultimately resulting in a yellow card for Tayvon Gray a minute later.
There was a scary moment in the 87th minute as the game wound down, with Justin Haak and Nwobodo colliding in midfield following up on a cleared header. Neither player saw the other and were down on the field for several moments as the training staff attended to them. Thankfully, both left the field under their own power and returned to the game – though not before Haak picked up a yellow for the trouble.
Ultimately, the six minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half wouldn’t be enough to save NYCFC, who saw their road woes continue as Cincinnati’s home record remained perfect, with a final scoreline of 1-0 on the evening.
With the win, Cincinnati advance to the Round of 16 for the third time in team history – having previously reached the Semifinals in 2017 as a USL club, and the Round of 16 in 2019. NYCFC, meanwhile, fail to reach the Round of 16 for the fifth time in seven appearances – having previously made the Quarterfinals in 2019 and 2022.