Boasting an impressive undefeated streak at TQL Stadium in all competitions this season, FC Cincinnati and the visiting Pittsburgh Riverhounds had some similar qualities in terms of being on hot streaks. Cincinnati entered the match atop MLS’ Eastern Conference while Pittsburgh currently are second in the USL-C’s Eastern Conference, winning their last four league matches and going undefeated in their last nine across all competitions.
But the MLS side used early goals in the second half to propel them into the US Open Cup Semifinals with a 3-1 victory to continue their record of not losing at home and advance in the competition.
Rather than bunker down and defend FCC’s attack like several lower division clubs often do, Pittsburgh opted to take a more proactive strategy and challenged the MLS side. In the 23rd minute, Pittsburgh’s Luke Biasi took a page from the cities’ NFL counterparts and essentially made a football tackle against a streaking Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta, who had space for a run at the top of the Pittsburgh box.
Biasi only got a yellow for his effort with the gamble paying off in the moment as Acosta’s free kick sailed well over the Riverhound’s goal. This play followed through the half as both teams amassed four yellow cards and 14 fouls. The teams would hit halftime a bit bruised and scoreless.
After a handful of substitutions to begin the second half, Cincinnati took a much more commanding presence and would shortly break through to open the scoring. A beautiful, but controversial, passing sequence lead to Cincinnati scoring in the 56th minute with Brandon Vazquez putting the home side ahead. It was thought that Dominique Badji was offside but after conversations among officials, the goal would stand. The goal is Vazquez’s second of the 2023 Open Cup tourney and eighth all-time.
Alvaro Barreal added to the lead as he turned a corner from Acosta into a one-timer. The rocket from the top of the box launched into the left corner of the net to give FCC a 2-0 lead.
Despite many substitutions, Pittsburgh couldn’t generate enough momentum to pull themselves back into the match.
Extra time did see more scoring as Cincinnati’s Santiago Arias headed in a Barreal corner then shortly after, Pittsburgh’s Tola Showummi snuck in behind the FCC defense to get one back for the Riverhounds.
This will be FCC’s first trip back to the Open Cup Semifinals since 2017 when the club was still in the USL.