FC Cincinnati’s remarkable rise up the MLS standings continued with a 2-1 win away at the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
The Orange and Blue have finished bottom in each of their three full seasons in Major League Soccer so far but under new head coach Pat Noonan, look like a revitalized group.
After taking a 1-0 lead through a Rafael Czichos own goal on Saturday, Cincinnati were pegged back as Fire forward Jhon Duran equalized for the hosts in the 83rd minute. But Noonan’s side found the strength to hit back just two minutes later.
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For the first time in their history, Cincinnati have now won four straight MLS matches to climb to fourth in the Eastern Conference. What’s even more impressive is that the Orange and Blue have already won four times on the road this season after doing so just three times in 2021.
For Noonan, an improved ‘mentality’ is the reason behind Cincinnati’s recent success.
“It’s a mentality and they’re figuring out how to do this as a group with a lot of different players contributing to us being able to win some games,” he said after Saturday’s win.
“In this stretch, it’s been necessary for us to understand how to defend longer stretches when our quality with the ball isn’t there. And we figured out in a lot of ways how to do that, to not allow teams to score goals, and we found ways to convert on limited chances.”
Cincinnati need just one more point to match their total for the entire 2021 campaign. But taking the incisive attacking play of Lucho Acosta and Brandon Vazquez out, and forgetting for a moment the midfield control of Junior Moreno and Yuya Kubo, Noonan is most impressed at how quickly his team are able to recover from a bloody nose.
“When [Chicago] get the goal, now at that point, they have the momentum and they had the run of play, certainly a lot of set pieces,” he added.
“You’re looking to find a way to get out of there with a point, and as you said we weren’t at our best and that’s okay, getting the point on the road is always a good thing. But to be able to find a moment to get a goal and walk off the field with three points is a testament to just the mindset of the group.”
Noonan continued: “That’s the character of the group right now, is understanding how to win when things aren’t going our way. The challenge moving forward is how to be better with the ball so that it doesn’t have to look like this every time you win a game on the road.”
Up next for Cincy is a home tie against the New England Revolution on Saturday.