HARRISON, New Jersey − FC Cincinnati didn't have any business advancing from its Round of 16 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match but it defied injuries, tired legs and the busiest schedule the club's ever had to progress in the tournament.
After playing the New York Red Bulls to a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes on Tuesday at Red Bull Arena, FC Cincinnati progressed to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals by winning on penalty kicks.
“I mean, at this point we’ve made it far enough that we might as well go win it," Kann told The Enquirer afterward. "We’re at home in the next round, which is a huge advantage for us with our supporters. Hopefully we can get guys healthy for this next stretch of MLS games and then put up a strong lineup for that (quarterfinal) game, whoever it is we play."
Kann's save proved decisive, and left back Alvaro Barreal ended the shootout when he finessed home his penalty to give Cincinnati a 5-3 lead the Red Bulls couldn't match.
— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) May 24, 2023
"All I can say is I'm beyond proud of this group to come out on top under the circumstances on a night when you could tell the legs weren't there and we were up against it," FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said. "Just found a way. It was really impressive, and the credit is solely with them (the players)."
The first 90 minutes
FC Cincinnati used a starting lineup with seven changes from Saturday's win against archrival Columbus Crew to lead on Tuesday 1-0, for 48-plus minutes. Yuya Kubo scored in the 42nd minute during what had been a short period of successful attacking play by FCC in the midst of Red Bulls dominance.
New York had about twice as much possession as Cincinnati and much of it came in the Red Bulls' attacking third of the field. Once the hosts got close to FCC's goal, the Red Bulls fired off 35 shots, out-shooting the Orange and Blue by a roughly six-to-one margin.
"RBNY's" dominant play finally paid with the final whistle looming when Vanzeir scored in the 92nd minute, which pushed the match into 30 minutes of extra time.
Over the two 15-minute extra-time periods, the Red Bulls still dominated possession and with their chances but couldn't find a winner. FC Cincinnati used dogged defending and multiple blocks to drag the contest to penalties.
FCC players combined to block 13 shots in the match.
“That’s the only reason we walk off the field with a chance of getting to the ‘PK’ shootout, is just the determination because they (RBNY) were in total control of the game," Noonan said. "It would be wrong to say otherwise. For me, it was less about tactics because when you don’t have legs and you’re just in survival mode, you’re just, at times, reactionary, and you’re just trying to do whatever you can to not over-exert.
"It's remarkable when you think about us really having no business winning the game and us sitting here having a positive conversation. I’ll say it again: It has nothing to do with coaching. It has nothing to do with tactics. It had everything to do with the strong mentality of the players."
In forcing the game into a penalty shootout, FC Cincinnati afforded itself a kind of fresh start. Luciano Acosta, Junior Moreno, Dominique Badji, Yerson Mosquera and Barreal all made their kicks to seal the club's progression to the quarterfinals, which FC Cincinnati will host at TQL Stadium on June 6 or June 7.
The road ahead, plus injury concerns
Cincinnati will host the winner of Wednesday's Round of 16 match between lower-tier Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and Columbus.
With the addition of the quarterfinal match FC Cincinnati is now slated to play at least 40 games this season, which is a club record for a calendar year.
The quarterfinal game will also mean FC Cincinnati goes a full month playing multiple matches per week. It's a busier schedule than many involved with FC Cincinnati, including Noonan, say they've ever experienced.
Brandon Vazquez, Sergio Santos and Brenner Souza da Silva were unavailable Tuesday due to injury. Matt Miazga was available off the bench but had groin soreness revealed before the match, which made his introduction to the Red Bulls game significantly less appetizing.
Miazga ultimately didn't play, and with Nick Hagglund exiting the contest due to a possible hamstring injury, FCC will be cautious in selecting its starting lineups in the coming weeks, Noonan told The Enquirer afterward.
“Our eleven (starters) will have a lot of rotation," Noonan said. "Unfortunately, you can’t get through this with any consistency in the group. You try to be smart about how you get two or three new pieces each game that doesn’t have wholesale (changes). But the reality is, based on how things are playing out, maybe it is where, to keep the freshness of the group, it’s rotating more than you like to.
"As we know, it’s hard when you make a significant amount of rotations to get a result but we’ll see how we come out of this to field the strongest possible group for Colorado. Again, it’s going to be a similar approach where we take inventory and see where we’re at.”
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Round 1: Luciano Acosta converts for FCC; Dante Vanzeir saved by Alec Kann. Cincinnati leads.
Round 2: Junior Moreno converts for FCC; Elias Manoel converts. Cincinnati leads.
Round 3: Dominique Badji converts for FCC; Wikelman Carmona scores. Cincinnati leads.
Round 4: Yerson Moquera converts for FCC; Cristian Cásseres Jr. converts. Cincinnati leads.
Round 5: Alvaro Barreal converts, FC Cincinnati wins.
To penalties (end of extra time)
It's a lottery and no one really, truly likes settling an important soccer match this way. But penalty kicks is how this Round of 16 match will be decided. Luciano Acosta forced a save in the second extra-time period. Dante Vanzeir nearly hit a winner in the 128th minute, but there wasn't a decisive goal to be found by either team.
Halftime of extra time (105')
Other than a tackle by Joey Akpunonu inside his own penalty area that drew shouts for a penalty kick, FC Cincinnati managed to stay the course in the first extra time period, although the Red Bulls are dominating possession. New York feels more likely to find a winner in the final 15 minutes upcoming. Again, if the score stays tied at one, this match goes down in the record book as a draw and penalty kicks will decide which club advances.
Headed to extra time
FC Cincinnati led for 48-plus minutes and into the closing moments of regular time, but the Red Bulls managed to pull even through Dante Vanzeir, who was recently reinstated by the Red Bulls following a lengthy suspension for using racist language during an MLS regular-season game. Ninety minutes wasn't enough tonight so the clubs will now play two 15-minute periods of extra time. If they aren't separated after that, the match will be decided by a penalty shootout.
And for the uninitiated, this is not how the MLS regular-season works. Matches end in draws after 90 minutes. That doesn't change until the MLS Cup playoffs, when extra-time and penalties are utilized when necessary.
The closers couldn't close (90+)
Dante Vanzeir, who was recently reinstated by New York Red Bulls after a lengthy suspension, pulled New York level. We have 1-1 late on in Harrison. Extra-time is looming and the Red Bulls are firmly on top.
The closers are on (80')
FC Cincinnati's gradually introduced Dominique Badji, Alvaro Barreal, Ray Gaddis and, in a few moments, Junior Moreno to help protect the 1-0 lead. RBNY has dominated long stretches of the half but still can't find a goal.
Yuya Kubo's fifth-career goal for FC Cincinnati (six if you include the Sept. 21 friendly against Chivas Guadalajara) has his club halfway to a quarterfinal-round match at TQL Stadium on June 6. New York isn't going to go quietly at home, though.
Kubo's first of 2023 (42')
A strong movement keyed by Luciano Acosta in the middle of the field, and continued by "Lucho" on the edge of the New York penalty area, ended with a cool Yuya Kubo finish for 1-0. It was Kubo's first goal since the 6-0 rout of San Jose Earthquakes in MLS regular-season play Sept. 10.
Scoreless stalemate so far (25')
FC Cincinnati doesn't have much going forward and certainly doesn't have an on-target shot. RBNY's ripped a few long-range chances but those haven't hit the target either. FCC looks like a group that hasn't played much together.
Underway at RBA (1')
It's a beautiful night for soccer in Harrison as we get underway at 7:32 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: US Open Cup score updates for FC Cincinnati vs RBNY