FC Cincinnati looks to make run in first rendition of new MLS Cup format
By Addison Burke, Staff Writer
FC Cincinnati (FCC) is continuing its regular season dominance into the postseason after winning the first round of the playoffs with a clean sweep against the New York Red Bulls.
This year, Major League Soccer (MLS) adopted a new playoff format which includes two wild card games, and the first round was a best- of-three games format. For the first round, each team is guaranteed to play one game at home, and if a third game is necessary, the higher-ranking team would get the final home field advantage. The still-to-come conference semifinals, conference finals and MLS Cup will be single elimination matches.
FC Cincinnati faced the New York Red Bulls, who advanced into the playoffs after a wild card game win, with the first game being held in Cincinnati at TQL Stadium on Oct. 29. The orange and blue proceeded to win the game 3-0. Midfielder Álvaro Barreal led the team to their first goal in the 23rd minute of the game. Midfielder Luciano Acosta scored the team’s second goal during the 35th minute, giving FCC a strong lead heading into the second half.
After receiving a yellow card in the beginning of the second half, Barreal scored the team’s final goal of the night in the 89th minute, sealing their victory.
Cincinnati and New York faced off once again on Nov. 4. The Red Bulls struck first with a goal in the 45th minute of the game by forward Tom Barlow, securing the lead heading into the second half. The orange and blue fought back in the second half with a goal in the 75th minute of the game by forward Aaron-Salem Boupendza. With the score standing still at 1-1 at the final whistle, the game went into penalty kicks to determine whether a third game would need to be played or if FCC would be moving on to the conference semifinals.
FC Cincinnati started off the penalty kicks with Acosta scoring the first goal. Red Bull followed suit with a goal from Omir Fernandez. It wasn’t until the third round when FCC fell first with a save by Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel. New York was close to securing the win in the fifth round, but midfielder John Tolkin hit the right post, leading the penalties to continue. Five more shots from each team ensued with both Cincinnati’s Yerson Mosquera and New York’s Segre Ngoma missing in the ninth round.
Cincinnati started off the 10th round of penalties with a goal by Junior Moreno, and for the Red Bulls to stay alive, defender Andres Reyes had to make his goal in the 10th round.
Victory belonged to the orange and blue after a save by Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celetano sealed the teams advance to the conference semifinals.
In their fifth season in the MLS, FC Cincinnati led the eastern conference with a 20-5-9 record. During the regular season, the orange and blue won the MLS Supporters’ Shield, designated every year to the team with the best regular season record. Because of the Supporters Shield victory, FC Cincinnati will have the home field advantage in all remaining playoff games, including the MLS Cup.
FC Cincinnati will face the Philadelphia Union in the Eatern Conference Semifinal on Nov. 25 at TQL Stadium, with kickoff set for 8 p.m.