For FC Cincinnati, selling the idea of progress within the context of losing, and with 27 matches still to play, has proved challenging.
That was again the task for the club following its statistically dominant showing in a 2-0 defeat Saturday at TQL Stadium against the Colorado Rapids.
FC Cincinnati out-shot, out-chanced, out-passed, out-possessed and generally played more attractively than the visitors, who took all three points off the hosts in the first-ever sellout (25,054) at TQL Stadium.
Here are some of the highlights from FCC's side of the box score:
- 54 percent possession versus 46 percent for Colorado
- 22 shots (seven on-target) versus seven shots (two on-target) for Colorado
- 85.3% passing accuracy vs. 82% for the Rapids and more passes attempted
- Fewer fouls (eight vs. 14), more corner kicks (six vs. four) and fewer cautions (two vs. four)
Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough was on the wrong end of an FCC shooting gallery, and all of Cincinnati's biggest and newest stars took part.
By the game's end, FC Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam could only say it was "unbelievable that we are sitting here on our side and we haven't scored a goal."
Isaac Atanga, whom Stam praised for his 63-minute shift, had four shots and forced Yarbrough into two saves.
Alvaro Barreal hosed Yarbrough down with attempts, launching goalward six times and forcing the Rapids' shot-stopper into one of his seven saves in the game.
Pricey Brazilian transfer Brenner Souza da Silva hit the target twice but remained stuck on one goal in 2021.
And in a sight that was all too familiar, Jürgen Locadia came off the bench, created a quality chance from point-blank range and couldn't convert late in the game. The 27-minute appearance for Locadia also might have constituted his last at TQL Stadium with his loan term also set to expire on June 30.
All told, a convincing FCC performance involving a wide array of players didn't produce enough tangibles.
In a tweet following the game, domestic soccer writer and commentator Matt Doyle of MLSSoccer.com said FCC played "pretty well" in defeat.
Stam credited his side with dominating "big parts of the game."
The stats back up both assertions.
Meanwhile, Colorado scored on the only two shots it fired on goal. That only added to FCC's frustrations on the night and in the season in general.
The idea of progress for FC Cincinnati has been hotly debated through the first seven matches as successes have been scattered throughout setbacks.
Since storming to a late comeback win against CF Montreal on May 22 and scoring four goals over a two-match span by the conclusion of that game, Cincinnati's been shut out in consecutive home games and is winless in three tries at its new stadium.
On Saturday, the contrast of Cincinnati's performance against the final score still constituted progress in the eyes of some, including the team's architects, but plenty of noisy critics on social media continued to make their displeasure with the overall direction of FCC heard well into Sunday.
"We also know where we are. You're always talking about things that go wrong but it's not a thing that you need to write always because it's easy also to write my comments and everybody thinks 'oh they must've played a bad game,' and that's not the case because I think we played very well," Stam said. "We did very well. We created a lot and even in that, we could’ve done better. It's very positive in how we approached the game and what we achieved eventually and that’s a part of what we are looking for in making progress and, eventually, I'm very confident we'll get there."
Taking the 2-0 loss to Colorado by itself, few can deny the circumstances of Cincinnati's defeat led to some frustration, as Cruz conceded.
"Obviously, (Yarborough) had some good saves," Cruz said. "We had a few opportunities and we didn't finish them off. When you have those opportunities and you can't finish them, there is a little bit of frustration."