In many ways, FC Cincinnati’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC mimicked their match against Chicago just 72 hours before it.
Under the lights in Orlando on Saturday, FC Cincinnati struck first with a goal from Allan Cruz in the fifth minute. It came from a well-executed pass from Isaac Atanga which nabbed Cruz's first goal of the season.
But after, FC Cincinnati played back, while Toronto pressed on the gas pedal. In the minutes leading up to halftime, Toronto held the momentum. TFC put tight pressure on the Cincinnati defense while FCC struggled to get the ball past midfield without Toronto swooping in to steal possession.
Sound familiar? If you watched FCC's 1-0 win over Chicago, the bells are probably ringing.
On Wednesday in the Windy City, the narrative played out similarly. After Alvaro Barreal scored on a free kick in the 60th minute to put the first goal on the board for either team, Chicago picked up the pace while FCC fell back. It was as if FCC appeared too comfortable in their slim, one-goal lead.
That fallback nearly came for revenge when Chicago put one in the goal during the games' extra minutes but it was eventually called back on offside after review. Regardless, the ending in Chicago proved too close for comfort, and FC Cincinnati wasn't in the mood for deja-vu.
“To be honest, at times they (Toronto) made it dangerous for us,” head coach Jaap Stam said postgame from Orlando. “We defended very well, very focused, concentrated, not giving away too much which is of course very positive.”
With many opportunities coming from Toronto, FCC was able to hold out and tally their second-straight shutout. How'd they manage? In the words of defender Nick Hagglund perhaps it was the defense's "bend don't break" mentality.
“We’re going to throw our bodies on the line. Kenneth came up with a couple good saves, really good punches, guys had a couple good blocks," Hagglund said. "It's a little bit of being in the right spot at the right time. I always say that you create your own luck and when you’re doing the right thing luck comes on your side and sometimes we need that in a game.”
At halftime, FCC changed to a 3-5-2 formation in an attempt to close the gaps Toronto had picked apart at midfield.
"We have to make a few adjustments. When we were coming out in the build up we were a little too wide open so we lost the ball, there was a lot of space in the midfield, we had to make a few adjustments in the second half," defender Joseph-Claude Gyau said.
"We knew coming into the half that they were going to come really hard and that’s what they did. They were getting numbers in the box, throwing numbers forward and we all said we needed one more goal to close out this game."
Finding a rhythm once again, Luciano Acosta scored the teams' much-needed insurance goal in the 68th minute. Fancy footwork lead up to Acosta's dagger and slowed the roll on Toronto's hopeful offense.
“That’s a big improvement from how we played against Chicago,” Gyau said of the team's ability to close the game out. “That was one of the main things that coach told us. We need to continue to keep doing the things that we did to score the goal in order to hold the lead.”
The win means FC Cincinnati will return home from itsir two-stop road trip with six points and two extra tallies on the right side of their record.
FCC flew back to Cincinnati from Orlando immediately after Saturday's match concluded. FCC will hit the road again next weekend to take on Houston.