The booing at FC Cincinnati matches is getting louder.
The boo birds have never been deafening around FCC. That's still true, but for a club unaccustomed to live, in-person jeering, it's more noticeable than it's ever been.
The booing returned Saturday at the final whistle of FC Cincinnati's 1-0 loss to Inter Miami CF at TQL Stadium. An announced crowd of 22,234 looked on as FCC produced just two on-target shots while Miami scored in the 90th minute to steal the win late.
Brek Shea, an MLS veteran, provided the only score of the contest after he was played in over the top by teammate Nicolás Figal. The goal was Shea's second of the season, and second against Cincinnati.
Shea also scored the first goal in TQL Stadium history on May 16.
Miami's push for a playoff berth took another step forward as they improved to 7-9-5 after a 2-8-2 start to the 2021 campaign.
FC Cincinnati, which long sought to spark a turnaround of similar proportions, fell to 3-10-8. Its overall winless streak extended to 12 matches.
Cincinnati's record at TQL Stadium moved to 0-4-5, and it remains the only club in MLS without a home victory.
Asked of the booing that occurred at the final whistle, native Cincinnatian and FC Cincinnati veteran defender Nick Hagglund said, "all I want is for the fans to be happy."
"You're job is – you get to make people feel happy and you get to make people feel disappointed when things don't go right," Hagglund said. "It's frustrating but they're entitled to their opinion. I appreciate them coming. I appreciate them feeling. You know, if they came and didn't have any emotion and it was just a thing, it wouldn't be as exciting... They're entitled to their feelings and know that we want to give them wins.
"It's sad and it hurts but at the same time, it's motivation to get it right."
While there was plenty to dissect of FCC's performance, the loss begged big-picture questions during post-match interviews with FC Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam and players.
FC Cincinnati captain Luciano Acosta, who typically responds to English-language questions in Spanish via an interpreter, spoke in English to state his support of his teammates.
"I believe in this group," Acosta said.
Acosta also said the team would adopt the mentality of a cup final for each remaining match.
"When you're where we are in the table and you know you have to get better results, that's how you have to approach every match – that it's a cup final," Acosta said through an interpreter. "Because we know that if we are going to do what we want to do, we need to get those results and that's the mentality of our team."
In response to a question about whether Stam's messaging still resonates with FC Cincinnati players, Hagglund suggested the team's trust in Stam was implicit.
"Jaap is a guy who garners respect from everyone in the team. Obviously, it's hard when you're losing games. Someone does that, someone does (this). You want to get frustrated but it's a collective," Hagglund said. It's a game of moments and we have to stick together and we have to own that. Games aren't just one person's fault, so it's about all of us staying together and we're receptive, of course, to what Jaap's saying. He wants the locker room to stay together. He demands it. He's making sure that it stays together and he understands that it's very easy to break off into groups and (have) chitter-chatter and it's our job to stay together and know that we can turn this around."
A scoreless draw seemed imminent for much of the second half. The clubs combined for one on-target shot through 86 minutes, and it came from FC Cincinnati.
That on-target shot came off the foot of FC Cincinnati's Isaac Atanga, who lashed the ball in from just above the end line. In the end, Miami goalkeeper Nick Marsman wasn't troubled much by the shot.
The second shot on goal also came from FC Cincinnati. On the occasion of his return from June surgery, Calvin Harris curled a more-threatening effort at Marsman that required saving in the 87th minute.
Harris' shot was preceded by Yuya Kubo's left-footed try from about 20 yards out, which was nearly deflected toward the goal but ultimately skipped just wide.
Cincinnati's late flurry was completely undone moments later by Shea's goal.
"With the team, the conversation is very well and they also feel in how they play because they stick to the plan, and that's what we've done the majority of the time, you can see you make it very difficult for the opposition," Stam said. "We need to be more decisive in certain situation and you concede a goal, which is easy to avoid. And now you can say, yeah, you can blame one guy that he's not aware of his opponent making that run but it's every game, it's a different player that maybe is making a different choice.
"The most important thing for us, and I mention this to you as well, is we need to stick together in what we're doing because as the players are doing well, working hard... if you look clearly at the game and how it's been played, yeah, then we can say we're doing well."
Missing for FC Cincinnati...
FC Cincinnati team officials confirmed pre-match that defender Chris Duvall was unavailable due to health and safety protocols, as was midfielder Caleb Stanko.
Stanko's status was confirmed in a team injury report on Friday.
Also unavailable due to non-COVID-19-related illnesses were the newly-signed Kyle Scott and left back Edgar Castillo.
"There's always sometimes that you can make a choice with other players," Stam said. "In how we played, that was already from the start of the week basically well known."