Rare are the cases when the final result of an FC Cincinnati match, win or lose, wasn't deserved.
The 2-1 loss to New York City FC at TQL Stadium on Saturday might have been a rare exception.
Valentin Castellanos' 60th minute penalty kick goal proved to be the match-winning tally for the visitors, but it came just moments after what would have been Brenner Souza da Silva's second score of the night was called back for offside.
FC Cincinnati gradually lost its grip on the match following those two key moments. FCC dropped to 4-12-8 with the loss while NYCFC improved to 11-8-5 on the season and moved into third place in the Eastern Conference standings immediately following the game.
An announced crowd of 21,978 attended the game.
FC Cincinnati defender Tyler Blackett, who made his debut for the club as a second-half substitute, said the club had enough chances to get a result.
“When we look back at the chances that we had, disallowed goals and hitting the posts, keeper making some saves, I think we had enough to possibly win the game," Blackett said. "Sometimes it doesn’t fall for you in that way. We have to look at ourselves and we have to look at the gameplan and what we know we can do.”
Brenner opened the scoring in the fourth minute on a well-worked sequence of FC Cincinnati passes, volleying a failed clearance home with NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson bearing down on him.
While out-possessed in the game, the ball movement on the Brenner goal was emblematic of the one of FCC's more organized and classy performances of 2021.
"After the (Brenner) goal, I think we're dropping too deep and we don't press enough going forward," Stam said. "They scored an equalizer. I think it's too easy of a goal with a cross and a header in the net and it's 1-1. Still, it's not a shame because we're facing a team that can play good football. We spoke about that already but we don't need to have too much respect for the opposition.
"We still should have taken more out of it in how we want to play as well."
FC Cincinnati's initial lead lasted little more than a half hour, though. Keaton Parks equalized on the headed goal Stam referenced in his opening remarks. The 1-1 scoreline held through to the intermission.
As both teams exited the field at half, players needed separating by match officials. That moment didn't result in any discipline but foreshadowed the physical second half to come.
The physicality wasn't in FCC's favor in the 58th minute when, with Castellanos backing down Cincinnati center back Geoff Cameron, Cameron's push back against Castellanos sent the NYCFC player to the floor.
After a few seconds, center referee Ted Unkel gave the penalty, which Castellanos thumped past goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń in front of The Bailey supporters section.
The goal was Castellanos' 12th of 2021.
"They go take the lead on a penalty that's been made and I think it's stupid to give a penalty away like this," Stam said. "I think you need to know in the situation that it is to be careful in what you're doing because they're looking in these moments to have a little touch to go down. That's what you've seen after their 2-1. Every time they take the advantage, they try to kill the game. They go down. They take their time."
Brenner's opener was his seventh goal of 2021, which tied Allan Cruz's 2019 haul of goals for the franchise's single-season MLS record.
Brenner nearly took the single-season goals record outright at several moments. After NYCFC went in front, Brenner rocketed a shot off NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson's near post in the 78th minute.
"Tactically, it felt like we were set up for success in this one. It ended up being a tough match," Brenner said via an interpreter. "We lost two players down at the end but this is a tough situation for us. We just need to get better."
The wheels came off for FC Cincinnati shortly after Brenner's shot hit the post. The physicality again went too far when Alvaro Barreal was whistled for a foul that prompted Unkel to issue him a straight red card.
That condemned FC Cincinnati to finish out an otherwise close and entertaining match shorthanded.
Nine outfield players then became eight when Isaac Atanga was shown a straight red card for his role in a shoving match in second-half added time. The fracas brought Tytoń and Johnson out of their nets and play didn't resume as Unkel blew the final whistle after his disciplinary moves were sorted out.
On a night when the whistle blew for fouls 26 times and nine combined yellow and red cards were issued, Stam was critical of Barreal and Atanga, calling the red cards unnecessary and wrong.
"It's important for the team. You need to be there because if not, if you get sent off... you're making it very difficult for your teammates to at least get something out of the game," Stam said. "I think it's very bad to concede red cards like this."
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Welcome to Cincinnati.com's live coverage of FC Cincinnati versus New York City FC at TQL Stadium. Refresh this page throughout the match for live updates and analysis, and follow Enquirer FC Cincinnati beat writer Pat Brennan on Twitter (@PBrennanENQ) for further updates.
• 60th minute – GOAL, NYCFC (1-2): Valentin Castellanos.
• Halftime: FC Cincinnati 1, New York City FC 1.
• 37th minute – GOAL, NYCFC (1-1): Keaton Parks.
• 4th minute – GOAL, FC Cincinnati (1-0): Brenner Souza da Silva knocked in the final touch of a classy sequence of ball movement by FCC for his seventh goal of 2021. With seven goals, Brenner joins Allan Cruz's seven goals in 2019 for the most in a single MLS season for the club.
• Match underway at about 7:38 p.m.
• FC Cincinnati starting XI (bench): Przemysław Tytoń (GK), Nick Hagglund, Geoff Cameron, Gustavo Vallecilla, Edgar Castillo, Yuya Kubo, Haris Medunjanin, Luciano Acosta, Alvaro Barreal, Isaac Atanga, Brenner Souza da Silva (Zico Bailey, Tyler Blackett, Allan Cruz, Calvin Harris, Ben Lundt (GK), Kamohelo Mokotjo, Quimi Ordonez, Florian Valot, Brandon Vazquez).
• FC Cincinnati defender Tyler Blackett makes his debut on head coach Jaap Stam's dress list.