CHICAGO - Old habits die hard for 2023 FC Cincinnati and its unbeaten run to start the Major League Soccer campaign isn't done yet.
FC Cincinnati opened Saturday's game at Soldier Field against Chicago Fire FC with and early go-ahead score only to fall behind, 3-1. However, a wild, late comeback allowed FC Cincinnati to eek out a 3-3 draw and improve to 2-0-2 on the season.
Junior Moreno started and finished the scoring in the match, notching the opening tally in the eighth minute and tying the match at 3-3 in the 86th. In between, Chicago received scores from Kacper Przybyłko and Rafael Czichos over the final 13 minutes of the first half, plus Chris Mueller's goal less than 20 seconds into the second half.
The Mueller goal felt like the end of FCC's fight at Soldier Field, but Moreno scored four minutes later only to see the goal waived off on video-assistant referee (VAR). That moment seemed to spark FCC back to life, though.
Sergio Santos's second goal of 2023 came in the 84th minute and Moreno scored two minutes later to complete the stunning comeback.
This one will live long in the memory for reasons both good and bad. FC Cincinnati can bank the point in the standings and look to work out the rough spots next week in training. For tonight, not a bad result on a bitterly cold late-winter night in Chicago when the Fire looked set to run away with the game at times.
Comeback complete (86')
Junior Moreno scored from the top of the penalty area off a corner kick to pull Cincinnati even.
Lucho makes an impact (84')
Luciano Acosta sprayed a ball long to Sergio Santos, who got on the end of it and deposited it for 3-2. This one wasn't overturned by VAR. There's still plenty of soccer to be played here.
Time ticking away (73')
FC Cincinnati's running out of time at Soldier Field. They appear to have shifted into a 4-3-3 formation, removing Ian Murphy in favor of striker Sergio Santos and lifting right back Ray Gaddis for Santiago Arias, who is appearing for the first time since the Feb. 25 opener. But the goals aren't coming even if the chances are starting to accumulate. After FC Cincinnati lost the lead, the VAR-disallowed goal by Moreno might have been the team's best chance for mounting a comeback. They definitely haven't folded since then but on a cold night where the field is bumpy and clearly worn from the NFL season, FCC would have needed to start its comeback by now most likely.
3-2 − almost (50')
FC Cincinnati responded quickly to going down 3-1. Brandon Vazquez went near-post and forced Chris Brady into a save that resulted in a corner kick. The ensuing play saw Junior Moreno bang home his second of the match only for the goal to go to video-assistant referee (VAR). The goal was wiped off on VAR for an offside, and the score remained 3-1 to the Fire.
Late arrival to the second half (46')
Evidently, FC Cincinnati wasn't ready for the start of the second half because Chicago marched right down the field and Chris Mueller rifled home a goal for a 3-1 lead. Stunning. That's a really disappointing response from FCC to the drab first half they produced.
FC Cincy down at the break, 2-1
The back line has been defending desperately and the early returns on Marco Angulo's first start for FCC at the No. 10 position haven't been great, according to social media chatter from fans. We'll see what FCC says about Angulo afterward. Brandon Vazquez found a post rather than the back of the net in the 19th minute. That could have put the Fire down, 2-0, but the lead stayed at 1-0 and FCC gave that away over the closing 15-plus minutes of the second half.
Fire leading (45')
Rafael Czichos put chicago in front from the penalty spot after Yerson Mosquera was deemed to have committed a foul on the Fire's Chris Mueller inside the Cincinnati penalty area. This is the first time FC Cincinnati has trained in a game this season, and doubles the amount of goals the club conceded in the first three games.
Chicago levels the game (32')
Kacper Przybyłko hit a one-time shot from a wide angle that found the side-netting to equalize for the Fire. Ian Murphy blooped a clearance out of his penalty area and mostly out of harm's way but it wasn't hit far and the ball wasn't won by FCC.
FCC hanging in (29')
Brandon Vazquez hit the post in the 19th minute, nearly doubling Cincinnati's lead. Chicago seems to be controlling the tempo of the game, though. They're doing most of the harrassing in this contest, although they have little in the way of quality chances to show for it.
First blood to FCC (1-0, eighth minute)
Junior Moreno's shot took a heavy deflection on the way in and looped over Chicago goalkeeper Chris Brady for 1-0. Brandon Vazquez and Marco Angulo, the debutant, assisted.
The game time temperature is 22F as the teams kick it off. Chicago is pushing forward early. Sparse crowd in the lowest deck of Soldier Field so far.
Chill in the air
We'll try not to belabor the point about weather as a factor in tonight's game. Both teams have to deal with it after all. Still, about 30 minutes prior to kickoff, the temperature is 23F and it feels like 7F when factoring for the wind chill, according to the National Weather Service. Heat is being provided inside the covered benches for players and coaches. Think: NFL-bench-style tubes pumping out heat. And the cold shouldn't be a problem for the players actually playing.
The starting lineups...
FC Cincinnati had already declared Nick Hagglund (red-card suspension) and Yuya Kubo (injury) out for the Chicago match. What wasn't as expected was Luciano Acosta starting the match on the bench. He's available to play but won't start after picking up an injury in training this past week.
FC Cincinnati starting XI: Roman Celentano (GK), Alvaro Barreal, Ian Murphy, Matt Miazga (captain), Yerson Mosquera, Ray Gaddis, Junior Moreno, Obinna Nwobodo, Marco Angulo, Brenner Souza da Silva, Brandon Vazquez.
Cincinnati bench: Alec Kann (GK), Alvas Powell, Joey Akpunonu, Luciano Acosta, Santiago Arias, Dominique Badji, Sergio Santos, Malik Pinto, Quimi Ordonez.
Chicago Fire FC: Brady (GK), Gimenez, Pineda, Gutierrez, Przybylko, Haile-Selassie, Navarro, Czichos, Teran, Souquet.