CINCINNATI — For a second straight match, FC Cincinnati got a result against an opponent that proved better the first time around, but now the same hurdle remains in trying to figure out how to finish opportunities.
The Orange and Blue tied Chicago Fire FC, 0-0, Wednesday at Nippert Stadium, collecting its fifth clean sheet in six matches and showing marked progress over a 3-0 loss at Chicago eight days earlier.
Cincinnati also avenged an earlier loss to Columbus with a scoreless draw Saturday; however, the club Wednesday once again failed to capitalize on chances created in the attack and has now gone 370 minutes without a goal. The Orange and Blue are 0-1-3 in the return to home markets and 2-4-3 in league play overall.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
1. Progress without much reward
FC Cincinnati looked every bit the aggressor in this match and had arguably the best chances of the night, as the attack continues to grow more fluid in possession. The more chances that come, though, the more disappointing it is when the goals aren’t coming.
“We created a few opportunities, but we didn’t take them,” Stam said.
Jurgen Locadia put himself into positions to score and had two close chances he simply couldn’t finish. In the 10th minute, Greg Garza found him on a run in the box, and Locadia made a nice turn to beat Fire goalie Bobby Shuttleworth. His shot at a narrow angle was cleared off the goal line as the flag waived the play offside.
Locadia then had a point-blank shot saved by Shuttleworth in the 55th minute after Haris Medunjanin threaded a pass through traffic to give him a great chance. His angle on the turn favored the goalkeeper, who pushed the shot over the crossbar for a corner kick.
“His mentality is very good,” Stam said of Locadia. “The majority of the games he plays, he makes an impact. He gets in positions to score. There’s a little tension, pressure maybe. The ball will eventually go in. A lot of it has to do with confidence.”
The Orange and Blue also had an opportunity just before halftime when Adrien Regattin dribbled into the goalbox to draw two defenders, but he didn’t appear to see Locadia open at the far post and instead Siem de Jong ended up with the ball at the top of the box for a long shot he put over the goal.
Despite the continued inability to score goals, FCC – which had eight shots and three on target -- is getting better chances. Eventually, they will start going in, Stam insists.
2. Losing ground in the East
The ninth point gained in the Eastern Conference standings wasn’t enough to keep the Orange and Blue in the current playoff picture, as they dropped from 10th to 11th after the match.
Stam is still pleased with the overall progress, and players who were on the team through last year’s 6-22-6 finish value every point taken. However, the improvements since then are more difficult to notice while the rewards continue to be minimal. The Orange and Blue were disappointed not to get three points, and this was the fourth straight game they’ve been held scoreless.
“It’s not frustration, but it is disappointing because we didn’t win,” Stam said. “You know the players were getting in front of goal to get opportunities but they don’t do it (miss) on purpose. They need to react quick, they need to have composure at the time to finish it off and the goalkeeper is in the way at times. It’s a shame because sometimes you get into situations where you can win the game with a couple good opportunities and we don’t do that. For all the effort we put in and the chances we create, we don’t finish it off and it’s a shame a lot of games we draw and don’t win. We’re very close.”
3. Defense solves spacing issues
The first matchup at Chicago last week, the Fire managed to score two goals in the first 10 minutes as their high press proved problematic for Cincinnati. That created spacing issues in the midfield and defense, which enabled Chicago to get two fantastic scoring chances.
This time, the Fire wasn’t pressing as much and the defense managed to contain their attack, which managed just one shot on goal out of 13 attempts.
Chicago nearly took the wind out of the Orange and Blue sail when a handball initially went uncalled in the buildup to a goal in the 70th minute.
Players were pointing to show the ball had hit Boris Sekulic’s arm after he received a pass and distributed to Elliott Collier, but play continued as Collier dished off to Ignacio Aliseda for an open look he pushed past Przemyslaw Tyton from just outside the 6-yard box. Fortunately for FC Cincinnati, the video review assistant saw the handball and negated the goal.
FCC now has as many clean sheets under Stam (five in eight games) as it did all of last season.
“Overall good performance by the team,” said left back Greg Garza, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time since July 11. “Defensively (we were) strong in all areas of the field, just missing that last moment to finish off games but I think that will come.”