CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati needed less than seven minutes into Yoann Damet’s interim head coaching stint to end a month-long scoring drought.
Allan Cruz’s early tally, followed by a second-half strike from Fatai Alashe, lifted FCC to a 2-1 win over Montreal Impact on Saturday at Nippert Stadium, snapping a five-game losing streak and giving the Orange and Blue their first victory since March 24 when they scored their last goal from open play.
Damet, 29, replaced Alan Koch after the club fired him Tuesday, citing a deterioration in the culture of the locker room. FCC had gone 528 minutes without a goal, dating back to Darren Mattocks’ penalty kick in a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City on April 7, but it had been 662 minutes without a goal from open play.
“I'm very proud of the guys and the way we showed up this afternoon with the quick turnaround,” Damet said. “We had three days to find some priorities of good, and I gave them some ideas and the way the guys showed up this afternoon was just brilliant. Everything wasn't perfect, but the willingness to apply the game plan was very satisfying. They deserved it more than anybody else because they put the work in.”
Here are three key points from Saturday’s match:
1. Possession makes the difference
Damet said earlier this week he wanted to play a more possession-based style, and that’s exactly what fans saw in his first match as manager – a change from Koch’s more direct style that sometimes seemed to lack direction.
FCC had 65.9 percent possession in the first half, and Cruz’s seventh-minute goal – off Darren Mattock’s assist – was early evidence the style shift would be successful. The Orange and Blue strung together 16 passes over a full minute with the last one coming from Mattocks after he dribbled to the touchline and found Cruz just outside the six-yard box. Cruz hit a one-touch shot to the upper left corner of the goal for his second of the season.
“We practiced keeping the ball,” Mattocks said of training this week. “In the run of play, you're not really counting the passes, you're just trying to see where you can get involved and try to create something, but to create 16 passes and then put the ball in the back of the net, that shows things are going in the right direction.”
By halftime, the Orange and Blue already had 401 passes. They averaged 400.5 total passes through the first 11 matches, and the halftime total Saturday was better than five of those games. Cincinnati, which seemed to wear down in the second half, finished with 55 percent possession and 571 total passes with an 83.2 percent success rate.
“It's always difficult (to make a change),” Alashe said. “We've only had three days to prepare the way we want to play, but I think the guys did a good job, especially in the first half of using the ideas we tried to create in training the last few days and applying it on the field. I think you could see we tried to touch the ball a lot more, we tried to be calm in possession and it looked pretty good.”
2. Personnel changes play a role
FCC, implementing a 4-3-3, gave Justin Hoyte his third start, second in a row, but this was his first time playing center back since 2017, as he replaced Forrest Lasso from the previous game. Mathieu Deplagne was back to his natural position at right back, and Greg Garza returned to left back in his first appearance since April 7. Garza missed five games with a calf injury.
Damet also used two box-to-box midfielders in Leo Bertone and Frankie Amaya, the rookie No. 1 draft pick who made his second straight start, while Victor Ulloa played the defensive midfielder role. Roland Lamah and Allan Cruz were the wingers with Mattocks at center forward.
Alashe came in off the bench in the 59th minute for Amaya, and three minutes later, he scored a goal off Lamah’s cross to give FCC a 2-0 lead.
It was Alashe’s fourth appearance this season after he began the season not even being made available for selection. He made his season debut off the bench April 19, came in as a sub again May 1 at Philadelphia and got his first start last weekend at San Jose.
“I had an injury in the preseason but just wasn’t getting a chance for whatever reason, so maybe the change is a fresh start for some of us,” Alashe said.
3. Refreshing result
Although FCC conceded a goal in the 75th minute to wipe out the clean sheet, the win was an important confidence boost in what Damet is doing. The team needed something to go its way after such a difficult stretch.
“It's always ideal when you implement new ideas to get a win quickly to create confidence in what you expect them to do,” Damet said. “.. I know that the way we want to play there is going to be some moments that are going to be more difficult than others. We saw a lot of good things. We are going to build on that.”
Damet said he remains humble about it, though. Montreal was coming off a midweek game and wasn’t pressing as much as other teams have at times against FCC – something the Orange and Blue seems to struggle with.
However, Montreal came into the weekend sitting in third in the Eastern Conference standings, so regardless of the circumstances, it was a quality win for Cincinnati (3-7-2). The Orange and Blue travel to play at Orlando City on May 19.