CINCINNATI — Darren Mattocks wishes he got a re-do on a couple of his shots Sunday, but one goal was enough to at least give FC Cincinnati a positive result.
The Jamaican forward scored on a penalty kick early in the game and led FCC with four shots, including three on target, as the Orange and Blue tied 1-1 with Sporting Kansas City in front of 26,023 fans at Nippert Stadium.
FCC (2-2-2, 8 points), which is fifth in the Eastern Conference, now heads on the road for a tough game against Western Conference leader LAFC (5-0-1, 16 points).
Here are three key points from Sunday’s match:
1. Missed opportunity
A draw against Sporting Kansas City normally would be considered a positive result, but considering how strong FCC started the match, it was disappointing not to get three points. SKC brought out a drastically changed lineup after a short turnaround from Thursday’s 5-0 loss to Monterrey in a CONCACAF Champions League match, and it seemed Cincinnati should have been able to take advantage.
FCC had the upperhand until Kansas City’s Gianluca Busio was gifted an open net and pushed in the equalizer in the 62nd minute. Goalie Spencer Richey had come off his line but got tangled up with left back Greg Garza, and Richey hesitated at the last minute, allowing Busio an easy shot on goal.
Cincinnati seemed to run out of gas after that, but Kansas City showed its depth in getting a point with nine changes to the lineup from Thursday. Felipe Gutiérrez came on in the 56th minute and seemed to play a big role in shifting the momentum in Sporting’s favor.
“In the big picture, which I think is the most important when playing against a team like Sporting Kansas City, and for us, our sixth game together - to get a point, that’s satisfying,” FCC coach Alan Koch said. “In the small picture, actually the individual game that we played today and how the game unfolded, our hope, our goal was to get three points. I think if we capitalized on more of our chances, we make it 1-0, we make it 2-0, the game may or may not be over at that time.”
2. More chances early
FC Cincinnati came off a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia Union last week and looked like a completely different team again in the first half. After sitting back against Philly, FCC took more of an attacking approach Sunday and showed a lot more creativity, which led to some great chances on offense.
The hosts took a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute on Mattocks’ penalty kick, but it was a well-earned opportunity. Roland Lamah won a 50-50 ball against Sporting goalie Adrian Zendejas and was taken down in the box by Ilie Sanchez, who was shown a yellow card for the foul. Video assistant referee (VAR) confirmed the foul, and FCC was awarded the penalty kick.
Mattocks had a couple more close chances. In the 34th minute he hit the far right post, and Leo Bertone’s effort on the long rebound went just a bit too high. In stoppage time just before the break, Greg Garza found Mattocks in front of the goal on a nice cross following a short corner but Mattocks’ shot went directly to Zendejas.
Cincinnati dropped back more on defense in the second half, though, and the mistake by Richey was all SKC needed to come away with a point. Nick Hagglund headed in a goal
“We performed just pretty good, especially the first half, but I think everyone’s a little bit disappointed, because we think that was the game we could get three points,” Mattocks said. “You know, I think we created a number of chances in the first half and a really good chance in the second half to put them away. Against good teams, if you don’t put them away, they’re going to find ways to get back into the game and they did just that. But overall, we take a point from a very good SKC team. They showed their best tonight.”
3. Lack of depth shows
Koch has downplayed the lack of depth at the forward position when asked about it at training, but there was no avoiding that fact Sunday. Darren Mattocks is the lone forward on the roster available and not dealing with injury.
Star forward Fanendo Adi is unavailable after he was cited March 31 with an OVI. He has entered Major League Soccer’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) Program and will not be allowed to participate in any team activities until he is assessed and cleared by the program’s doctors, and there could be additional disciplinary action following the league’s own investigation into the incident.
On top of his absence, two other players capable of filling in at forward are dealing with injuries. Kekuta Manneh missed practices this week because of a hip flexor issue and only played the second half, replacing Roland Lamah who suffered a lower leg injury. Emmanuel Ledesma is still nursing a hamstring injury suffered late in the week before the Philly game.
FCC simply ran out of attacking options as the game progressed, and the final two subs saw defensive midfielders come on in place of offensive players. Center attacking midfielder Kenny Saief was replaced in the 77th minute by Eric Alexander, and Caleb Stanko came in for Mattocks in the 82nd minute.
The lack of attacking pieces has been evident from the beginning of the preseason, though Manneh and Saief were nice additions late, and it’s going to continue to be an issue until the club makes a move for a forward. In the meantime, FCC is going to have to capitalize on more counter attacks and build-up from solid defensive play to help ease the burden.
“The second half, give Kansas City credit, they turned the game on … and for a variety of reasons we didn’t match that, but a big part of that was the substitutions at our disposal,” Koch said. “Of course, you’d love to get two or three attacking substitutions so we were a little handcuffed today in how we managed the game.”