CINCINNATI — Missed opportunities came back to haunt FC Cincinnati once again.
The Orange and Blue had several close chances they just couldn’t put away, and all it took was two late opportunities for New York Red Bulls to wipe out an otherwise strong performance for the home side. The Red Bulls finished off the series sweep of FCC with a 2-0 win Saturday in front of 28,290 fans at Nippert Stadium.
New York scored twice in the final 15 minutes and had no other shots on target during the match. Red Bulls midfielder Alejandro Romero Gamarra, known as Kaku, scored in the 78th minute after stealing the ball away from Mathieu Deplagne as he lost his touch trying to dribble out of the box. The easy takeaway gave Kaku an open look on goal, and he pushed his shot past Spencer Richey for the 1-0 lead. Omir Fernandez then headed in a cross from Brian White a minute into stoppage time at the end of the game to seal.
FCC has now lost eight of its last 10 games and is back on the road June 1 at Colorado. Here are three key points from FC Cincinnati’s loss Saturday:
1. Still not good enough
Fanendo Adi, making his first start since suffering an ankle injury during a March 17 win over Portland, immediately had an impact as far as creating chances but Robles just played lights out in goal for New York. Robles tipped away two of his six shots, both phenomenal saves, and Adi had at least one or two more close opportunities.
FCC had two other shots on goal, including a long-distance blast from Frankie Amaya that Robles tipped over the crossbar, and the Orange and Blue finished with 12 total shots, compared to New York’s eight. The Red Bulls didn’t have any real threatening chances until scoring those two goals.
“I think the score doesn’t reflect what happened on the field, so for sure, frustrating for the guys,” interim coach Yoann Damet said. “We deserve better than that tonight, and again, it’s about keeping our heads up and continuing to move forward.”
Although FCC needs to figure out a way to put more goals away, Adi’s performance was encouraging for a player who has played just 37 minutes since his last start more than two months ago. Lingering soreness in his ankle held him out longer than expected, but the timing of his return was especially important given Darren Mattocks was pulled from the list of 18 players available for selection Saturday morning because of a hip issue.
Adi played the entire game and Damet was pleased with his effort, but thought the team was relying on him a bit too much in the air.
“I’m very happy what he showed for a full 90 minutes,” Damet said. “I was expecting to see him more tired in the second half and he was able to go through the game. I see a lot of positives, his leadership and what he brings to the table. I think at some points we used him too much in the air. We didn’t play enough on the ground to create triangles and progress on the field, so I think sometimes we relied on him too much, but it’s just about moving forward and trying to work on little details.”
2. Unfortunate breakdown
Deplagne’s mistake that led to Kaku’s goal looked pretty bad, but it’s hard to fault him too much. Normally a right back, he’s been playing out of his comfort zone to fill in for left back Greg Garza, who missed his seventh of 14 games Saturday because of a foot injury that has him on crutches and wearing a protective boot.
Damet recognizes what he’s done for the team to this point. Deplagne has played every minute of every match this season – the only one on the team to do so.
“I think he’s been one of the most consistent players on the team, and I think he doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s done so far on the team,” Damet said. “I’m disappointed for him, but again, I don’t look at that much more. I think it’s important we stick together in these moments. We are all going to have moments like that where we can go down, but the group is stronger and if we stay together we are going to get through that.”
The second goal happened in a quick transition, and White found Fernandez on a diving header that Alvas Powell could do little about after tracking back and just not being close enough to get in front of him.
“We created some good opportunities, unfortunately we couldn’t get one to bounce in the net and the first goal they got was our mistake and the second one we were just pushing for a tie so we were stretched a little bit,” Ulloa said. “We have a good mentality as a team, you saw it the first minute to fight and we know we’re in a tough situation but we just have to keep putting in the work and keep fighting.”
Both of New York’s goals came from second-half subs so perhaps the Red Bulls benefited from the fresh legs, whereas FCC didn’t make any changes until after the first score. Kekuta Manneh replaced Emmanuel Ledesma and Nazmi Albadawi entered for his MLS debut in place of Victor Ulloa in the 81st minute, and Damet had one unused substitution. New York had already used all three subs before FCC made its two for the night, but Damet said he felt like the players in the game to that point seemed fresh and he liked what he was seeing so he saw no need to disrupt that until the Red Bulls took the lead.
3. The bigger picture
FCC remains in last place in the Eastern Conference at 3-9-2, and they have one win in their last 10 games – scoring just three goals in that time. However, Damet is seeing improvement and that’s all he can focus on right now as he continues to build a more positive mentality.
The Orange and Blue do appear to be making strides in terms of connecting passes and creating chances, but they also were without Allan Cruz and Leonardo Bertone for a second straight game, and midfielder Kenny Saief left training early Friday because of tightness returning in the hamstring he had trouble with a couple weeks ago.
The midfield in particular has been impacted by injuries and a constant rotation of players, but the group continues to show progress connecting the offense and the defense in Damet’s 4-3-3 setup. FCC will be without captain and center back Kendall Waston next week at Colorado after he picked up a fifth yellow card Saturday, which means an automatic one-game suspension because of card accumulation rules.
“We need to see the big picture,” Damet said. “We created opportunities, we offered more chances, we tried to progress, we tried to create, we tried to have more connections on the field and impose ourselves more and I think the guys showed a lot of progress.”