FC Cincinnati's introduction to Major League Soccer left much to be desired.
A road game at Seattle Sounders FC wasn't the ideal matchup for an MLS debut, but Cincinnati struggled through most of it and dropped a 4-1 loss Saturday in front of an electric crowd at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders were celebrating their 10th anniversary and a history that included a 2016 MLS Cup championship, 2017 runner-up finish and always ranking among the league's best attendance figures. Meanwhile, FCC is in just its fourth season as a franchise, with its first MLS campaign coming just nine months after the city was awarded an expansion bid.
Despite a rough start that almost included an own goal, FCC took the first lead against the run of play on Leo Bertone's rocket volley in the 13th minute when Seattle failed to clear a misplayed ball off a cross. The incredible strike goes into the history books as the club's first goal but only sparked a bit of a swing in Cincinnati's favor before the Sounders regained control.
Seattle scored three goals in the 18 minutes before halftime, including Jordan Morris' second one of the night in the 43rd minute, and the final dagger came three-plus minutes before the final whistle. Morris missed the entire 2018 season with an ACL tear.
Here is a deeper look at the match before the Orange and Blue try to bounce back in another tough road game March 10 at defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta United:
1. Breakdowns on defense
Cincinnati's defense was out of position much of the night, which could have been the result of a change this week to the 4-2-3-1 formation that FCC didn't use all preseason. The club had been playing its most recent friendlies with a three-back system, but switched it up with Mathieu Deplagne serving as the left fullback after playing as one of the three centerbacks most of the preseason.
The Orange and Blue struggled especially on the right side, where Alvas Powell had trouble tracking back on counter attacks and seemed to be expecting someone there to clean up behind him. Morris scored his first goal to put Seattle ahead 2-1 in the 33rd minute on a play where Powell took too long to get back. While trying to switch places with Eric Alexander, who was covering his man, the two left Nicolás Lodeiro free to sneak in behind and send a perfect cross in for Morris to tuck away.
Morris' second goal also came in transition when Bertone was trying to get back on the ball from behind and Powell backed off instead of trying to step up to defend the play. Lodeiro had intercepted a Cincinnati cross and dished off to Victor Rodriguez, who then crossed in to Morris for a goal that looked much like his first.
Seattle had scored the equalizer on a rebound in the 27th minute when Przemyslaw Tyton made a diving save and Kelvin Leerdam had an easy put-away.
2. Bad passes
FC Cincinnati's defense wouldn't have faced so much pressure had the Orange and Blue not given away so many passes. Crosses were off the mark, passes kept getting intercepted and overall it was just sloppy play.
The Sounders had possession for 63.9 percent of the time, and FCC's 73 percent passing accuracy actually seemed high for how it looked. As a result, Seattle outshot the visitors 24-7 and Tyton finished with six saves, three that came in the first five minutes.
Cincinnati seemed to settle slightly after Bertone's goal and was playing better when the midfielders pushed forward into the attack instead of sitting back on defense. The second half started to show some adjustments but it wasn't long before FCC again was caught trying to defend. Alexander was the first player subbed off, as Darren Mattocks replaced him in the 62nd minute to try to get a spark on offense, and then Kekutah Manneh came on for Corben Bone and Caleb Stanko for Alvas Powell as the final two subs.
Center forward Fanendo Adi had just one shot.
3. Hold the panic
As poorly as FCC played Saturday, there is no need for Cincinnati fans to panic. This was just the first game, and Seattle is considered one of the favorites to win the MLS Cup this year. The Sounders are always tough to beat at CenturyLink Field, where 39,011 fans showed up Saturday night — including an estimate 800 traveling supporters. The match marked Seattle's 100th home win since the club's debut season in 2009.
FCC coach Alan Koch has been preaching patience since his attention turned from USL to MLS in October, and that's just what this club needs. Cincinnati had the shortest runway into the league of any lower division team making the jump up to MLS, and the preseason was not as long as those enjoyed in the USL (especially last year when FCC was free to start a couple weeks earlier).
This is a completely new team that hasn't yet seen U.S. men's national team left back Greg Garza (quad strain) and is still looking to add attacking pieces in the midfield that mainly features defensive players. Saturday left plenty of room for improvement, and that's what fans should look for right now – not necessarily signature wins.
FC Cincinnati walked onto the pitch as a new MLS team and still has plenty of time to actually arrive.