FC Cincinnati opens new stadium with same problems

FC Cincinnati forward Brenner reacts to a missed shot. Mandatory Credit: Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports
FC Cincinnati forward Brenner reacts to a missed shot. Mandatory Credit: Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports /

It was a bittersweet opening of TQL Stadium as FC Cincinnati fell to Inter Miami on Sunday afternoon. A brand new home venue for the club, but the same old struggles continued to haunt FC Cincinnati in a 3-2 loss to Inter Miami.

Down by a goal within the game’s opening seven minutes and behind 2-0 at halftime, FC Cincinnati should certainly be applauded for their resilience in fighting back to level the score in the second half. But the good vibes lasted just three minutes after Nick Hagglund leveled the game in the 82nd minute as Inter Miami’s Gonzalo Higuain found the winner in the 85th minute.

“The response was good. In the first half we could have done a lot better, maybe should have as well, and everybody knows that. We could have used the space a lot better, we should have made it a lot better, to make it more difficult,” FC Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam told reporters after the match.

“The second half we came back and scored two goals, two very good goals as well coming back into the game. That’s what we’re looking for, that tells you a lot about the team. They want to keep going for a result, that’s why after conceding the third goal everyone is disappointed, because everybody is feeling that we need to have that little bit of luck, maybe that can change a whole game. That’s a little bit of positiveness can make a big change in soccer. We’re going to be back at it tomorrow working to get a result in the next game.”

On a micro level, the match was the best performance of the season for FC Cincinnati. As a club, they hadn’t scored since a season opening 2-2 result at Nashville SC. And this rebuilding team showed a bit more balance on Sunday, holding an edge in possession (52 percent) and being even in shots (6:6).

And yet on a macro level, the concerns are huge. FC Cincinnati has given up multiple goals in each of their four games this season. And they have yet to secure a point since their aforementioned season opening draw.

The concerns for FC Cincinnati coming into this match centered not on a singular part of the team. Rather, there were issues defensively, in the final third and their build-up as well as their shape and the overall balance of the team. Those are no small issues to say the least.

Sunday may not have been a point let alone a win, but it at least showed some encouraging moments and some spine from a team that had conceded eight goals over the past two games while being shut out on both occasions. That 5-0 pasting at New York City FC three weeks ago followed by a 3-0 loss at Orland City seem like a distant memory in light of Sunday’s glow for the new stadium.

But the big issues remain for this team, even if there is a sense that a vastly reshuffled Starting XI is just in its infancy of coming together.

“Putting the 2-0 down and going after the next goal. Once we got that next goal, you could see the momentum shift and you saw the belief in the guys grow,” Hagglund said.

“Towards the end of the game, it was all us. Just the belief from scoring that goal and breaking the seal allows the guys to believe more and have confidence in each other and what they’re doing. Taking this momentum of being able to score two goals, being able to come back from two goals, believing in that and knowing we can do that is crucial moving forward.”

Will the improved form continue now with all the buzz about the new stadium set to fizzle a bit next week? Maybe. But FC Cincinnati showed that they have the potential to be a more competitive side than they have shown to date in 2021.

Now they just need to put it all together for 90 minutes. Easier said…

Follow Kristian Dyer of ‘MLS Multiplex’ on Twitter @KristianRDyer