Vasquez gets second-straight brace in FC Cincinnati’s first win over Miami

FC Cincinnati (Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
FC Cincinnati (Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports) /

FC Cincinnati‘s Orange & Blue outscored visiting Inter Miami 3-1 Saturday, handing the Herons their first loss in five tries against Major League Soccer’s reigning most hapless team. The Men in Pink remain winless after four matches in 2022.

It was the second-straight win for Cincinnati (2-2-0, 6 points) and the second-straight brace for Brandon Vasquez, who also assisted on the back-to-back-to-back Wooden Spoon “winner’s” other goal. The Wooden Spoon is an unofficial prize awarded each year to the team with the league’s worst record. Cincinnati has earned it each of its three MLS seasons.

Gonzalo Higuain scored Miami’s lone goal from the spot after Deandre Yedlin drew a penalty on a hard tackle by Ronald Matarrita on a drive into the box. Matarrita scored Cincinnati’s other goal and assisted both Vasquez strikes.

Brandon Vasquez got the job done with FC Cincinnati

The struggling Herons (0-3-1, 1 point) played better than they did in Austin but not as well as they did in the first half of last week’s match against LAFC.

MLS will take next week off while many players compete with their national teams in World Cup Qualifying. Inter Miami will host Houston Dynamo FC at 7 p.m. CST, 8 p.m. Eastern, Saturday, April 2 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

Some post-match thoughts:

Inter Miami’s midfielders still look disorganized when the Herons are on the ball, especially trying to build from the back. For much of the first half, center backs Damian Lowe and Chris McVey bypassed the middle altogether, bashing the ball into Cincinnati’s half and hoping a pink-shirted player would find it.

Goalkeeper Drake Callender — third on Heron’s depth chart — played better than he did in the preseason. He did misplay the cross that Vasquez blasted into the net from right in front of the goal, reacting late and trying to play the ball in the air rather than block the header.

Still, he made several saves, including a brilliant stop on a point-blank smash by Alvaro Barreal that didn’t count because he was offsides. Last year’s starter, Nick Marsman, last year’s starter, is sidelined with a knee injury and Clement Diop, who has shown promise while starting the first three matches between the pipes, was out with a quad injury. CJ Dos Santos was Callender’s backup.

Higuain seemed more involved today after coach Phil Neville called him out this week. Not impactful, but more involved. The jury is still out on using Higuain’s quality on the ball to set up other scorers; he may be Miami’s best playmaker, but the Herons aren’t making many plays. They’ve been outscored 10-2 in four matches.

Kieran Gibbs was a dependable improvement from Brek Shea at left back, but he was just OK in his first game back from injury. Still, after the terrible outings Shea had in Austin and against LAFC, “just OK” is acceptable right now.

Damian Lowe, arguably the Herons’ best player thus far in 2022, was his roughshod, active self, which I love, BUT the Jamaican national made some poor passes and was beaten by Vasquez a couple of times — one resulting in a penalty that Luciano Acosta failed to convert — which I don’t.

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The team kept working hard, but several times players (other than Higuain!) were left throwing their arms out in disgust at a teammate’s decision. That’s not a good sign for a team cobbled together in the offseason that is depending on camaraderie and team unity as a foundation for the Herons’ rebuild. Hopes for a Hollywood-style redemption season are fading fast.