Cavaliers fired blank as Cincinnati trounced them 2-0 in Champions Cup first leg

New York Red Bulls v FC Cincinnati
New York Red Bulls v FC Cincinnati / Jeff Dean/GettyImages

Debutant FC Cincinnati of Major League Soccer (MLS) drew first blood as they blank Jamaican club Cavalier 2-0 in their 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Round One series on Thursday night at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. 

Both teams are new to the competition and are exhilarated to etch their names in the history book beside those elite teams who have won this prestigious cup. An evenly contested first half both teams came close to scoring withing the first 30 minutes. First, it was Ian Murphy who broke clear behind Cavalier’s line of defense, but his thunderous shot went aimlessly wide! Moments later in the 22nd minute Sergio Santos unleashed a venomous shot towards goal, but former national goal keeper  Jeadine White was equal to the task.  Cavaliers quickly transitioned into attack with some slick passing along the lush green park of the National Stadium and was almost rewarded for their effort when Orlando Russell pulled the trigger for Cavalier, but his shot was saved comfortably by FC Cincinnati GK Roman Celetano. 

Despite playing away in the scorching heat of 86 degrees Fahrenheit in Jamaica for the first time Cincinnati FC piled the pressure on the home team. It was Santos who was a whisker away from opening the deadlock but held his head in hands in despair as his sizzling shot almost peeled the paint off the crossbar in the 34th minute.  However, before the euphoria of the traveling supporters could die down from that exquisite moment of brilliance, right before halftime interval Bret Halsey found Santos with a sublime pass. Santos then slotted home effortlessly from close range for a 1-0 FC Cincinnati lead. One of the worst times to concede a goal for Cavaliers and one of the best times to score a goal for Cincinnati FC.  

Manager Rudolph Speid ruffled the feathers of the home team and made a few adjustments at the halftime break. He brought on Shamar Watson for Orlando Russell. They came out like a ‘house on fire’ asking questions of the travelling team's defense and immediately got a chance in the 64th  minute with 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup top scorer Shaniel Thomas who found some space in the area and was about to strike at goal, only for FC Cincinnati’s Yuya Kubo to swoop in and make a last-ditch slide tackle to clear the danger.  

With a goal in the bag Cincinnati was in full control of the game, while Cavaliers pressed in a bid to restore parity. As the game drew closer to the end it became wide open and FC Cincinnati were hell bent on putting the home team to the sword, as they tried desperately to double their advantage. That was nearly achieved in the 82nd minute when Pavel Bucha volleyed a screamer from Luciano Acosta corner kick, which grazed the crossbar. In the 84th Malik Pinto enters the field for FC Cincinnati, to replace the outstanding Matt Miazga.

Three minutes later he repaid his manager for entrusting him to see out the remaining minutes of the game after he collected a cheeky backheel from Arquimides Ordonez inside the box. He then let fly a powerful, well-placed right-footed shot which nestled up in the bottom left corner of the net to complete the 2-0 scoreline. Cavalier will have it all to play for in the return leg on Wednesday 28th of February at the TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. While Cincinnati will try their best to protect their 2-0 cushion if they are to progress in the competition.