Though they sit below the Playoff line, FC Cincinnati’s start to the 2022 MLS season has been something of a revelation.
After just 15 matches, the Ohio side have picked up 20 points and six wins. The former is just four short of their best single-season performance in MLS so far and the latter equals their best – both set in the club’s 2019 expansion year.
In each of their three MLS campaigns to date, Cincinnati have finished bottom overall, prompting an overhaul both on the pitch and at front office level to get back on track.
The Orange and Blue’s latest impressive result under new head coach Pat Noonan was a 1-1 draw away at the high-flying Philadelphia Union on Saturday, with Brandon Vazquez scoring his eighth goal of the season to cancel out Alejandro Bedoya’s opener.
More than anything else, Cincy’s turnaround seems to be a matter of belief.
“We’ve had enough of a sample size with this group to believe that we can get results in these games, regardless of how we’re playing,” Noonan said after Saturday’s draw at Subaru Park. “I thought that was one of our better performances through probably 60 minutes.
“But they believe that they can get the result or it wouldn’t have happened, because we were down a goal on the road against a good team. But we found a way to get back into it.”
Saturday’s match was not without its hiccups and Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano still needed to make four saves to preserve the clean sheet. Noonan will be working on increasing his side’s concentration ahead of testing fixtures against the likes of Orlando City and NYCFC later this month.
“Late in the game, how do you figure out how to defend the box where we’re not conceding looks like that, because those could’ve very easily been converted,” Noonan mused.
On the style of his former club, Philadelphia, he continued: “But they do a good job of getting numbers forward, getting their strikers running at your backline and getting in front of goal. So you have to be very aware of those late runs, and balls that are either knock-down runs or balls that are cut back. And those are a couple ones that we could’ve done better with.”
But Cincinnati are a work in progress. Once again, Noonan was keen to stress that his group ‘believes’ they can mix it with the very best MLS has to offer.
“I think the group, regardless of who we’re playing against, certainly believes that we’re capable of getting results,” he said. “Do we understand the difficulty of it? Of course, but we’ve done it enough now against good teams to understand that this can be a constant.”