Postgame Recap: Match Day 1


Steve Haldeman

Saturday, March 2, 2019

CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA

Seattle Sounders vs. FC Cincinnati

It's happening! It's happening! FC Cincinnati made its Major League Soccer debut last night in Seattle. The outcome was a disappointing and lopsided—if not completely unexpected—loss 4-1 to the Seattle Sounders, the 2018 Western Conference runners-up, who are entering this season healthier and more lethal than ever.

Of course, the final score wasn't the real story. Cincinnati's rise to MLS was historic. While most expansion sides have at least a full season or more to build, FCC did it in just under 40 weeks, more than half of that time spent competing and setting records in the USL. Win or lose, the match on Saturday night was going to be celebration for fans of the Orange and Blue.

Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer

Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer

In some ways the game itself was almost an afterthought; although, that's not to say game didn't matter or that fans weren't interested. After months of speculation, the first starting 11 was finally unveiled about an hour before kick-off. Cincinnati started the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation, a departure from their preseason form where they'd been experimenting with a three-man back line.

Perhaps the biggest roster surprise was the inclusion of Corben Bone in the center of the midfield, an assignment that not many pundits or fans saw coming. Bone started in Cincinnati's inaugural match in the USL, as well, so the resonance of the lone remaining member of the original squad starting the first MLS match was appropriate for a city that so highly values its sports history, and a team that so clearly understands that.

Speaking of firsts, the most exciting moment of the match without a doubt was FC Cincinnati's first MLS goal, a screamer volleyed in from the top of the box by Leonardo Bertone in the 13th minute, which gave FCC its first lead. Bertone's epic strike was worthy of the epic place it will hold it the annals of Cincinnati sports history.

Following an Alvas Powell throw in, Cincinnati went on the attack. The throw in was headed to Roland Lamah, who passed it off to Left Back Mathieu Deplagne. Deplagne sent it back to Lamah and made a run at Seattle's back line. Lamah took the ball out wide left, before crossing it back into the top of the box where Deplagne chested it down. Sounders' elite defender Chad Marshall scrambled with him to get control, lobbing it 15 feet straight up. Bertone sprinted in from midfield catching the ball with his right foot at the bottom of the arc just inches above the turf, and lasered it into the bottom left corner of the goal. It was a perfect strike. There was nothing Seattle Keeper Stefan Frei could do to stop it.

Cincinnati celebrated. Nearly a thousand fans travelled to Seattle for FCC's MLS debut, and they raised the roof on an otherwise stunned stadium. Thousands more packed watch parties back in Ohio. The shot heard round the Queen City was amplified by FC Cincinnati fans jubilant under an orange and blue sky over the Puget Sound.

After a few quick slaps in the face by team captain Kendall Waston, the club went back to work, though the rest of the game was a grind.

In the 27th minute, Nicolas Lodeiro split Cincinnati's defenders with a quick run into the box, taking a pass and sending it toward goal, where a sprawling Przemyslaw Tyton deflected it away. Sounders Right Back Kelvin Leerdam ran in and shot it into to right side of goal to tie the game before Tyton could recover.

Seattle Forward Jordan Morris returned to the Sounders line-up with a vengeance after over a year coming back from an ACL injury, scoring the next two goals in under ten minutes. That brought the halftime score to 3-1 for the home side, who never looked back.

Cincinnati's second half saw the orange and blue bunkering down more and attacking less, limiting further damage in the second half to a lone late goal from Sounders' super striker Raul Ruidiaz.

Aside from Bertone's unforgettable goal, FCC's performance was spotty at best. The right-side combination of Powell and Eric Alexander struggled through much of the game with losing possession and missed connections failing to move the ball up the field. Victor Ulloa and Corben Bone were picked off several times, as well, as Cincinnati's midfield woes from preseason carried over into the first match.

Head Coach Alan Koch attempted to add more speed to counteract Seattle's onslaught, substituting Darren Mattocks in for Alexander in the 61st minute and swapping out Bone for Kekuta Manneh in the 73rd minute. Midfielder Caleb Stanko replaced Powell in the 86th.


Defenders Nick Hagglund and Mathieu Deplagne had bright moments of stellar defending, although the entire back line seemed overwhelmed as Seattle's forwards consistently gashed and overran the midfield. FCC spent much of the game backing away from the Sounders attack.

In the end, it looked like what Cincinnati fans had expected, brief moments of promise undone by the disarray of new teammates trying to learn how to play together under fire. Defensive lines broke down and errant passes in the midfield led to turnovers, all of which resulted in sparse chances for Cincinnati's attack and over 63% possession for Seattle.

Now, it's on to Atlanta, the reigning MLS Champions and favorites to repeat that feat in 2019. The most important thing right now for Cincinnati is patience. It will take time for this iteration of the orange and blue to gel, winning won't be easy or frequent. Tough games will be common. These are the growing pains of any expansion team, especially a team that had less than a year to get together.

There is hope, because the team was built with a tough season in mind.

Time and again, the front office has gushed about the fans, insisting that this phenomenon would not have been possible without them. This season isn't just going to be a test of the players and coaches; it's going to be a test of the fans. 

Fans will need to focus on bright spots like Bertone's miraculous goal, understand that struggles on the pitch are temporary growing pains that no successful team can do without in the long term. It's happening! It's happening because soccer culture in Cincinnati made it happen. It will take that same unwavering support to keep it alive long enough to blossom into that something special.

FC Cincinnati Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1):

Przemyslaw Tyton (G), Mathieu Deplagne (LB), Kendall Waston (LCB), Nick Hagglund (RCB), Alvas Powell (RB), Victor Ulloa (DM), Leonardo Bertone (DM), Roland Lamah (LM), Corben Bone (CM), Eric Alexander (RM), Fanendo Adi (F) Substitutes: Darren Mattocks 61', Kekuta Manneh 73', Caleb Stanko 86'

Seattle Sounders Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1):

Stefan Frei (G), Kelvin Leerdam (D), Kim Kee-hee (D), Chad Marshall (D), Brad Smith (D), Gustav Svensson (M), Cristian Roldan (M), Jordan Morris (M), Nicolas Lodeiro (M), Victor Rodriguez (M), Raul Ruidiaz (F) Substitutes: Harry Shipp 77', Nouhou Tolo 84', Jordy Delem 92'

FC Cincinnati Goals:

Leonardo Bertone 13'

Seattle Sounders Goals:

Kelvin Leerdam 27', Jordan Morris 33’, 43', Raul Ruidiaz 87'

Steve Haldeman