Match Recap: FC Cincinnati 0 - New York Red Bulls 1

Steve Haldeman

Saturday, April 27, 2019
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ

FC Cincinnati (2-4-2) vs. New York Red Bulls (1-4-2)

Twenty seconds was the difference in the game; maybe the season so far.

When Kendall Waston's header from 10 feet away missed an open net and bounced off the crossbar in the 91' minute of Saturday night's match against Eastern Conference rival New York Red Bulls, there was a collective RUFKM moment for every FC Cincinnati supporter. Three times before that in the match, an FCC ball seemed to waggle in time, spin off course by a hair, and ping off 6 spare inches of goalpost.

Following two goals last week where Real Salt Lake players were simply in the right place at the right time, it all seemed so cosmically unfair. After a roaring start to their inaugural season, the wunderkind of the Queen City suddenly can't seem to buy a goal. Is this to be the excruciating fate of the Orange & Blue, the soccer gods turning aside their favor?

Unfortunately, the 1-0 result on Saturday to the New York Red Bulls, yet another scoreless loss for FC Cincinnati, wasn't just bad luck. There is a clear correlation between Cincinnati's recent slump and the Red Bulls' lone goal in this match.

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Red Bulls' Right Back Alex Muyl threw a ball in from out of bounds, then jogged into an open space just past the halfway line. Moments later, he poked a pass from Midfielder Sean Davis a few feet forward into that open space and used the opportunity size up the situation upfield. Muyl sent an arcing pass toward the goal, where his Forward Brian White was sandwiched between Cincinnati Center Backs Kendall Waston and Nick Hagglund.

White stopped in his tracks before leaping up to win the jump ball, heading it to teammate Daniel Royer, who chested the ball to his feet, then back-heeled it toward a streaking Marc Rzatkowski. Rzatkowski wasn't the only Red Bull making a run, with Left Back Connor Lade overlapping him.

Rzatkowski, charging the ball, looked up and recognized that left-footed teammate Connor Lade's angle on goal was better than his own. He pointed to the ball, signaling to Lade that the shot was his. Lade didn't waste the chance and blasted a precise shot into a spot in the top left corner of the goal, where Cincinnati Goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton had no chance to stop the inevitable. Thus was scored at 37:41 the only goal of the game.

A favorite subject of coach Alan Koch is managing moments. The 20 seconds that transpired between Alex Muyl's throw-in and the Red Bull's only goal was a moment perfectly managed by a seasoned team making patient decisions based on experience and trust.

The best athletes in the world talk about the game slowing down for them. They enter a time warp where they can make complex calculations during the same 1.5 seconds their opponents are still struggling to react to the situation.

Over the course of that 20 seconds on Saturday night, it was clear that New York's attackers were taking the time to make calculated decisions.

Muyl moves into open space to create an open target in midfield. His first touch allows him seconds to assess. His pass is precise, allowing an outnumbered teammate a chance to create a moment of his own.

White is under pressure but takes a moment to recognize that Royer is open at the top of the box. Royer chests the ball to his feet and backheels it, knowing full well that Rzatkowski is making the run, and rather than just reacting to the pass as a chance to throw himself at a shot, Rzatkowski backs off to allow for a better chance by his left-footed teammate.

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During the entire sequence, FC Cincinnati players could be seen reacting frenetically and without that same level of purpose.

In those same kinds of moments FCC players launch intercepted goals to either the closest teammate or as far away from goal as possible. Attackers are rushing their chances or overthinking them. Open teammates are left open in front of open goals. Runs get missed, shots spin off-target. It looks for all the world like there is no plan. The game is moving faster for them than their opponents.

For 20 seconds on Saturday, the difference in the game was the difference between a veteran team coming off of the best season in MLS history and a rookie team barely a quarter-way through their first season together.

Attacking options are slim for FCC, and even though opportunities abound, players are reacting impulsively in those moments. They don't have enough familiarity with each other to be able to judge the pace or angle of the right pass. They aren't able to predictably fill in spaces when players press on defense or time diagonal runs on offense to clear defenders, and when something unexpected happens, they struggle getting back into the shape.

All of this does not even take into account the dark psychology of slumps and how they feed on themselves. Players are going to over-press, then over-think. Every missed opportunity adds more distrust, more frustration, and makes the next opportunity all the more anxious. It doesn't seem to matter what pieces are on the board if every move is too fast and impulsively reactionary. A goal will come. (I mean, it has to, right?) I'm just not convinced that the team is not its own worst enemy at this point.

This is a very complicated way of admitting (and it pains me to say it) that the warnings of MLS pundits about expansion team woes were warranted. It's also an argument for why adding pieces might not be the quick fix that a lot of fans are rooting for, because even though a better finisher would be exceptionally helpful, the game is not likely to slow down for this squad by adding another unknown into the mix.

It seems we're just going to have to wait a little longer for our 20 seconds, and hope that FC Cincinnati can find a way to string together another magic moment, but it will need to borne of cold calculation, not desperation, if there is to be any hope for the moment that follows.

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

Przemyslaw Tyton (G), Justin Hoyte (D), Nick Hagglund (D), Kendall Waston (D), Mathieu Deplagne (D), Victor Ulloa (M), Leonardo Bertone (M), Kekuta Manneh (M), Kenny Saief (M), Roland Lamah (M), Emmanuel Ledesma (F) Substitutes: Darren Mattocks 63′, Allan Cruz 69′, Alvas Powell 81′

New York Red Bulls Starting Lineup (5-4-1):

Luis Robles (G), Tim Parker (D), Connor Lade(D), Aaron Long(D), Amro Tarek (D), Alex Muyl (D), Sean Davis (M) , Marc Rzatkowski(M), Daniel Royer (M), Omir Fernandez (M), Brian White (F) Substitutes: Michael Murillo 69′, Kemar Lawrence 77′, Mathias Jorgensen 86′

New York Red Bulls Goals:
Connor Lade 38’

Steve Haldeman