SEATTLE — Despite taking an early lead through a Leonard Bertone wonder-strike, FC Cincinnati’s first match in Major League Soccer ended in a 4-1 loss to Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night.
Anticipation for the 24th MLS expansion franchise’s inaugural match was sky high, both in Cincinnati and Seattle. Reports of up to 800 traveling Cincinnati fans made the trip to for the occasion. And supporters bars back in Ohio were so crowded that at least one had to stop admitting patrons.
The anticipated affair wasn’t just the first match in MLS for FC Cincinnati. It was also the first MLS match in charge for FCC head coach Alan Koch. And in it, the South African coach opted for a defensively-oriented formation. But the 4-5-1 setup not seen during the team’s preseason preparations wasn’t the only surprise in Koch’s starting XI. One of just two holdovers from Cincinnati’s first United Soccer League roster, midfielder Corben Bone, getting the start also caught a few off guard.
Just 13 minutes into the match, supporters in Seattle and back home in Ohio were rewarded for their long wait. And handsomely.
After Cincinnati thwarted several dangerous Seattle chances in the opening minutes, Leonard Bertone turned the match on its head with a stunning opening goal for the visitors. The opportunity came when a failed Seattle clearance found its way to Bertone. Standing at the top of the Sounder’s box, the Swiss midfielder sizzled it past an outstretched Stefan Frei with a first-time volley. A fitting goal for the team’s first in MLS, it was was also the third-fastest goal by an expansion team in league history.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) March 3, 2019
Unfortunately, their dream start would be short-lived.
Back down to Earth
Capitalizing on gaps down FC Cincinnati’s right flank, the hosts found an equalizer just 14 minutes later. Running unmarked behind FCC’s backline, Nicolás Lodeiro lashed a shot towards the far post. While Przemysław Tytoń was able to parry the effort, Seattle’s Kelvin Leerdam pounced on the rebound to make it 1-1.
A Sounders second came quickly after. Again attacking down Cincinnati’s right, Jordan Morris benefitted from a deflection to make it 2-1. Making his return after missing the entire 2018 season through injury, Morris doubled his tally and Seattle’s lead with a third goal just before half.
Koch’s halftime adjustments didn’t hault Seattle’s dominance, but they did stem the bleeding. Still, the Sounders remained stifled in the offensive third, registering just seven shots during the game.
It seemed as if that might be it for the night, but a flurry of late chances for the Sounders saw Peruvian Raúl Ruidíaz tag on a fourth and final goal in the 87th minute.
In the postmatch press conference, Koch was realistic about his team’s performance.
“I think the game was as difficult as we knew it would be,” Koch said of his Cincinnati side. “We thought [Seattle] would be at a high level and they were at a high level. We knew it would be a tough place to come play and it was a tough place to come play.”
Regardless of how tough a first outing it was, Koch remained optimistic. “I thought we looked very, very good, but those were only short little spurts during the course of the game.” He continued. “We’ve also got to stretch those moments and make them longer.”
Unfortunately, the next chance they’ll have to stretch those moments out will come during another daunting away match. FC Cincinnati’s next test will come next Sunday, when the team travels to Georgia for a 5 p.m. ET kickoff at the Mercedes-Benz home of reigning MLS Cup champion Atlanta United.
Mar 2, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; The Seattle Sounders celebrate after Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris (13) scores a goal against the FC Cincinnati during the first half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports