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Late strikes boost visiting New York Red Bulls past FC Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — Despite looking vastly improved from last week’s heavy defeat at Orlando, FC Cincinnati slumped to a second straight defeat at home on Saturday night with a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls

The crowd of 28,290 were made to wait until the 78th minute before they saw a goal. Unfortunately, it was a moment of disappointment for the sizable support as Mathieu Deplagne’s turnover in the Cincinnati defensive third gifted Kaku a clear path to goal. The New York substitute rounded Spencer Richey to give the visitors the lead.

Adding insult in injury time, fellow substitute Omir Fernandez doubled the Red Bulls’ lead with a headed goal, his first in MLS.

The late strikes from the visitors were quite the gut punch to an FC Cincinnati side that was on the attack for much of the match. The hosts outshot their opponents 12 to eight and landed double the number of chances on target. If not for a standout performance from Luis Robles in the New York goal, FCC would have almost certainly come away with a better result. 

Post-match, it seemed FC Cincinnati interim head coach Yoann Damet felt similarly.

“I think [there are] a lot of positives to get out of this game,” he said. “The score does not reflect what happened on the field. So for sure, frustrating for the guys. I think we deserve better than that tonight.”

“That’s football,” Damet continued. “Everything can happen. As long as its 0-0, it can go both ways. We knew the game was developing, I think it was a balanced game. The dynamic of the game changed quite a few times, so sometimes we had more of the ball, sometimes we were more proactive, more attacking, sometimes they were. I think the game can go either way and unfortunately tonight that happened on one little factor.”

The result means FC Cincinnati (3-9-2, 11 points) have dropped eight of their last 10 results, keeping them squarely at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the win sees New York (6-5-3, 21 points) slide up into third place after securing seven points in a three-match week.

Injuries force Cincinnati’s hand

Following the big loss last Sunday, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see FC Cincinnati rotate their squad. And Damet’s starting XI did feature three changes from the blowout in Florida. But that was due less to the last weekend’s result than a dearth of healthy bodies. In fact, the 18 players Damet dressed for the match were reportedly the only ones the club had available for selection.

Among those in the matchday squad was midfielder Nazmi Albadawi, who would make his MLS debut as an 81st-minute substitute. Jamaican forward Rashawn Dally, recently recalled from his loan to USL Championship side Memphis 901 FC, also made his first appearance on the bench this season.

But the most notable of Damet’s changes came in the form of Fanendo Adi’s return to the FC Cincinnati starting XI. His last start for the Orange and Blue came way back on St. Patrick’s Day, when he limped off just before halftime in a 3-0 win over his former club, the Portland Timbers. That injury and suspension have limited the Nigerian striker to just two substitute appearances since, during which the club has averaged just 0.60 goals per match.  

May 25, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; FC Cincinnati midfielder Emmanuel Ledesma (45) plays the ball against New York Red Bulls forward Andreas Ivan (9) in the first half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Adi’s return to the starting XI was active, as the big man took half of Cincinnati’s shots on the evening. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the desired impact and the spurned a pair of golden opportunities to redeem himself. The first saw Robles turn away a sixth-minute breakaway after Roland Lamah neatly slipped him behind the Red Bulls’ defense. Just five minutes from halftime, Adi’s header from a Frankie Amaya set-piece forced Robles into an acrobatic tip over the bar.

As a result, Adi remains scoreless in 2019 after 352 minutes of play. 

However, Adi’s manager was happy with his return, even while admitting FCC need to figure out how to use him better. 

“I see a lot of positives in his leadership, what he brings to the table,” Damet said of Adi after the match. “I think at some points, we used him too much in the air. We didn’t play enough on the ground to create triangles and progress on the field. So I think sometimes, we relied on him a little bit too much.”

Robles’ rule

The veteran Red Bulls goalkeeper played a huge part in the result, with all four of his saves coming before his side took the lead. And when asked, New York head coach Chris Armas was very cognizant of how important his goalkeeper was for his team tonight.

“I just said to [Robles] on my way out of the locker room, ‘Another night where you just you come up big, you stand tall.’ The way we play, we get beat at moments behind and he seems to be in the right spots right now and he was locked in. So, to see him make some big saves, it’s a game changer for sure. It’s another game that he has won it for us.”

The shoutout was Robles’ second of the week, following the Red Bulls 1-0 win with 10-men over Atlanta United last Sunday. He was also crucial in the midweek draw at Vancouver, posting five saves.

Armas, however, was keen to make sure it wasn’t just Robles getting the credit. 

“I mean that locker room is really energized right now. I think part of it is that we win on the road. Part of it is that we continue the momentum. Part of it is that there are a lot of different players contributing. Part of it the guys feel like they are growing in all these moments.”

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