LAFC unleashed a flurry of early chances, but FCC managed to turn them away and seemed like they might produce another impressive result on the road. Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey, twice an MLS Team of the Week honoree, came up big once again with a fine third-minute stop on a look from Latif Blessing. A second chance moments later by Diego Rossi also went close, but the Cincinnati defense turned it away as well.
Having survived the earlier onslaught, the visitors produced a few chances of their own. The closest came from Darren Mattocks, who saw a curling effort go wide of target. But despite fleeting chances on the break from FCC, the hosts were dominant throughout. And they would be rewarded for their dominance in the 32nd minute, courtesy of Mark-Anthony Kaye. A former standout for FC Cincinnati’s USL rival Louisville City FC, Kaye opened the scoring with a well-placed header off of a Vela corner.
It would take nearly an hour of play for LAFC to double their lead, and Vela would again be involved. The Mexican international added a goal to his earlier assist by coolly finishing past an onrushing Richey in second-half injury time to make it 2-0.
Changes in LA
A road match against the top side in the league isn’t normally a time to make changes to your first choice squad. But a series of injuries would force Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch to dip into his squad’s depth for the trip to LAFC. The visitors would field an XI with three changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Sporting KC last Sunday in Cincinnati.
“It’s been a tough week,” said Koch in response to the squad adversity. “We lost a few players. [But] I’m proud with how our players responded. To come here and be right in the game right until the end and to manage a lot of what LAFC threw at us? I’m very, very proud of the group.”
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) April 14, 2019
Those responses would be needed in every area of the pitch. After starting last weekend on the bench, Kekuta Manneh returned to the starting attack in place of the injured Roland Lamah. Having been forced off at halftime in the draw with Sporting with a precautionary calf concern, Lamah was fit enough to make the bench and make a 27-minute substitute cameo against LAFC.
Koch would also hand out two first starts of the season on Saturday night. One of those would be for Caleb Stanko, replacing midfield mainstay Victor Ulloa having already made four substitute appearances this campaign. The other first start came for defender Justin Hoyte. The match would also mark the 34-year-old former Arsenal defender’s MLS debut. It would come thanks to a late-week injury for Greg Garza, though Hoyte would be deployed on the right with Mathieu Deplagne again deputizing Garza’s normal left back spot.
For Hoyte, the debut came as a bit of a surprise. “I didn’t really know until the manager announced the team before the game,” he admitted post-match.”For me, I was excited. Obviously, I have waited so long. I have been waiting to start an MLS game and since I’ve come here to Cincinnati, it has been my dream to play in MLS.”
More wasted opportunities
That LAFC dominated the proceedings was not unexpected. Given the host’s attacking prowess, Koch and the Orange and Blue knew heading into Saturday’s fixture that they would have limited chances to do damage. And that held true, with Los Angeles logging a 22-7 shot advantage over the course of the game.
Following Saturday night’s shutout, FC Cincinnat have now gone 295 consecutive minutes without scoring a goal from open play. But that’s not to say Cincinnati couldn’t have taken more from the match.
“I would be very concerned with that statistic if we weren’t creating chances,” said Koch when asked about the streak. “A stat like that can be misleading. If you’re creating chances like we are, we don’t have anything to worry about. We just got to make sure we’re capitalizing on the chances we create.”
Unfortunately for FC Cincinnati, for the second straight match, they didn’t capitalize on those chances. After seeing Mattocks and Manneh miss golden chances at home last weekend against Kansas City, it was deja vu in LA. Mattocks twice went close on the evening in the first half against LAFC, even forcing a standout diving save from Tim Miller. Had either chance gone in, it could have been a different match.