FC Cincinnati kept a clean sheet, won at TQL Stadium and Brenner scored the decisive goal.

Those three things haven’t occurred often enough in 2022. But if Friday night’s 1-0 victory over Orlando City SC represents the beginning of a trend, it could be the next phase of FCC’s evolution under their new regime.

After the match, head coach Pat Noonan highlighted the importance of his group protecting their home field, where they had four losses this season, all on decisive goals scored in the 67th minute or later.

“It was important to win at home,” Noonan said. “We’ve talked about this far too often. We need to reward these fans. We had a great crowd tonight, and it was nice to send them home happy.”

The fourth-year MLS club had already demonstrated significant strides in their first season under Noonan and general manager Chris Albright, both of whom were previously with the Philadelphia Union.

They entered the opening match of Week 16 already in seventh place, above the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line in the Eastern Conference, and are now sixth – at least momentarily – before the rest of a busy weekend slate.

Goalkeeper Roman Celentano was rarely threatened while keeping his third clean sheet and just Cincy’s second at TQL this season. Opposite number Pedro Gallese was forced into eight saves for the Lions.

“I think defensively, that’s as good, as disciplined as we’ve been, front to back, this year,” Noonan said. “At halftime, we said one goal is probably going to win this game. Very pleased with how they went about securing the victory.

Luciano Acosta’s second-half introduction and enterprise ultimately created Brenner’s 65th-minute winner, when Acosta rebounded his own deflected shot and fed the Brazilian for his first goal of the 2022 campaign.

The goal was Brenner’s first in 11 appearances in 2022 after the 22-year-old scored eight times in his first MLS season.

Acosta now has five goals and seven assists in what is shaping up as one of the 28-year-old’s finest MLS campaigns, even as minor injury concerns limited him to 35 minutes Friday.

"I thought Lucho was very hungry in going to goal,” Noonan said of Acosta. “I was really pleased with, after his initial shot to follow the rebound with his speed that he got to that ball to be able to find Brenner. [He] was somebody that was hungry to help us score a goal.”