If nothing else, expectations around FC Cincinnati have come a long way under first-year head coach Pat Noonan.

Look no further than Saturday night's 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park, the latest result that reflects how the Orange & Blue have evolved since the 2022 MLS campaign began in late February, slowly pushing their three straight league-worst finishes into the past.

"We've had enough of a sample size with this group to believe that we can get results in these games, regardless of how we're playing," Noonan said after FCC took seventh in the Eastern Conference standings to sit just above the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line. "I thought that was one of our better performances through probably 60 minutes.

"But they believe that they can get the result or it wouldn't have happened, because we were down a goal on the road against a good team. But we found a way to get back into it."

Brandon Vazquez scored his eighth goal of the season six minutes before halftime on a slickly-worked corner kick and set-up header from Tyler Blackett, increasing his calls to earn a US men's national team chance. Vazquez is now tied for third in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race.

That was enough to cancel out Alejandro Bedoya's 17th-minute opener, snap a brief two-match losing run and give Cincy their first-ever point and first goal at Subaru Park in their fourth all-time trip. It all came largely without their star playmaker, as Luciano Acosta subbed on in the 78th minute after starting all 14 prior games in FCC's turnaround campaign.

The visitors' nerviest moments – mostly a couple of good late second-half chances that Daniel Gazdag drove directly at goalkeeper Roman Celentano – also offered a view of where Noonan's club may aim to improve next.

"Late in the game, how do you figure out how to defend the box where we're not conceding looks like that, because those could've very easily been converted," Noonan posed rhetorically. "But they do a good job of getting numbers forward, getting their strikers running at your backline and getting in front of goal. So you have to be very aware of those late runs, and balls that are either knock-down runs or balls that are cut back. And those are a couple ones that we could've done better with."

FCC may need to solve that sooner than later. Saturday kicked off a five-match stretch that includes games against all of the current top four teams in the Eastern Conference, plus a third match in all competitions this year against 2021 Supporters' Shield-winning New England Revolution.

At the same time, the first-hour performance vs. MLS Cup-contending Philly is another piece of evidence that continues to build belief in Noonan's squad, which seems far ahead of the 2019-21 struggles Cincy experienced as their expansion project grew.

They'll look to build on that Friday when hosting Orlando City SC (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).

"I think the group, regardless of who we're playing against, certainly believes that we're capable of getting results," said Noonan, a longtime Union assistant under Jim Curtin. "Do we understand the difficulty of it? Of course, but we've done it enough now against good teams to understand that this can be a constant."