For head coach Pat Noonan’s team, everything is coming up Orange and Blue as of late.
FC Cincinnati seemed destined for a one-all draw Saturday evening at Soldier Field after Jhon Duran equalized in the 83rd minute to cancel out Rafael Czichos’ 33rd-minute own goal. But then club captain Luciano Acosta opportunistically scored in the 85th minute, taking advantage of a misplaced pass from Fire goalkeeper Gaga Slonina and slotting home at the near post for a 2-1 victory over Chicago Fire FC.
It wasn’t the prettiest win from an aesthetics perspective, but Noonan enjoyed the gritty qualities apparent in their fourth straight win.
“It's a mentality and they're figuring out how to do this as a group with a lot of different players contributing to us being able to win some games,” the first-year manager said. “In this stretch, it's been necessary for us to understand how to defend longer stretches when our quality with the ball isn't there. And we figured out in a lot of ways how to do that, to not allow teams to score goals, and we found ways to convert on limited chances.”
Cincinnati are now on 19 points, one below their entire total from a 2021 campaign that ended with their third straight Wooden Spoon finish (last place overall league-wide). They’ve also won four road games in a season for the first time since becoming an MLS expansion side in 2019.
They’re all signs of growing confidence within the group, that they can get a result anywhere around MLS even if the going gets tough.
“When [Chicago] get the goal, now at that point, they have the momentum and they had the run of play, certainly a lot of set pieces,” Noonan said. “You're looking to find a way to get out of there with a point, and as you said we weren't at our best and that's okay, getting the point on the road is always a good thing. But to be able to find a moment to get a goal and walk off the field with three points is a testament to just the mindset of the group.”
The result guarantees Cincinnati will finish MLS Week 11 at fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, uncharacteristic heights for the Ohio-based club that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
They’ll now return to TQL Stadium next Saturday to host the New England Revolution (6 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), having lost midweek to Bruce Arena’s team in the US Open Cup’s Round of 32. Naturally, Noonan expects a response.
“That's the character of the group right now, is understanding how to win when things aren't going our way,” the former Philadelphia Union assistant coach said. “The challenge moving forward is how to be better with the ball so that it doesn't have to look like this every time you win a game on the road.”