The road victory was sealed via striker Brandon Vazquez’s 93rd-minute finish off Calvin Harris' feed, carrying forward momentum after a pair of three-point results in a home-and-home series with Toronto FC. Rookie goalkeeper Roman Celentano, picked second overall in the 2022 SuperDraft, also made five saves for his second consecutive clean sheet.
Combine it all together and the Orange & Blue are experiencing unprecedented levels of success, which head coach Pat Noonan feels comes with a dose of caution as well.
“The winning is important for this club, to show signs of progress, but to also show that the group that we have is as capable of winning games,” Noonan said. “Regardless of who we're playing, where we're playing, as long as we have the mentality that we've shown I think certainly over the last week, this can continue.
“Hopefully we don't settle because we've had a good stretch, that we understand that we can do this quite often with the commitment from every player, every single day, and every time we step on the field. It sounds cliche, but when you have that commitment, when you have the buy-in, when you have that effort, nights like tonight, when you're not your best, you still can find a way to get results.”
The context behind Noonan’s remarks is Cincy finished bottom of the overall league table their first three seasons in MLS, going through three different full-time head coaches and two different interim ones. They were turbulent times, with their five wins this year nearly tying the club’s season-high (six in 2019).
It’s been a quick turnaround as Noonan arrives from being a Philadelphia Union assistant coach, with general manager Chris Albright joining from DOOP as well. Their successful runs at the Eastern Conference club are translating to life at TQL Stadium, it appears.
“It's just awesome, it's a good feeling,” center back Nick Hagglund said. “I think it just goes into everything that we've been working on this year: building culture, building the right attitude and mentality. On a day where maybe our football isn't the best, we had tired legs, we gut out a win against a quality opponent. I think that says a lot about who we are right now and the direction that we're heading.”
Cincy’s roster isn’t necessarily the final product, either, with DP defensive midfielder Obinna Nwobodo in his early days after arriving from Turkey. They’re also getting continual high-level performances from captain Luciano Acosta, with the No. 10 shouldering the bulk of their chance-creation tasks.
Some encouraging pieces are there, with Vazquez’s sixth goal already a single-season career-high. He's one off the Golden Boot presented by Audi lead.
“[It’s] incredible, incredible,” the No. 9 said. “Three wins back-to-back-to-back feels good. The team's really been working, and I think we deserve it.”