Cincy-Chicago fight

FC Cincinnati, as Hell is Real rivals Columbus Crew rallied for an incredible 2-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls Saturday night, needed a win over Chicago Fire FC to book their first-ever Audi MLS Cup Playoffs spot.

Instead, in the other MLS Week 33 game simultaneously unfolding in Ohio, the Orange & Blue's fortunes took a decisively different turn following a fight at TQL Stadium.

What happened?

Cincy's comeback hopes were all but squashed in the 95th minute when striker Sergio Santos was shown a straight red card following the aforementioned scuffle, shortly before the final whistle blew on the Fire’s 3-2 road victory.

Santos had subbed on for Brenner just over 20 minutes prior, and he sparked much of the confrontation after being whistled for an initial foul on Rafael Czichos near midfield as Chicago's center back attempted a pass.

Cincy wingback Alvaro Barreal tried to lift Czichos off the ground by his jersey, and then the melee ensued in front of the hosts’ bench. Once tempers cooled off some, referee Lukasz Szpala also showed a yellow card to Czichos for his role in the confrontation.

It should be noted Santos was previously irate with Szpala after being whistled for a foul in the 83rd minute on Chicago right back Boris Sekulic, even though there didn’t appear to be any contact.

CIN-CHI fight: Week 33 match

Setting the stage

Before the altercation, Cincy had rallied to pull within 3-2 via goals from Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez. That all followed a 19-minute second-half span in which Jhon Duran’s brace and a goal from Brian Gutierrez sent Cincy into a 3-0 hole.

Eliminated from postseason contention nearly two weeks ago, Chicago were left to play spoiler in this Eastern Conference matchup as their 2022 season winds down. That reality was further underscored by Cincy taking 18 shots to Chicago’s 12, failing to capitalize on several gilt-edge changes.

Playoff implications

Cincy now enter Decision Day on Oct. 9 likely needing a win from their trip to bottom-of-the-table D.C. United (2:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). They’re desperate to earn a postseason bid during their fourth season, having finished bottom of the overall league standings three years running (2019-21) upon joining MLS as an expansion club.

The Orange & Blue will end Week 33 no lower than sixth place, with their playoff destiny still in their hands. But with the four clubs currently below them – Orlando City SC (6th), Inter Miami CF (7th), Columbus Crew (8th) and Charlotte FC (9th) – all playing Wednesday in rescheduled games, much could change going into Decision Day. Orlando play on Sunday, visiting New York City FC, and could swap places with Cincy in the East standings.