FC Cincinnati celebrate taking their first-ever MLS point in Atlanta

ATLANTA — Expansion side FC Cincinnati took their first MLS point in one of the most memorable ways possible, on the road against the reigning MLS Cup champions.

Yet Cincinnati manager Alan Koch may have discovered the most important elements of his club's makeup before Roland Lamah's 86th-minute equalizer.

Koch’s men found themselves down a goal inside five minutes after kickoff when Julian Gressel set up Josef Martinez's opener. It was Cincy's resolute response to that moment that left their coach most impressed.

“I don't think it fazed us at all,” Koch said after the match. “Obviously it's very, very difficult to go on the road and play in a place like this and concede that early. Some teams will collapse, but give the guys credit tonight — they didn't collapse at all. We just stayed calm. We managed the process of getting through the game. We did what good teams know how to do and grabbed a goal at the end of the game.”

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That's not to discount the history FCC made in this, their second MLS match.

Coming off the back of an ugly result in MLS’ opening weekend on the road against the Seattle Sounders, MLS’s new boys held firm against 11 talented players wearing red and black stripes — and the more than 70,000 in attendance cheering them on. 

“[The players] should be rewarded tonight,” Koch said. “They put in a very very good collective performance, and to get a point here on the road is a huge milestone for us as a club.”

If anyone knows the difficulty of earning a result here, it's former Atlanta and current Cincinnati defender Greg Garza, a key cog in Atlanta’s championship team last season. He had barely settled onto the bench by the goal, but was still able to enter into a competitive match when he replaced Alvas Powell with 19 minutes remaining.

“I didn't even see the goal. I think I was still waving to some fans. I thought the game was about to end 5-0 or 6-0,” Garza joked. “So I'm glad we were able to change it around. We got some more energy involved as the game went on. We started to grow some confidence, and I really think we could've changed the game if we had more time.”

On the back of a positive result, FC Cincinnati will play its first home league match next weekend against the Portland Timbers (5 pm ET | FS1, MLS LIVE on DAZN), the other 2018 MLS Cup finalist.

Koch hopes his team can earn all three points in front of their home supporters, but either way he’s confident they're on the right track.

“We know it's going to take time, but that growth was unfolding in front of our own eyes as the game went on,” he said. “I think getting the point at the end is huge for the players' confidence. They'll feel a lot better about themselves and the work they put in.”


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