Coming off a 7-1 defeat to Minnesota United FC last week, FC Cincinnati could have struggled to regroup. Instead, they turned the page, returning to Nippert Stadium and defeating the Houston Dynamo 3-2 in Week 18.
"Unbelievable, to see everyone is buzzing in here," winger Kekuta Manneh told reporters after the win. "In the stadium, everyone is buzzing, the fans. We needed this, we got it. We've been putting a lot of effort into it, it's been a long time coming, and it's sweet that we have [a win] at home."
FC Cincinnati have endured a difficult MLS expansion campaign so far, as they sit in last place in the league, and the shellacking they experienced in Minnesota last week seemed to be the latest indicator that a push for the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs would be unlikely.
But there are signs of hope within the club.
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"I hope it is [a turning point]," interim manager Yoann Damet said regarding the win over Houston. "It's up to us to make it one, a turning point of the season. We had a wake-up call last weekend, we had some meetings this week and some strong words in the locker room, too. We spoke about the importance of playing at home and getting results in front of our fans but also for us."
Amid the team's struggles, one player who has seized on his chance at playing time is rookie Rashawn Dally. The forward out of Quinnipiac -- the No. 49 overall pick in the most recent SuperDraft -- scored his first career goal in MLS in the victory, with a well-taken finish off a good throughball in the 38th minute.
"I've been in that situation many times in training, so I wasn't surprised," Dally said. "I just wanted to do all the right things, keep my eye on the ball, I knew where the goal was and placed it into the corner."
Dally, originally loaned out to USL Championship team Memphis 901 FC to begin the season, did not seem to be in the MLS team's plans right away, but with his first goal in his third MLS appearance, he's taking the chance with both hands.
"It means everything. Coming into the league as a rookie I wanted to make an impact and the biggest impact that I can. And for me, that's scoring goals. And on the defensive side, as well, but I just want to continue to do that," he said.
When asked why Dally got the start, Damet indicated the rookie's performance in training earned him the nod.
"First of all, Rashawn has been training very well, he earned his spot in training for his performances. [Starting striker Fanendo] Adi is coming back from an injury. We have to be careful. He couldn't have started the game tonight, but Rashawn earned his spot."
Manneh, who also scored a goal on the night, was happy for Dally's goal.
"We need goals to come from different places if we're going to have a successful season...It's finally coming together. I'm happy for Rashawn, his first goal in MLS after three starts, hopefully he keeps it going. He's worked quite hard, he's a big part of our team," he said.