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FC Cincinnati Complete Sweep, Take Down Atlanta United FC 1-0 to Extend Win Streak to To Five Matches

May 15, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
FC Cincinnati News Release

CINCINNATI - FC Cincinnati took the lead early and never looked back, toppling Atlanta United FC at TQL Stadium 1-0 in a full-fledged defensive effort that saw Roman Celentano earn his league-leading fifth Clean Sheet of the season and extend FC Cincinnati's win streak to five games - one shy of the club record.

With injuries leaving the depth of the team at a disadvantage, Head Coach Pat Noonan went with youth and deployed two strikers in the starting IX who have not yet seen their 20th birthdays. Heroes from the Hell is Real victory five days earlier, Kevin Kelsy and Gerardo 'Dado' Valenzuela (both 19) took over striker duties with Aaron Boupendza and Corey Baird out injured. Yuya Kubo, a man of many skills and positions, started at wingback after making five starts at striker leading into this match.

But it didn't take long for the scoring tandem that got the party started in Columbus over the weekend to provide their encore, opening the match with a near identical recreation of their goal from four days prior. Kevin Kelsy headed home his second goal of the season (and in as many games) on an assist from Luciano 'Lucho' Acosta, who flicked the pass along the goal line and over all defenders where only his new, 6'3" teammate could reach.

The goal also represented another milestone for the 2023 MLS MVP with the assist marking Acosta's 50th with FCC; making him the only player in club history to hit that mark.

The FC Cincinnati defense had some wobbly moments in the first half, but otherwise dominated as a group; allowing just one shot on target through the first 45 and conceded a measly 0.2 xG on that shot from Giorgos Giakoumakis that Celentano stopped easily thanks to an assist from Matt Miazga, who ran the Greek striker down to the touch line so the shot came from an impossibly difficult shot. Celentano also had important moments in the defense, on one occasion coming way out of the box to head away a dangerous ball and on another picking a cross out of the air to stop what would have been a clear header opportunity for Atlanta.

The second half started much like the first, with the FC Cincinnati defensive midfield pairing of Pavel Bucha and Obinna Nwobodo picking the pockets of Atlanta United FC to win possession and push the offense forward. Atlanta goalkeeper and 12 year MLS veteran Brad Guzan had to work overtime to keep up as FCC peppered the opposition for five shots on target and seven corner kicks.

The first bump in the road for The Orange and Blue came in the 65 minute with Pat Noonan needing to go to his bench to replace the goal scoring Kelsy. The striker went down after contact on a run and needed attention, though he did go off on his own power with Sergio Santos coming on for him. Defensive Midfielder Malik Pinto was also charged with a massive assignment as the homegrown player was brought in for Designated Player and defensive star Obinna Nwobodo.

Another scary moment came in the 89 minute as Miles Robinson was forced out of the game with a head injury after being fouled by Giakoumakis (who was also forced to exit). With seven minutes of stoppage time remaining all that was left in the match, Nick Hagglund came in to see out the match for The Orange and Blue, flexing the premier depth the FCC defensive core has to call on in moments of the match. In the dying moments of the match, Yamil Asad was also called on for an exhausted Luca Orellano, who put in a dominant performance on the wing.

FC Cincinnati though is one of the most comfortable teams in the league when playing in one goal games. FCC have won all seven matches this season by one goal and lead MLS in goals conceded with just 10.

Despite some very dangerous moments for both sides, FC Cincinnati sufficiently saw out the match with the lone goal and the defense stood tall. The win not only extended the club's winning streak, but also represented the first home win over Atlanta United FC in club history.

With the win, The Orange and Blue improve their record to 8-2-3 with 27 points, securing their spot in sole possession of second place in the Supporters' Shield standings. With Inter Miami CF drawing to Orlando City SC, FCC. With 27 points through 13 games, FCC is just three points back on the pace set last season to win the Supporters' Shield where The Orange and Blue earned 30 points through 13 games.

FC Cincinnati will continue their homestand in quick order, hosting St. Louis CITY SC on Saturday for the newest MLS club's first ever visit to TQL Stadium. FCC will then jet off to Toronto, returning to the scene of the club's first ever trophy clinching performance, for a Saturday night fixture at BMO Field on Saturday, May 25.

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