FC Cincinnati

For FC Cincinnati, Every Game Is a Playoff Game as They Head Down the Stretch

July 12, 2023 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
FC Cincinnati News Release

Iron sharpens iron, and FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan believes that intense competition will help you prepare for intense competition.

FC Cincinnati are top of the Supporters' Shield table with a seven-point lead, a lead that paints a target on your back. Opponents have extra incentive to want to beat the best team in the league.

"It's not gonna get any easier," Noonan said after the 2-2 draw on the road with Charlotte FC last Saturday. "We're at the top and teams want to be in that position. And everybody at this point, regardless of your place, is in a position to challenge for the playoffs. That's the no game is going to be easy."

Opportunity is how the club is opting to see the increased pressure that every game brings, using it as a chancey to learn how to build up a thick skin and respond in intense moments.

For example, after FC Cincinnati mounted a two-goal comeback in the second half against Charlotte FC, Noonan highlighted how they had rarely faced an early deficit this season (though making clear that falling behind by multiple goals isn't necessarily preferred) and the players are adapting and finding new ways to succeed in these situations.

"We're being challenged in different ways and the guys are finding ways to get solutions to some of the challenges that they're facing," Noonan said.

FCC has only conceded the first goal in a match three times this season, twice in the last three games as they play with multiple starters out of the lineup due to international duty. Learning to play from behind could be vital come time for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

"The more games that you can experience that feel like they're playoff-type games, where there's pressure, where you have opponents that step their game up for you...That's a good thing," Noonan said after training on Monday in preparation for FCC's midweek fixture with New York Red Bulls. "That prepares you in a better way for the end of the season.

"All these games, I think, are going to help prepare us for an even more intense, even more pressure-filled end to the season."

Opportunity headed into the break

With a seven-point lead before the month-long MLS regular season break for the Leagues Cup tournament with Liga MX, FCC will enter the break top of the Supporters' Shield standings.

But opportunity awaits as the alternative to complacency with two league matches in the next four days; strong performances can help set up the team for success both in the table and psychologically for when league play returns.

"It's a good situation to know that prior to the break, we'll be at the top of the table, but how we go into that break is going to be more important for me," Noonan said Monday at MHTC. "You could go into the break feeling really good. You could go into the break feeling like we missed an opportunity to maintain a lead and keep distance...I think it's important that we recognize the significance of these two games to maintain a lead and not let it slip."

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