Vazquez Nets 'Important' Goal to Spark Second Half Win in the Music City

March 26, 2023 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - FC Cincinnati News Release

FC Cincinnati gave Nashville SC the blues Saturday in a 1-0 win that extended their road unbeaten run to nine games. With the win, the Orange and Blue are the last remaining unbeaten in the Eastern Conference and leapfrog Atlanta United into the second spot in the Eastern Conference.

It was a relatively quiet opening 10 minutes of what was a highly anticipated interconference clash as both sides looked to wrestle control of the match. Luciano Acosta once again pulled the strings in midfield for FC Cincinnati creating the first chance for the Orange and Blue in the 11th minute.

Acosta slipped a pass behind the Nashville defense to an open Brenner who found himself through on goal. Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis came out to challenge Brenner and, with a good save, kept the match goalless.

But following Brenner's chance, Nashville settled in and controlled much of the first half action as the Orange and Blue faced fourteen first half shots, absorbing attack after attack from the Boys in Gold.

"In the first half, there were certainly some good moments for us to get a goal," said Pat Noonan. "We didn't find it. And then we had to take on some pressure. There were too many fouls, probably unnecessary fouls, that led to that pressure from set pieces. The second phase of that is that our clearances weren't great, so, we had to deal with that as well."

FC Cincinnati's backline continued its solid start to the season, blanking Nashville for team's third shutout of the season. Roman Celentano played a big role in helping keep Nashville from scoring, making three first half saves, two of which came against reigning MLS MVP, Hany Mukhtar. It's Celentano's third clean sheet in the last four.

"Roman came up with a huge double save there towards the end of the half," said Noonan. "I didn't have a great angle on it but it looked pretty good. On top of that, the guys defended the box really well tonight."

FC Cincinnati conceded an early second half goal last week against Chicago Fire FC, but this week it was the Orange and Blue who returned from the break with a bang. Brandon Vazquez opened his 2023 account, scoring in the 48th minute.

"It was an important goal for him," said Noonan. "You could feel it if you were watching or saw the reaction after the goal, that was important for him. It came for us in an important time of the game. Hopefully this is just the start of what I think Brandon expects of himself, of what a lot of us expect, in terms of finishing those plays off."

Vazquez's goal completely changed the match as the Orange and Blue continued to press and create quality scoring chances often. Álvaro Barreal, who had a hand in the Vazquez's goal, nearly doubled the lead four minutes later, forcing another good save out of Willis.

"After the break, the guys came out in a really disciplined way," said Noonan. "They adjusted well in terms our how we were arranging our press. Their outside backs were getting too much time and space so we wanted to be a bit more clear with our front three and where they could take away some of those angles."

In midfield, former FC Cincinnati Academy product Malik Pinto made his debut for the Orange and Blue, becoming the first former FC Cincinnati Academy player to earn a start for the first team. Pinto filled in for Junior Moreno, who is away on international duty, and played 64 minutes in the win.

"Malik, I thought he had a solid game. After the first, maybe, five minutes, he looked comfortable connecting on simple passes. Defensively, I think he and Obi had a pretty good partnership on the night, taking away passes to Mukhtar. I was really pleased with Malik's performance."

There weren't many chances for Nashville to get back into the match, as the Orange and Blue held the hosts to just three second half shots. Nashville were ultimately unable to bring things level and suffered their first defeat at home this season. Nashville were unable to score at home for the first time since June 11, 2022.

"I thought our wing backs were outstanding," said Noonan. "Ray was excellent tonight in one-on-one defending and then the ability he had to advance the ball with composure and poise. "We probably could have had a couple more goals, but the way we saw out the game under difficult circumstances, on top of the quality of the opponent and being on the road, it was a good performance all around tonight."

FC Cincinnati have the chance to go top of the Eastern Conference next weekend for the first time in club history as they return home to TQL Stadium on April 1. Tickets are available now at or by calling (513) 977-5425 (KICK). The game can be streamed live for free on the Apple TV App, and fans can also listen to the match locally on ESPN 1530.

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