FC Cincinnati suffered a disappointing defeat to Saint Louis City SC in their opening match of the 2023 MLS season. The hosts scored two goals in the first half and held on to their lead despite a late rally from the visitors.
The game started with both teams trying to impose their style of play. FC Cincinnati, under new coach John Smith, opted for a possession-based approach with short passes and quick movements.
Saint Louis City SC, on the other hand, relied on their physicality and directness, looking to exploit the spaces behind the defense.
The first goal came in the 17th minute, when Saint Louis City SC midfielder James Jones intercepted a pass from FC Cincinnati defender Mark Lee and launched a long ball over the top for striker David Smith.
Smith outran his marker and chipped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper Tim Johnson.
FC Cincinnati tried to respond with some pressure of their own, but they struggled to create clear chances. Their best opportunity came in the 32nd minute, when winger Alex Green cut inside from the left and curled a shot towards the far corner, but it was tipped over by goalkeeper Mike Brown.
Saint Louis City SC doubled their lead in the 41st minute, when they won a corner on the right. Jones swung in a cross that found the head of defender John Williams, who nodded it past Johnson.
The second half saw FC Cincinnati make some changes to their formation and tactics. They switched to a more aggressive 4-3-3 and pushed higher up the pitch.
They also brought on some fresh legs, with forward Tom Clark replacing midfielder Sam Lee and winger Jack White replacing defender Matt Brown.
The visitors looked more lively and threatening in the final third, but they still lacked the final touch. They had several shots from distance that either missed the target or were saved by Brown.
They also had a penalty appeal turned down in the 68th minute, when Clark went down under a challenge from Williams in the box.
Saint Louis City SC were content to sit back and defend their lead, relying on their solid backline and occasional counterattacks. They nearly scored a third goal in the 76th minute, when Smith broke free on the right and crossed for Jones, who volleyed over from close range.
FC Cincinnati finally got on the scoresheet in the 83rd minute, when White delivered a cross from the right that was met by Clark at the near post. Clark flicked the ball past Brown with his head and gave his team some hope.
However, it was too little too late for FC Cincinnati, who could not find an equalizer in the remaining minutes. The final whistle blew and Saint Louis City SC celebrated their first win of the season, while FC Cincinnati were left to rue their missed chances and defensive errors.
The result leaves FC Cincinnati at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table with zero points, while Saint Louis City SC are at the top of the Western Conference table with three points.
The next game for FC Cincinnati is at home against New York City FC on April 23rd, while Saint Louis City SC will travel to face Los Angeles FC on April 22nd.
Final Thoughts: FC Cincinnati’s Opening Loss to Saint Louis City SC in 2023 MLS Season
FC Cincinnati’s opening match in the 2023 MLS season ended in disappointment as they suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Saint Louis City SC. The visitors struggled to create clear-cut chances throughout the game and were punished by the hosts’ direct style of play and physicality.
Despite showing some promise with their possession-based approach in the first half, FC Cincinnati’s defensive lapses cost them dearly. The first goal they conceded came from a costly mistake by defender Mark Lee, whose misplaced pass was intercepted by James Jones, leading to David Smith’s goal.
The second goal was the result of poor marking from a corner kick, allowing John Williams to head in unchallenged.
In the second half, FC Cincinnati tried to mount a comeback by changing their formation and tactics, bringing on attacking players and pushing higher up the pitch.
While they were able to create more chances, they lacked the final touch to convert them into goals. Their only goal came from a late header by Tom Clark, who came on as a substitute.
Overall, FC Cincinnati’s opening loss highlights the importance of defensive solidity and clinical finishing in the MLS. With a tough schedule ahead, they will need to regroup and address their weaknesses if they hope to improve their fortunes in the coming games.