Comeback Sauce (New York Red Bulls vs. FC Cincinnati; 07.12.23)

Yusuf Abdullah/ALOST


– by Jeremy Striano
A Lot of Sports Talk contributor

HARRISON, NEW JERSEY — For all of the personnel losses that FC Cincinnati, the Supporters’ Shield frontrunners in 2023, continue to navigate before the All-Star Break, what has remained a constant with the Orange and Blue is their collective resilience, something that led them to pull off a franchise first on Wednesday night in pulling off their most dramatic and emotional win of the season to date.

Defensive midfielder Obinna Nwobodo scored in the first minute of second-half stoppage time, the game-winning tally in a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls inside Red Bull Arena. Captain Luciano Acosta scored on a penalty in the 80th minute to draw the game level, with Nwobodo’s winner marking the first time in the club’s four-year history that it came back from a second-half deficit to earn all three points.

The seeds of that comeback were laid in the last two contests, when the Orange and Blue came back from a two-goal deficit last Saturday in Charlotte and from a goal down in the second half against New England on July 1 to earn a point in each of those contests.

FCC came into this contest with a slew of key figures absent who have been instrumental in their sensational run through the first half. Defender Ian Murphy picked up a red card in Cincinnati’s draw against Charlotte and was suspended; Brandon Vazquez, the young striker who is the team’s joint second-leading goal scorer, is on international duty playing for the United States in the Gold Cup; and on the sidelines, head coach Pat Noonan missed the game tonight to attend to a personal matter.

Assistant coach and longtime MLS head coach Dominic Kinnear took over the helm in Harrison, with Noonan keeping contact with him over the phone at halftime.

“I give [coach Noonan] tons of credit for the win tonight because he set the team up in a great fashion,” Kinnear said afterwards. “The fight you see in the team is because of what he has instilled over the year and a half.”

That fight resulted in Cincinnati, who went into halftime down 1-0 courtesy of an Omir Fernandez penalty kick in the 28th minute, controlling most of the possession from the start of the second 45 minutes. The equalizer came in the form of, you guessed it, a penalty kick after a sliding tackle challenge from Red Bulls defender Kyle Duncan on FCC substitute Santiago Arias on the edge of the box. Cincinnati was originally awarded with just a corner kick before VAR intervened and a penalty was eventually called.

It was only fitting that Cincinnati’s penalty would be taken by a man who has had New York’s number since his time at DC United, Acosta. He slotted his penalty in the bottom left corner past Carlos Coronel and tied the contest with about ten minutes plus stoppage time remaining.

Acosta and Coronel played central roles in Nwobodo’s winner just before the full-time whistle, as Acosta’s cross from the left flank was intercepted in the box by the head of Red Bulls defender Matthew Nocita, making his MLS debut. His header, however, only went as far as Nwobodo toward the top of the penalty area, and his one-timed shot on goal bounced before in front of Coronel, who then saw the ball squeak through his palms and left knee and into the back of the net.

The defeat was a cruel finish to Troy Lesesne’s Red Bulls, who have shown improvement after a dreadful beginning to the season saw New York win just once in its first 10 games. The Red Bulls were coming off a 2-1 home victory against third-place New England on Saturday.

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