FC Cincinnati delivered an abundance of magical moments during its five-year stay at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium but there was no magic in reserve for the club’s final match there.
Playing its 84th and last competitive match at Nippert, FC Cincinnati was blanked by Sporting Kansas City, 1-0.
The match was another case of FCC playing well enough to get a positive outcome but not converting on its chances in front of goal.
Roger Espinoza tallied in the 57th minute to give Kansas City, the leaders of Major League Soccer’s Western Conference (11-6-2), a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“You’re hoping that a lot of people and fans and everybody see you play because if they see us play, they’d probably think ‘OK, who’s the team in the top of the league from these two’ and why are these guys so low on the table and it’s all got to do about ourselves,” FC Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam said afterward. “Today as well. You play well. We had, like, 62 percent of the possession overall in the game but it’s all about goal scoring and well all know that. We had the opportunities again today. Very clear ones, even a penalty, but we can’t get into the back of the net. We’ve had that in other games as well. We keep saying the same things and I’ve had a little bit enough of that, to be honest.”
With the loss, FC Cincinnati dropped to 4-13-4 in the 2020 season. It’s home record in 2020 fell to 1-4-4.
The club’s all-time record in competitive action at Nippert went final at 37 wins, 24 losses and 23 ties.
FC Cincinnati’s scored the fewest goals in Major League Soccer this season by a wide margin with just 11. Only three of those were scored at Nippert over the club’s nine home matches in the pandemic-shortened season.
Kansas City’s lead came under threat immediately, however, as FC Cincinnati was awarded a penalty kick after Frankie Amaya was tripped up in SKC’s penalty area by Roberto Puncec.
After a video review confirmed the penalty kick for FCC, Siem de Jong took the kick in the 63rd minute and banged it square off goalkeeper Tim Melia’s left-hand post.
Of the several quality opportunities FCC created, Brandon Vazquez had the finest from the run of play as he went on a run and chipped over Melia only to see his 88th-minute effort his the outside of the left post.
In his first start since an Oct. 7 match against Philadelphia Union in which he was injured, Jurgen Locadia went 77 minutes and we lively on the left wing for FCC.
Locadia fired off four shots, putting one on-target.
“Unfortunately, they scored on one chance and we couldn’t score today, so, we lost. I don’t know what to say really,” FC Cincinnati center back Tom Pettersson said. “Of course it’s frustrating. At one point in the season, we didn’t create a lot of chances to be honest. Right now, we are creating chances but of course it’s about confidence. If we score the first goal or we equalize, we get a big boost obviously. Now, we don’t get that, so, we struggle and we keep on fighting and trying to score but, of course, goals change games. It’s tough but we have to look to ourselves. We haven’t done enough to score obviously. We miss the chances and they don’t.”
FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey stood on his head in the second half to keep FCC in the match.
Richey made three saves.
Melia made two saves for Kansas City. Those stops, plus the help of his left post, helped keep FC Cincinnati off the scoreboard.
“Man, just feels like that summarizes our season pretty accurately,” Richey said. “I thought we played well for large portions of the game. We dictated the game, especially early on. We created some good chances. They created a couple. They end up scoring the goal… I thought it very accurately summarized how this year has gone for us. You can’t fault guys for our effort.
“I know eventually effort’s not enough and results have to start coming. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done tonight.”
Afterward, there wasn’t much room for recalling past times at Nippert.
In what was a fitting sendoff for the club at the UC venue, Jimmy McLaughlin made his first appearance in MLS with the club for the closing minutes of the contest.
It was McLaughlin’s 104th career appearance with FC Cincinnati and his first since the 2018 USL Cup playoffs. Since then, McLaughlin had battled a season-ending injury in 2019 and further injuries after play resumed in 2020 following the months-long stoppage for the pandemic.
With two matches to play, FC Cincinnati remains at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference on 16 points in the standings. FCC avoided elimination on Wednesday, however, as Inter Miami FC failed to defeat FC Dallas.
FC Cincinnati next plays on Sunday at Atlanta United and finishes the regular season at Miami on Nov. 8.