A beautiful sun-splashed afternoon along with 32,500 fans greeted FC Cincinnati when they stepped out of the locker room and onto the home pitch for the first time as a Major League Soccer club.
Unfortunately for Portland FC, the hospitality stopped there as the Orange and Blue attacked early and often, storming their way to a decisive 3-0 win.
“We did our job and earned three points,” FCC coach Alan Koch said. “It was a nice way to reward the city and our fans. Our fans are the reason we are and they seized the moment tonight. I was glad we were able to give that kind of a performance.”
FCC didn’t waste time, jumping out 1-0 in the 15th minute when center midfielder Leonardo Bertone lofted a perfect pass that Kendall Waston calmly headed into the back of the net to send the locals into a frenzy.
FCC controlled the first 20 minutes as Portland attempted to attack down the right flank with little success against FCC left back Mathieu Deplagne.
Frustrated, the Timbers gave up and attacked the left side the rest of the half, outshooting FCC 7-4 while gaining a 60 percent to 40 percent possession edge.
The momentum was short-lived, however, as FCC dominated the second half, outshooting the Timbers 13-3.
FCC standout forward Fanendo Adi played a remarkable first half for the home team but went down late with an ankle injury. Darren Mattocks came on in relief of Adi in the second half and shined.
Mattocks sent a long ball down the right side that found Roland Lamah, who collected, slid to his left and rocketed a shot. Portland was able to deflect it but right to the foot of Allan Cruz.
Cruz, who had lived around the goal all night and was eventually named man of the match, calmly collected the ball at the eight-yard line, shielded his defender and slid the ball home for a 2-0 lead at the 60th minute.
“It eased the pressure a little bit,” Mattocks said of the second goal. “At 1-0 you are always worried. At 2-0 it is the most dangerous score in soccer as they get one goal they are right back in it. I think we did a good job keeping our composure. The second half we pretty much dominated the game. “
Three minutes later FCC would end any potential drama when Mattocks put a perfect cross from the right side of the box onto the waiting foot of Deplagne, who one-timed it home.
“Massive,” Mattocks said of the back-to-back quick goals. “It definitely showed what we can do, scoring in quick succession. After that third goal we really controlled the game, controlling the tempo for the next 25-30 minutes.”
Mattocks, selected in the first round of the 2018 expansion draft, has been in the league eight years and was amazed at the FCC home crowd.
“Amazing, like our 12th man out there,” Mattocks said of the crowd. “Truly amazing. This is my first time playing in Cincinnati. This is probably top three best crowds in MLS. I have played in pretty much every stadium in MLS and this is right up there with the Atlantas and the Seattles and the Portlands.”
FCC has now earned points against the defending MLS champs (Atlanta) and the league runner-up (Portland), but Koch said that doesn't mean anything.
“No statement was made,” Koch said. “It means we put in our performance and FCC earned the three points.”
Koch said he is happy with the way his team has responded after the opener, a 4-1 loss to Seattle.
“We have grown a lot thru the first three games,” Koch said. “We went to Seattle and got punched in the face. The guys got punched in the face and they responded.”