Pat Noonan is confident FC Cincinnati have the ability to take points off MLS’ top teams as his side prepare for Friday’s clash with high-flying Orlando City SC.
The Orange and Blue snapped a two-game losing run with a 1-1 draw against the Eastern Conference’s third-placed side Philadelphia Union last time out.
Cincinnati face another tough test with the visit of Orlando, who have lost just one of their past five league matches and are fourth in the East.
But having made good strides under first-year coach Noonan, the former United States international says his side will take real belief into their showdown at TQL Stadium.
“We’ve had enough of a sample size with this group to believe that we can get results in these games, regardless of how we’re playing,” he said after the draw with Union.
“I think the group, regardless of who we’re playing against, certainly believes that we’re capable of getting results.
“Do we understand the difficulty of it? Of course, but we’ve done it enough now against good teams to understand that this can be a constant.”
Orlando emerged from a mini slump with a 2-1 win against Houston Dynamo last week and are just two points off top spot, albeit having played more games than most of those around them.
The Lions now play their third game in the space of a week and a half, with head coach Oscar Pareja after more of the same from his side.
“I have to recognize the efforts of the players. That’s what made our last win even better,” he said. “On top of the point we also got against New England, we have to keep going.
“The victory against Houston was very important. We saw a lot of things that are natural with this team, but we also improved sequences in the quality.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
FC Cincinnati – Brandon Vazquez
Vazquez has been in great form for Cincinnati this term, notching his eighth goal of the campaign in the draw with Philadelphia. The 23-year-old is the joint-third-highest scorer in MLS this year and also has three assists to his name, making him the biggest threat to Orlando’s hopes of back-to-back wins.
Orlando City SC – Ercan Kara
Kara scored his sixth and seventh goals of the campaign across all competitions in Orlando’s win over Houston, with Facundo Torres and Mauricio Pereyra providing the assists. While plenty of focus is on leading scorer Kara, Pareja will hope that his front players can continue clicking, especially as City have kept just one clean sheet in 11 outings.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– FC Cincinnati won 2-1 at Orlando on March 12 this season, theirfirst-ever win over Orlando City. Orlando had been unbeaten in the first five meetings between the sides (W3 D2), though they won only one of their three league games in Cincinnati (D2).
– Cincinnati’s 1-1 draw at the Union last week took them to 20 points through 15 matches this season, equaling their total from all 34 matches last season. It was also the eighth straight game Cincinnati scored in, equaling the longest streak in club history (eight straight in July-September 2019).
– Orlando City ended a three-match winless run in league play with a 2-1 victory over Houston last week. The Lions have recorded the same result in consecutive matches just once all season, winning consecutive games over Chicago and Columbus in April.
– Vazquez scored the equalizer for Cincinnati last time out, taking his total to eight goals for the season, equaling Brenner’s club single-season goals record set last season. Vazquez has scored 14 MLS goals for Cincinnati, two more than any other player in club history.
– Junior Urso has scored three of his nine career regular season goals against FC Cincinnati, scoring in three of his four matches against them. He has not scored more than once against any other team in his MLS career.