Cover Image via FC Cincinnati 

By Kyra Campbell 

FC Cincinnati is moving on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs after its penalty kick shootout victory over the New York Red Bulls. 

The Orange and Blue are into the conference semifinals for the second year in a row following their sweep of the Red Bulls in Round 1 of the playoffs. 

FCC rolled out a similar lineup as it did in the first match of this series, with one notable change as Santiago Arias was back in the lineup after coming back from injury. 

Roman Celentano started in goal, with Ian Murphy, Matt Miazga, and Yerson Mosquera making up the backline. As mentioned, Arias started at wingback alongside Alvaro Barreal. 

Junior Moreno, Obinna Nwobodo, and Luciano Acosta made up the midfield. Dominique Badji and Brandon Vazquez started at striker. 

With this being a do or die match for New York, the Red Bulls were in control of the match for much of the first half, forcing FCC into giving up possession easily. 

Cincinnati was also forced to make an early substitution in the 34th minute, when Aaron Boupendza came on for Badji due to injury. 

Arias then picked up a yellow card in the 39th minute. 

Then, in the 45th minute, NYRB put themselves ahead 1-0 thanks to a Tom Barlow goal. 

FCC was forced to make another injury substitution in the 69th minute, with Nwobodo being subbed out for Yuya Kubo after being stepped on. 

In the 75th minute, Yerson Mosquera was shown a yellow card as well. Then, following a fast break, Lucho played a ball to Boupendza, who put it in the back of the net, leveling the match at 1-1. 

With penalties looming, FCC made one last substitution, with Sergio Santos coming on for Murphy. 

Then, at the very end of stoppage time, Cincinnati thought they had a winner when Santos put Lucho’s corner into the back of the net, but the goal was called off. 

Before the end of regulation, Miazga picked up his first yellow card of the match. Soon after regulation ended and the match was off to penalty kicks. 

FC Cincinnati was set to kick first in the shootout, kicking toward the New York Red Bulls supporter section. 

Lucho took the first penalty and converted his attempt. New York’s Omir Fernandez converted the first kick for the home side as well. 

Kubo converted FCC’s second kick, and Frankie Amaya converted as well for NYRB. 

In the third round of kicks, Arias had his attempt saved while Sean Nealis made his, putting the Red Bulls ahead in the shootout 3-2. 

Vazquez then made his fourth round attempt but New York maintained their lead when Cameron Harper made his.

Barreal then made his fifth round kick, and with the chance to seal the victory for Red Bulls, John Tolkin hit the right post and missed his attempt, sending the shootout to a sixth round. 

Miazga then made his sixth round attempt, but then received a second yellow card for excessive celebration afterwards, suspending him for the conference semifinal match. Dylan Nealis made his attempt for NYRB. 

Boupendza converted his seventh round attempt and so did Elias Manoel for Red Bulls. 

Santos made his eighth round kick and Peter Stroud did as well. 

In the ninth round, Mosquera had his shot saved, but luckily for FCC, Serge Ngoma sailed his shot over the crossbar, sending the shootout to yet another round. 

In the 10th round, Moreno converted his attempt. Then, Celentano saved Andres Reyes’ attempt, winning the penalty shootout for FCC and sending the Orange and Blue onto the next round of the playoffs. 

FC Cincinnati now has three weeks to prepare for the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they will face the winner of the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution series. Philadelphia is currently up 1-0 in that series, with the second match to be played 11/8. 

The conference semifinal game at TQL Stadium will either be on 11/25 or 11/26, but no exact date or time has been announced.

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