When Sporting released its starting lineup Sunday, the only regulars in it were Johnny Russell and Ilie Sanchez. Gedion Zelalem got his first start for the club. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza did not travel.
FC Cincinnati had a scoring opportunity in the first 35 seconds but put the shot just wide of the net to the right.
Kelyn Rowe blocked a pass by Cincinnati that went into the goal box. Yohan Croizet got to the ball first but the Cincinnati keeper came out and blocked the Sporting shot and eventually cleared the ball.
FC Cincinnati took a 1-0 lead on a penalty shot in the 19th minute after Andreu Fortas took down an FC Cincinnati player in the box.
Sporting failed to capitalize on a great opportunity in the 33rd minute. Johnny Russell found Gianluca Busio just outside of the box. Busio delivered a perfect pass to Kelyn Rowe in the middle of the box about ten feet away from the goal with just the keeper between him and the goal but Rowe put the one-timer high.
Busio has done a terrific job passing in tight quarters. He found Johnny Russell for what would have been a goal but Russell was declared offsides. Busio made several excellent passes in traffic.
FC Cincinnati led 1-0 at the half. Vermes chose not to make any substitutions at the half even though Gerso Fernandes and Krisztian Nemeth were on the bench.
Felipe Gutierrez replaced Gedion Zelalem in the 56th minute. Zelalem wasn’t heard from much in his MLS debut. Gutierrez made an immediate impact on Sporting’s offense giving them more energy and opportunity. Sporting had more and better looks from that point.
Finally, in the 62nd minute 16-year old Gianluca Busio scored an open net goal when the Cincinnati keeper made a terrible mistake coming out of goal to get a ball but missed.
Krisztian Nemeth replaced Yohan Croizet in the 69th minute. Sporting had twenty minutes plus extra time with Nemeth and Russell along the front line to break the 1-1 tie.
Nemeth wasn’t able to make a difference. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. Sporting gets a point but likely would have had three with the regular starters playing this game. We’ll see if Vermes’ strategy pays off over time.
Up next is the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal match against Monterrey. This game is essentially meaningless as far as the tournament goes because Sporting will not win by five or more goals to advance. However, the experience playing against Monterrey could be a valuable learning experience.