FC Cincinnati will look to build on their first in-state rivalry victory when they host sliding D.C. United in a meeting of teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table Sunday night.
Cincinnati (4-10-4, 16 points) is four points clear of last-place D.C. (2-10-6, 12 points) after a surprising 2-1 win over Columbus on Wednesday, which snapped a four-match losing skid and five-game winless run.
After the sides traded first-half penalty kicks, Cincy defender Nick Hagglund headed in the winner four minutes after halftime from Haris Medunjanin's outswinging free kick.
It was Cincy's first non-penalty goal in six games, since Hagglund scored directly from a corner kick in his team's last win against the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 19. Manager Jaap Stam's club still hasn't scored from open play since Brandon Vazquez's consolation tally seven games ago in a 2-1 loss to New York City FC on Sept. 12, a run that has brought the first-year boss under increasing pressure.
"If you're not scoring and you're not winning games and you're giving these balls away, then there's criticism, yeah, I can understand that," Stam said after the Columbus win. "I think myself and the staff and the players are most critical on our performances and what we have done and what we need to do."
Meanwhile, D.C. is amid a nine-match winless stretch, its longest since a 15-game slide that bridged the end of the 2013 season and beginning of 2014.
But the performances have improved incrementally under interim manager Chad Ashton in the two games since manager Ben Olsen was let go following 10 years in charge.
The Black-and-Red nearly mounted a comeback after going two down in a 2-1 loss at the Chicago Fire two games ago. Then on Wednesday, they overcame an early deficit to take the lead before settling for a 2-2 draw with the Philadelphia Union after Mark McKenzie's long-distance late equalizer.
"I couldn't ask for more the last two games," Ashton said afterward. "I mean the guys are giving everything they possibly have. I mean there's no question how hard they are working. There's no question the hearts, the desire, so I'm really proud of the group again. I just thought we showed great character on the night."
--Field Level Media