ATLANTA – A road game against Atlanta United FC on an artificial pitch hasn’t been a recipe for success for FC Cincinnati historically. Then again, 2023 has been the FCC’s “first” and “best” year, so why not make that combination a winning recipe?
In fact, why not make it a playoff recipe? On Wednesday it was. FC Cincinnati came from behind against Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and cruised to a 2-1 victory.
The win was Cincinnati’s first indoors, and first on an artificial surface since the fourth-ever MLS game in March 2019.
The win moved FC Cincinnati to 17-3-6 (57 points) in Major League Soccer, extending its lead in the Eastern Conference to 11 points over the New England Revolution. In the race for the Supporters’ Shield, St. Louis CITY SC is 10 points away from the FCC.
“What a big win for our group. Reacting after a slow 25 minutes to start the game, finding our way into the first half… The way the guys came out and attacked in the second half was really impressive,” said Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan. I think scoring Two goals and coming off with three points is huge for us in the big picture.
more:Why FC Cincinnati’s NYC defeat was the biggest win of 2023: Major League Soccer’s takeaways
It was a missed score, but FC Cincinnati also clinched a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs with their win. It determined playoff berths in consecutive years for the first time in club history.
While expected, Cincinnati officially winning post-season football was still significant. This message has signaled to all MLS members that the stretch is in full swing and that the pressure races in the standings will continue to heat up.
The early stage in which the FCC has clinched a spot in the playoffs has also been impressive, with eight games and nearly two months remaining in the regular season.
“It’s a sign of growth, as we’re now a stronger team in the regular season than we were last year. We’ll see what that looks like in the post-season, if we’re a better version of ourselves than last year, and I thought we were a strong team,” Noonan said. “But yeah, we’ve maintained our position consistently throughout the year and that’s what allowed us to secure that position early on, but hopefully this is just another milestone the guys can be happy with on our way to achieving our bigger goals.”
And in the 75th minute, Luciano Acosta canceled out Edwin Mosquera’s equalizer in the 10th minute, achieving his 13th tally this year. The quick passing combination with Junior Moreno, who headed the ball to Acosta to put it past Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan, was the key sequence in the build-up.
The shot found the side netting, resulting in Jozan being frozen in position on the goal line.
“I think it was a play that just came from that moment,” Acosta said through the team’s translator. “Junior got the ball and he found me. We traded the ball. I got to it and I hit it.”
Cincinnati tied it up defensively after Mosquera scored an early goal for the home side. After that, the FCC’s offense grew in the game, which was bound to happen at some point against an Atlanta team that entered the contest having allowed the second-most goals in the East in 2023.
Given FC Cincinnati’s performance was a win-win, it wasn’t surprising to see the Orange and Blue continue attacking the Atlanta backline in search of a winner.
More of the same quality of constructive play led to a go-ahead Brandon Vazquez goal five minutes later. Acosta passed the ball to Álvaro Barreal on the wing, and Barreal crossed the ball to the front of the goal.
Vazquez, who hit four shots in the match and was particularly active in the second half, kicked the ball past Jozan after a Barreal pass.
This goal was the 17th for club and country in all competitions in 2023 for Vazquez, who scored 20 goals in all competitions for Cincinnati in 2022.
The playoffs are “what we put in our heads at the beginning of the season,” Acosta said. “We can win any game we can. We’ve had some great games at home, some great games away. Today was a huge game but it’s no surprise because the team played well today.”
Final: FCC 2, ATL 1.
FC Cincinnati’s comeback victory secured a MLS Cup playoff berth. No more lawn monster conversation. The FCC has also given up on a long history of not winning in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as has Pat Noonan because he has never won in the building as a coach.
a Cincinnati’s lead goal (80′)
Brandon Vazquez’s fifth MLS goal of 2023 put FC Cincinnati ahead and in position for a well-deserved big win.
Cincinnati equalizer (75′)
Luciano Acosta’s 13th goal of 2023 elevated Cincinnati. The hit moved Acosta to the top of the MLS, with Hany Mokhtar for goals.
Atlanta goal disallowed (51′)
It seemed that Zandi Silva doubled Atlanta’s lead from a corner kick, but the goal was ruled out due to a clear error before the shot.
Atlanta leads at the end of the first half
Unfortunately for FC Cincinnati, the opening goal scored against Atlanta ended up being an outsider compared to the chance the home side had the rest of the half. The FCC could be deadlocked against the second worst defensive team in the East to start the second half but they are still looking to dig their way out of the hole.
Atlanta opens registration (10′)
Edwin Mosquera hit a close range shot as Atlanta took control of the game early.
Underway in Atlanta (1′)
The game kicked off at 7:39 PM, with FC Cincinnati dressed in head-to-toe orange and Atlanta wearing an interesting third jersey called “Kit 404”. The top is a collaboration with local creative company, Atlanta Influences Everything. The graffiti on the jersey recalls the city’s global and national cultural contributions during the 1990s.
There is no “pop” for FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati’s Aaron Popendza did not travel to Atlanta on Tuesday. He sustained an unspecified injury in Saturday’s win over New York City FC and is considered an everyday thing.
The starting line-up for Cincinnati and Atlanta United
- Cincinnati starting lineup: Roman Celentatno (GK), Alvaro Barrial, Ian Murphy, Matt Miazga, Nick Haglund, Brett Halsey, Obinna Nobudu, Yuya Kobo, Luciano Acosta, Sergio Santos, Brandon Vazquez.
- Cincinnati seat: Alec Kahn (goalkeeper), Alvas Powell, Marco Angulo, Santiago Arias, Malek Pinto, Ray Gadis, London Agedo, Gerardo Valenzuela, Junior Moreno.
- Atlanta United starting lineup: Brad Guzan (GK), Brooks Lennon, Miles Robinson, Louis Abram, Caleb Wiley, Tristan Moyumba, Mateus Rosito, Edwin Mosquera, Thiago Almada, Zandy Silva, Giorgos Giakomakis.
- Atlanta seats: Ronald Hernandez, Santiago Sosa, Saba Lobjanidze, Amar Sedic, Derek Etienne Jr., Miguel Perry, Juan Jose Sanchez-Purata, Tyler Wolf, Quentin Westberg.
“Travel aficionado. Infuriatingly humble reader. Incurable internet specialist.”