FC Cincinnati 2

PREVIEW | FC Cincinnati 2 kickoff MLS NEXT Pro season Monday night against Toronto FC II


FC Cincinnati 2 open their 2023 MLS NEXT Pro campaign on Monday, March 27 at Scudamore Field at NKU Soccer Stadium against Toronto FC II at 7 p.m. ET. Gates open at 6 p.m. ET and admission to the match is free of charge.

The match will also be streamed live on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app. For more information on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, visit  FCCincinnati.com/SeasonPass.


Keep up with all things FC Cincinnati 2 @FCCincinnati2 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

FC Cincinnati 2 are 1-2-0 all-time against Toronto FC II. The teams faced off three times in MLS NEXT Pro’s inaugural season, playing two matches north of the border and once at Scudamore Field.

Toronto FC II had a largely successful inaugural season in MLS NEXT Pro. The Young Reds finished on 41 points, good for a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference, and earned a spot in the MLS NEXT Pro postseason. Toronto would oust Philadelphia Union 2 in the opening round before falling to Columbus Crew 2 in the conference semifinal.

Toronto’s 44 goals were good for the third-best total in the east in 2022, led by midfielder Paul Rothrock. Rothrock has since joined the Tacoma Defiance, but Toronto remain strong in attack, exercising contract options on Julian Altobelli and Reshaun Walkes. The two combined for 11 goals and five assists in 2022 and were only behind Rothrock from an individual scoring total.

Goalkeeper Luka Gavran returns for a second season following his impressive performances in between the sticks for Toronto in 2022. Gavran registered five clean sheets in 18 regular season appearances, tied for the fourth-best mark in the league. Gavran picked up three clean sheets in four matches midseason to help get the Young Reds into a playoff position.

Toronto FC II looks to start the year younger, with the Young Reds signing four academy products just days before the start of the season. Luca Accettola, Markus Cimermancic, Kundai Mawoko and Adisa De Rosario all inked their first MLS NEXT Pro contracts this past week. The youngsters, with the exception of De Rosario, made appearances for the Young Reds last season and should feature in expanded roles in 2023.

FAMILIAR HOME OPENER – FC Cincinnati 2 once again play host to Toronto FC II in the club’s MLS NEXT Pro home opener. The Orange and Blue took three points in last year’s meeting at Scudamore Field with Arquimides Ordoñez scoring the first goal for FCC 2 in the 4th minute of action.

GOALS, GOALS AND MORE GOALS – A total of 12 goals were scored in the three meetings between the two sides in 2022. FC Cincinnati 2 and Toronto FC II found the back of the net in each contest with no fewer than three total goals being scored in each game last season.

INTERNATIONAL DUTY – Midfielder Salim Adams was recently called into the U23 Ghana National Team for the country’s two, Third Round qualifying matches for the African Cup of Nations competition. Adams and the Black Meteors played to a 1-1 draw in the first meeting between the two countries.

ACADEMY EXPOSURE – 20 current or former FC Cincinnati Academy players made appearances for FC Cincinnati 2 during the club’s first season in MLS NEXT Pro. Kai Thomas, a former academy product and the first player to sign with FCC 2, led all players in appearances (24) and minutes played (2,088).

Of those academy players who appeared for FCC 2 last season, 10 made 10 or more appearances in the club’s inaugural season in MLS NEXT Pro. Kai Thomas, Morgan Marshall and David Garcia led the team in games played and all are FC Cincinnati Academy products.

AND SPEAKING OF NEW FACES – FCC 2 signed four players to MLS NEXT Pro contracts this offseason. Defender Bret Halsey, forward Jesus Castellano, goalkeeper Hunter Morse and forward Ben Stitz will all get their first taste of MLS NEXT Pro action in 2023.

Bret Halsey (D) – Halsey joined the Orange and Blue from Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in November as the team’s first offseason signing. Halsey was selected by Real Salt Lake in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft as a Generation adidas player out of the University of Virginia.

Jesus Castellano (M) – Castellano, just 18, brings plenty of youthful experience to FC Cincinnati 2 after joining the Orange and Blue from New York Red Bulls II. The young Venezuelan is a crafty attacker that finished fifth in minutes played for NYRBII in 2022.

Hunter Morse (GK) – Morse signed an MLS NEXT Pro contract after being selected by FC Cincinnati in the Second Round of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft. Morse was one of the best goalkeepers in the nation in 2022 leading all Division 1 keepers with a .884 save percentage.

Ben Stitz (F) – Stitz impressed in his preseason trial with the club and was rewarded with an MLS NEXT Pro contract in late February. Like Morse, Stitz was a Second-Round selection in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft by D.C. United and brings attacking versatility to the 2’s.

“The excitement level is very high. Everyone is ready to get started, players and coaches included. Monday is going to show what we’re about, and hopefully we can establish what we will be for the rest of the season.

“There is a bit more continuity in the group this season, we are a year wiser and a little bit more established in our style of play. The players that were part of this group last year have grown so there is a bit more maturity in the group as well."

“Toronto will give us a different look than last season. They are a young team, very similar to our group. We know they are going to press us and look to build in possession when they are on the ball, but we’ll be ready and excited to get out in front of the home supporters on Monday night.”