FC Cincinnati comeback to defeat Atlanta United FC, clinch spot in Audi MLS Cup Playoffs


FC Cincinnati came out victorious for the first time in club history at Atlanta United FC on Wednesday night, scoring twice in the final 15 minutes to claim a 2-1 victory and punch their ticket to the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. 

“What a big, big win for our group,” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said. “To find two goals and walk off the field with three points is huge for us. Certainly, in the big picture and to be able to secure a playoff spot is something certainly to be proud of.”

With the win, FC Cincinnati became the second fastest club in MLS history to secure their playoff position, doing so in 26 matches and earning 17 wins and 57 points along the way. 

The Orange and Blue had to overcome an early deficit to earn their first ever win at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and second consecutive berth to the postseason. 

“The way the guys came out and went after the second half was really impressive,” Noonan added. “The group could have put their head down when we missed some of those opportunities to get that first goal, but they stuck with it.”  

“It's massive,” FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga said of what making the playoffs means to the team. “Our goal is obviously trophies this year and that’s what we're chasing now. My hope is (this achievement) is a step in the journey.”

“There's objectives throughout the year and this is definitely one of them,” striker Brandon Vazquez added. “To be able to accomplish it early in the year, with a lot of games to play, it's a good feeling.”

FC Cincinnati return home for their next fixture, taking on Orlando City SC at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at TQL Stadium. 

The Captain equalizes, Vazquez takes lead late

In the 75th minute of the match, MVP frontrunner Luciano Acosta found the equalizing goal for The Orange and Blue, sending a strike to the upper third of the net past a frozen goalkeeper. 

The goal was created after Acosta and midfielder Junior Moreno played a perfect two-man game, where Acosta fed a pass to Moreno who immediately headed a pass back to the captain in open space. It was Acosta’s 13th goal of the season, which entering tonight would tie him in the MLS Golden Boot race. 

“That's a half chance, if that,” Noonan said of the equalizing goal from Acosta, relating it to its probability of being scored compared to other opportunities. “It's just a spectacular goal from a player that we needed to step up tonight and did.”

The goal introduced the late opportunity to not only take a point in a draw, but all three points with a victory.

Five minutes later, FCC went back on the attack looking to build momentum after their equalizer. Álvaro Barreal chased down an opening on the field and fed a weighted pass through the box, finding a charging Vazquez, who dived for the ball and tapped it into the back of the net for the game winner.

“A goal changes the tides,” said Vazquez, referring to how Acosta’s goal provided the motivation to score another. “We had a feeling (the winner) was right there.” 

“We just said ‘let's just go for it,’” Miazga added. “When we got to 1-1, I was actually telling the guys ‘Hey, just stay organized and catch our breath.’ But everyone's like, ‘just keep going’ because we had the momentum. … Our guys were relentless.” 

The hosts open the scoring

Atlanta looked like the more dangerous club in the opening minutes of the match, and needed just 10 minutes to get on the board.

After a failed free kick outside the box from Thiago Almada that rang off the crossbar, the hosts kept the pressure on FC Cincinnati’s backline. Just two minutes after the free kick, Edwin Mosquera opened the scoring in the match, blasting home a loose ball after a cross deflected off an FCC defender's foot. 

The opening score from Atlanta United FC marked the sixth time in eight games that FCC conceded the match's first goal. 

FC Cincinnati turn up the heat, but can’t respond before half

After playing on their back foot for the opening sequence of the match, FC Cincinnati found their footing and began to create dangerous chances as the half wore on. 

Despite owning 39.5 percent possession at halftime, The Orange and Blue created more shots (8) and xG (0.4) from the 10th minute on than the hosts. Acosta missed the equalizer by inches on three occasions, sending his shots just wide of the post. 

The first half did not come without pain before ending however. Midfielder Obinna Nwobodo earned a yellow card in the 41st minute on challenge at midfield, and moments later in the 42nd minute, striker Sergio Santos appeared to come up hampered after making a run at a defender. Santos was able to complete the half, but was subbed out for Moreno before the second began.