FC Cincinnati make a statement in dominant 6-1 win over Inter Miami CF

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With the top spot on the line, FC Cincinnati welcomed then leaders Inter Miami CF into TQL Stadium for a rare top of the table clash and made a statement to the league in record-breaking fashion. For just the second time in MLS history the top two teams in MLS met in a match after the 21 matchday in a season and it was the second place team who came out on top as FCC took the fight to Miami and emerged with a 6-1 win.

While both sides were without significant players as injury, suspension and international duty kept many out of the match, FC Cincinnati’s quality was evident from the opening kick through the final whistle, sending wave after wave of relentless attack at Miami while holding steadfast on defense.

It was the visitors who had the first scoring chance of the night, as a headed corner kick forced a diving save from Roman Celentano, but from there it was all Orange and Blue in the opening quarter of an hour.

With a new formation fueling a dynamic attacking force with Luciano Acosta, Luca Orellano and Yuya Kubo up top, FC Cincinnati attacked the Miami defense with waves of relentless creativity. It took world-class saves from Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender to keep FCC off the scoreboard.

But eventually it was too much, and the creativity of Orellano, who started the match as an attacking midfielder rather than a wingback, broke through on a brilliant run and pass to Yuya Kubo, who scored the game's first goal in the 10 minute giving FCC the early lead.

The goal was possible thanks to a brilliant run from Kubo, who timed his moment to avoid being offside when the final pass from Orellano (who showed great restraint in waiting to pass) came to pot his career high eighth goal of the MLS season on Orellano’s sixth assist of the year.

But Miami wouldn’t go quietly and pressured FCC on the other end, with Roman Celentano making three key saves in important moments. But on a corner kick the keeper was left helpless, as Sergii Kryvtsov broke free and headed in the equalizer in the 20 minute.

But the MLS MVP would not be denied in the half. With a clear fire in his play and the quality to match, FC Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta pushed his club forward and dribbled through three Inter Miami CF defenders before losing a shot to the back post past Callender to restore the FC Cincinnati lead.

But Acosta was not yet finished. Moments later, with the smoke from The Bailey still in the air from his goal, he played the maestro; orchestrating a perfect corner kick service to Pavel Bucha, who one touch swung and volleyed home his fourth goal of the season to double the FC Cincinnati lead in the 38 minute.
The initial goal was Acosta’s 10th of the season in MLS play (11 all comps), it was also his 50th goal across all-time in all comps with the club, the first FCC player to reach that mark. Obinna Nwobodo also earned his second assist of the year for his effort on the play. The Bucha goal, his third in two games, earned Acosta his 17 assist on the year.

The Orange and Blue were not finished though. With the two goal lead and smelling blood in the water, Acosta continued to push for more. With time running out in the first half, the 2023 MLS MVP picked the pocket of a Miami defender and launched an attack. With a field width long crossing pass that confused The Herrons defense, Lucho found Yamil Asad on the far post and the fellow Argentine patient took a touch, waiting and waiting for the perfect moment before sending a shot through five-o'clock-traffic like defense to score the fourth goal of the first half.

The goal would ultimately be the final play of the half, capping off one of the best 45 minutes in club history. The four goal effort was just the second time FCC had scored four goals in the first half (2022 decision day) and the second time this season they’ve scored four in any half (4-2, at San Jose).

The second half kicking off with no changes for either side, FC Cincinnati weathered an early storm from Inter Miami CF as they attempted to get back into the game quickly. After five minutes without a dangerous look from the visitors, FCC launched back into their attack and picked right up where they left off.

Orellano and Kubo linked up again to start the scoring in the second half, as the Argentine attacker danced through the defense along the back line before chipping it to a wide open Kubo for the duo’s second goal of the evening and the fifth goal of the night. DeAndre Yedlin, a former member and captain of Inter Miami CF, also earned an assist.

With the game already well in Cincinnati’s favor, Inter Miami cracked under the pressure and made their lives much harder. Acting captain Sergio Busquests took exception to a foul called against his side and earned a yellow card for dissent. Not liking that reaction from the ref, Busquests continued to argue and the official deemed he had stepped over a line and gave the Spanish star a second yellow card and a red card, ejecting him from the match and forcing Miami to play with 10 men for the final half hour of the match.

In response to the new advantage, Pat Noonan decided to go to his bench and bring on youngsters Bret Halsey and Gerardo “Dado” Valenzuela” for the goal scoring pair of Orellano and Kubo, who were both one yellow card away from suspension.

Valenzuela, a Boca Raton native and a former Miami academy player before joining the FC Cincinnati academy, made history in his appearance by scoring the sixth goal of the night, equalling a club high. But more importantly, the goal, scored in the 72 minute and assisted by Acosta and Asad, was the 19-year-olds first career goal in MLS in play.

With the strike from the keeper’s left and slotted under the defender, Valenzuela made it 6-1, the ultimate winning score for FCC.

With the victory, not only was a statement made but a lead taken, as FC Cincinnati earned all three points and took the lead atop the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield tables with 48 points and a 15-4-3 record while still having a game in hand over the now second place Inter Miami CF.

FC Cincinnati will look to take this momentum into next week’s home match, the second of three at home, when they take on Charlotte FC. They will then host Chicago Fire FC on Wednesday, July 17 before jetting off to New York Red Bulls for the final match of MLS play before kicking off Leagues Cup 2024.