FC Cincinnati clinched a spot in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history Sunday afternoon with a 5-2 win against D.C. United.
Fourteen FC Cincinnati players have made the trip to the Audi MLS Cup playoffs in their careers, with 66 appearances split between them. While the MLS Cup Playoffs may be new for FC Cincinnati, there is plenty of postseason experience throughout the squad including MLS Cup Champions Nick Hagglund and Alvas Powell.
Hagglund won MLS Cup in 2017 with Toronto FC, helping lift the Canadian side to its first title against Seattle Sounders FC. On a roster loaded with talent, Hagglund sees striking similarities between that Toronto side and his current club.
“We had some firepower,” Hagglund said. “We had Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, and Victor Vazquez. I think you see similarities here. Brandon kind of plays a Jozy, Brenner can play the check ins, like Giovinco’s role, and the playmaker Vazquez, well, that’s Lucho obviously.
“We had hard workers in the midfield that knew how to get the job done in Michael [Bradley] and Markey Delgado. Here we have Obi [Nwobodo] and Junior [Moreno]. We had a backline that was together and an attacking wingback in Justin Morrow. Here we have Álvaro Barreal.”
The biggest similarity though, Hagglund said, was that “everyone here knows their roles and knows how to get the job done.”
Hagglund, a Cincinnati native, was acquired by the Orange and Blue from Toronto prior to the team's inaugural season in MLS and has helped his hometown club develop from a bottom-of-the-table team to a dark horse cup contender.
“The improvement here has been so fast, honestly. I sat down with Pat [Noonan] at the beginning of the year and told him this team had the talent to make the playoffs and that it would come down to us needing a win on the final day, or some help, and we would be in.”
“But we're not here to just make the playoffs, we are ready to do something special.”
And special it would be. FC Cincinnati have enjoyed their best season in MLS, setting club records in points, wins, and goals for a single season and finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference. Three points on Decision Day has set up a round one match-up against New York Red Bulls this Saturday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
Like Hagglund, Alvas Powell was part of Cincinnati’s inaugural MLS roster. Powell rejoined FCC from Philadelphia Union to do one thing: win.
Powell, who won MLS Cup in 2015 with the Portland Timbers, playing alongside MLS stars Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe, shares Hagglund’s comparison of his former club to this FC Cincinnati squad.
“The talent. The talent throughout the team is noticeable,” said Powell. “Everyone steps up in big moments and has the ability to change games. That’s what makes this team special. Everyone gives it their all.
“Everyone is competing day-by-day to earn a spot because of how much depth we have in the team. Anyone can come in and make an impact.”
The most playoff-tested player on the FC Cincinnati roster knows the unpredictable nature of a single-elimination style playoff, having made 14 postseason appearances over the course of his career.
“It’s one game,” Powell said. “It’s like a final every game. Once you get in, anything can happen. Any team can beat any other team, and the guys know what to expect. We’ve got extra boots and a deep squad. All the guys have seen this over the last few years. We are ready for this important moment.”
An experienced and accomplished technical staff leads the Orange and Blue in the biggest match in club history. Head coach Pat Noonan has won two MLS Cups as a player (2008 Columbus Crew, 2012 L.A. Galaxy), and assistants Dominic Kinnear and Kenny Arena have a combined five MLS Cups in a management role.
“This is the best part of the year; when you’re a team, a coach, a player that gets to compete in the playoffs,” said Noonan. “Anything can happen. It’s a motivated group. They aren’t content just being here. The goal was to be here, but now that we are, let's do something special.”
You can catch FC Cincinnati’s historic round one playoff game at noon ET on Star64 and TUDN/UniMás, as well as MLSSoccer.com and the MLS App. Fans can also listen to the game on the radio, on ESPN 1530.