FC Cincinnati sees depth of leadership as a strength leading into weekend fixture without captain

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FC Cincinnati will be without its captain for the first time in a very long time. Luciano Acosta, who leads The Orange and Blue with the armband every week and is also a leading candidate for the Audi MLS MVP, will not be available for selection due to a one-game match ban for yellow card accumulation. 

Four times this season, FCC has started without Acosta; three times in MLS play, and once in the U.S. Open Cup. Defender Matt Miazga has worn the armband in all three MLS matches, and goalkeeper Alec Kann held the responsibility in the Open Cup. 

Someone has to wear the armband, but the absence of Acosta will be filled by a group effort as both coaches and players believe that the multiple leaders in the locker room are one of the team’s greatest strengths.

“We have a lot of leaders on this team. Wearing the armband doesn’t make you more of a leader than others,” Miazga said of the responsibility. “A lot of guys lead. Some of them are more by example. Some of them are by speaking or communicating and a lot of guys are a mixture of that.”  

“I think we’ve experienced this already enough times where guys understand what it looks like when (Acosta’s) not in the 11,” Noonan said of his captain’s absence. “Certainly we would like him to be available, but that’s the circumstances. We have enough experienced players… I think guys understand how to go about the preparation, stepping on the field and being confident in winning a game despite missing such a key piece.”

Miazga, having served a captain most often in Acosta’s absence, says he takes the responsibility seriously but tries to keep his role on the field consistent.

“For me, it’s just about continuing what I do,” Miazga said. While he has not been announced as captain for Saturday’s match with Philadelphia Union, his leadership on the field will be vital. “I try to be a leader from the back and help the guys stay organized and keep the group together.

“You definitely feel a bit of extra responsibility. Naturally, I think that’s just an instinct….when things get tough, you always look to your leaders.”

FC Cincinnati will be challenged on the pitch in their return after a 14-day break between matches. An added difficulty as The Orange and Blue look to both resume the quality form they’ve had all season but do so on the road against one of the best home sides in MLS. Philadelphia Union have lost just once in two years at Subaru Park and have dropped points only eight times since the beginning of the 2022 season. 

The key to success in unfriendly confines, Miazga says, is unity. Staying together throughout the match and supporting teammates for the full 90 minutes. 

“We have to be ready for the challenge,” Miazga said. “I feel we’re confident in the situation that we’re in. We’ve been confident all year…we have to keep going with it and make sure that we play the game right. 

“We’re definitely going to make sure that we give absolutely everything we have.” 

If The Union have one glaring weakness this season, it has been conceding early goals. They have allowed the first goal in 14 of 26 matches, and eight times have allowed a goal in the first 15 minutes.

“We haven’t talked about scoring in the first 15 minutes. It’s been more ‘let’s win the game.’ So getting out to an early lead will be a good start in our goal of winning the game,” Noonan says. “You don’t want to be chasing the game or find yourself down because you have a slow start, especially in this environment against this team.” 

“We all know that the first goal is always important,” Miazga added. “That sets the tone for the game. It sets the tone for the rest of the match.”

Kickoff from Subaru Park is at 7:30 p.m and is available for free on Apple TV.