FC Cincinnati will use break in schedule to rest, prepare for stretch run

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After a frenetic schedule full of drama, excitement and fixture congestion, FC Cincinnati find themselves in an unfamiliar spot: a 16-day break between scheduled matches. 

The Orange and Blue will not be back in action until August 20, when they travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Crew in the return match of “Hell is Real.” 

In the ensuing weeks of league play, combined with their run in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, FC Cincinnati will face a flurry of challenges as they continue to battle for multiple trophies down the stretch. 

“A loss stings,” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said after being eliminated on penalty kicks by Nashville SC in the Leagues Cup Round of 32 last Friday evening, “but we’ll shift our focus now to the return of league play … and try to have a good couple of weeks of preparation.

“It will be a little bit of a reset probably in the next couple of days. Let the guys get away for a little bit and then try to come back strong in preparation for Columbus.” 

FC Cincinnati will resume training Thursday, giving players a well-deserved, five-day break while still having over a week of preparation time for the run of play that awaits them.

The grueling stretch includes three games in six days and five games in 13 days before having an off-week in the MLS calendar. With an opportunity to reach an Open Cup final for the first time in club history and an eight-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings, every high-stakes game will have deep significance.

“When we lose, I don’t like it. But now we can go on for more,” captain Luciano Acosta said. “We have the (Open Cup semifinals), we have the league. 

“We want to move on. But on the other hand, it’s time to rest. We’ve been very stressed out and very tired from the games, so it’s a chance to rest and to get ready.” 

Acosta has started every match since June 21 for The Orange and Blue, playing a team-high 808 minutes in that stretch, just two minutes shy of the maximum. He also started in the MLS All-Star Game and logged 45 minutes, in addition to participating in the skills challenge event. 

Late in the match against Nashville SC, Acosta said he struggled with cramping in his legs and general fatigue, which is the reason he says he passed the game-tying penalty kick to striker Brandon Vazquez.

The opportunity for rest will not only serve the players on the field, but will also allow some players time to recover from injuries that have sidelined them from game action. 

Dominique Badji and Dado Valenzuela continue to recover from leg injuries that have seen them out of action since the opening of Leagues Cup. The break also provides a runway for Sergio Santos to recover after picking up an injury just moments before FCC’s match with Chivas Guadalajara on July 28. 

Santiago Arias, who was away from the club handling visa paperwork in his native Colombia since Leagues Cup opened, will be given ample time to work back into the group. Arias had a workout plan while away, but Noonan indicated it would take a few days to reintegrate him into the group; that is no longer a problem. 

“I think it’ll be good for a lot of players,” striker Brandon Vazquez said of the break. “We’ve had a lot of tough games leading up to this, so I think it’d be nice to give our team a little bit of a mental break and physical break. I think it’ll be good for us to get our focus back.”