Playoff berth is milestone to be celebrated, but only a step in the journey to larger goals

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FC Cincinnati made history Wednesday night in Atlanta, Georgia, when they defeated Atlanta United FC 2-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Not only did FCC win a road game on turf for the first time since joining Major League Soccer, they earned three points in Atlanta for the first time, and by doing so, clinched their spot in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs. 

FC Cincinnati (17-3-6, 57 pts.) checked their  playoff box in historic fashion, needing only 26 matches to secure a postseason berth, the second-fastest pace ever in MLS, trailing only LAFC, who twice clinched in 25 games in 2022 and 2019. 

Making the playoffs for the second consecutive season is the first of many milestones along the way for FCC players, coaches and staff, with grander goals on the horizon. 

“To be able to secure a playoff spot is something certainly to be proud of,” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said after Wednesday’s win. “It’s a sign of growth. But hopefully it’s just another milestone that the guys can be pleased about that is en route to our bigger goals.”

With eight regular season matches remaining, FC Cincinnati holds a 10-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield race and an 11-point lead in the Eastern Conference heading into their next home fixture with Orlando City SC. With their eyes set high on the prize, that is trophies, the early opportunity to celebrate an accomplishment is mentally refreshing for the stretch run, but also a reminder and strong motivator to continue to push for the highest goals.

“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 still, with a lot of games to play, it’s a good feeling.”

“Our goal is obviously trophies and this year and it’s pretty obvious what we’re chasing now,” defender Matt Miazga said. “But it’s massive. My hope is (clinching a playoff spot) is a step in the journey.”

With eight games remaining in the 2023 MLS season, every match matters as The Orange and Blue push forward for the club’s first MLS-era trophy. 

“That’s what we’re thinking about,” defender Nick Hagglund added on how the team monitors things like playoff position and opponents’ results related to the Supporters’ Shield race. “It’s what we care about, and everything’s in our own (control).”

FC Cincinnati returns to TQL Stadium Saturday night, where they are undefeated in 2023 across all competitions, to take on Orlando City SC, who currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the Supporters’ Shield with 44 points. Having earned 37 of 39 possible points at home this season, The Orange and Blue have the opportunity to break not only the single-season MLS points record (73), but also the home points record (43), needing just seven more points at TQL Stadium to secure the best home season in MLS history.