After a two-week break in the MLS schedule, FC Cincinnati returns to action for the final match of the regular season with the Supporters’ Shield and top seed in the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs already locked up.
Atlanta United FC come to TQL Stadium for Decision Day 2023 with playoff implications down the table and FCC milestones on the table. While FC Cincinnati are locked into their spot, Atlanta United could find themselves in three different playoff positions depending on their result, with the three through nine seeds in the Eastern Conference all up for grabs.
With an Orange and Blue victory, FCC would earn a tie for third most points in an MLS season ever and tied for the most home points ever with 43 (New York Red Bulls, 2018.)
“I think the break came at a good time,” Noonan said of the two-week gap between matches going into Saturday’s fixture “You never know how it's going to play out. But even with the players that we lost to international duty training, we’re good.
“You get a little bit more time to work on some things from our own side but also in preparation for what we might expect out of Atlanta. We got some young kids up into training and I just thought it was a really good international break, better than most with the preparation solely on for us in these moments now.”Peaking at the right moment is a philosophy Noonan believes holds value for the playoffs, so prioritizing continuity, winning mentality, and intensity going into Saturday’s match and beyond are key for The Orange and Blue.
“We've been able to move a piece or two all year long and still be able to have success,” Noonan said Thursday after training. “Going into the playoffs the only challenge with this particular time period is some key pieces that were obviously missing. Preparation (is important), but it's also important to have a good performance. There were things that I think over the last couple of weeks that were pretty strong but there were also some areas of our game that we just need to clean up.”
FC CINCINNATI at Toronto FC – SATURDAY, October 21, 2023 – 6 p.m. ET – TQL Stadium
Stream: Free on Apple TV
TV Talent (English): Kevin Egan (PXP) & Kyndra de St. Aubin(Analysis)
TV Talent (Spanish): Jorje Perez-Navarro (PXP) & Marcelo Balboa (Analysis)
Radio: ESPN 1530
Radio Talent: Tom Gelehrter (play-by-play), Kevin McCloskey (analyst)
FC Cincinnati earned their second ever victory over ATL UND in their last meeting, improving the all-time record against The Five Stripes to 2-5-4. Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez scored in the final 15 minutes of the match to come from behind and earn the 2-1 result. It was the first time FCC had beaten Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Orange and Blue’s only other victory against Atlanta came during the MLS is Back tournament, where FCC earned a 1-0 victory in Orlando at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.
At TQL Stadium, FC Cincinnati is 0-1-2 against Atlanta since their first visit in 2021.
FC CINCINNATI NOTES
Our Gaffer Sticking Around – FC Cincinnati announced Tuesday that head coach Pat Noonan has signed a long term extension to keep the gaffer in Cincinnati.
In two seasons with FCC, Noonan has led The Orange and Blue to their first playoff appearance and won their first trophy all while earning the second best winning percentage in coaches' first two seasons ever and the third most wins by a new head coach in the post shootout era.
Home Field Advantage – With the top seed in MLS and the Supporters Shield in hand, the MLS Cup and the MLS Cup Playoffs run through TQL Stadium as The Orange and Blue would host all but one playoff match at home.
Across all competitions, FCC is 17-2-4 at TQL Stadium with a 14-2-4 record against MLS teams this season.
With a win, The Orange and Blue would earn the second most home points in MLS history with 43, trailing only New York Red Bulls in 2018 with 44.
Up for Election - Seven FC Cincinnati players have been nominated for eight year-end awards. The list is highlighted by Luciano Acosta as Landon Donovan MLS MVP, Yerson Mosquera as Defender of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Young Player of the Year, and Pat Noonan being nominated for Head Coach of the Year.
A full list of nominees and voting protocols can be found here.
FC Cincinnati’s Álvaro Barreal has also been nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award for the most spectacular goal scored in the world this year. The goal is his volley against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal, scoring the game-winner on a corner kick that he fired into the upper corner.
The nod makes him the fourth MLS player to be nominated and the first from a U.S. Open Cup goal.
FC Cincinnati fans can vote on the award against the ten other nominees here.
For Club and Country - During the two-week break between MLS matches, Four FC Cincinnati players were called up to international duty with all four seeing the field for their respective countries. Junior Moreno started for Venezuela as they earned an important draw at Brazil in World Cup qualifying. Santiago Arias earned a start for Colombia as they earned a draw with Uruguay in World Cup qualifying; Arias was subbed out in the 90th minute for Yerson Mosquera, who made his first in competition appearance for his national team. Aaron Boupendza made the start for Gabon in a World Cup qualifying tune up friendly with Guinea in Algarve, Portugal.
Second Half Stalwarts- FC Cincinnati have allowed just 10 goals in the second half this season, the fewest in MLS. The Orange and Blue hold a +26 goal difference in the second half, one of just 12 clubs in MLS to have a positive second-half goal difference this season. Just five of the 29 clubs in MLS have conceded fewer than 20 second-half goals this year.
SCOUTING Atlanta United FC (13-9-11, 50 PTS., 6TH EASTERN CONFERENCE)
Atlanta United FC enters 2023 MLS Decision Day with their playoff spot secured, but their seeding very much still up in the air. With 50 points they enter the final day of the regular season in sixth place, but could play their way into the fifth seed, or fall to the seventh seed.
Last time out, ATL UTD earned a draw against Columbus Crew in their final home game of the season. The Five Stripes have struggled on the road of late, not earning a victory in enemy territory since August 21st when they visited Seattle. Overall, Atlanta is 3-6-7 when playing away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2023.
Young Argentine star Thiago Almada leads Atlanta United with 11 goals and 17 assists this season, making him a favorite for the best Young Player award this season and one of the best attacking midfielders in MLS. Last December, Almeda became the first active MLS player to win the World Cup with Argentina. Greek star Giorgos Giakoumakis leads ATL in scoring with 15 goals and three assists in 20 starts this season. The striker joined Atlanta in March after a transfer from Celtic FC in the Scottish Premiership and is now nominated for Best Newcomer in the end-of-year MLS awards.
Defender Juan José Purata leads the club in interceptions with 36. Brooks Lennon leads the back line with 32 starts and 2880 minutes played. Long-time captain and goalkeeper Brad Guzan leads the team in saves with 60 and owns a 1.42 goals against average this season. Guzan is 15th among goalkeepers with seven clean sheets this season.
Gonzalo Pineda leads as head coach of The Five Stripes, owning a 32-31-25 record in three years with Atlanta. The long-time Liga MX player and Seattle Sounders assistant coach has led his club to the MLS Cup playoffs in two of his first three seasons, including a dramatic turnaround after taking over part way through the 2021 season.