PREVIEW| FC Cincinnati host CF Monterrey in leg one of Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16


So rarely do you get the opportunity to take on the top club in the region, even more rarely do you get that chance five games into the season in the premier club tournament.

But that is exactly the situation FC Cincinnati have earned the right to play in. By winning the opening round aggregate series with Cavalier FC, The Orange and Blue have booked a match with CF Monterrey of Liga MX in the Round of 16 of the Concacaf Champions Cup.

CF Monterrey, aka Rayados (The Striped Ones), enter the Thursday match undefeated in league play and handily dispatched their opening round opponent to come to Cincinnati. Now the current Supporters Shield title holder will take on the current Liga MX leaders in a two-game aggregate series for the right to move on to the quarter finals.

“It's not too early. It's just good to be playing top teams in tournament play,” FCC head coach Pat Noonan said of the notion that top teams playing each other so early in the tournament. “I know it's a different competition but it's not too early and it's good for us. Specifically it's a good early test to see what some of our new faces look like against top competition and what the group looks like as we continue to evolve and grow together.”

Rayados, The five-time Concacaf Champions League (which was renamed to Champions Cup this year) winners, enter as one of the favorites to win the tournament as the top team in Concacaf per the delegations club index rankings. The added drama of who comes to TQL Stadium with The Striped One though is impossible to ignore.

Brandon Vazquez returns to TQL Stadium for the first time since his high profile transfer from FC Cincinnati to CF Monterrey this offseason.

“When we were away in preseason, watching (Monterrey’s) games, it was great seeing (Vazquez) production and the immediate impact. So yeah, when you walk out there tomorrow, maybe it's interesting to see him on the other side of things,” Noonan said of seeing his former player again. “It's something we've talked about and his teammates know from their time together that his movement in the box is difficult to handle. So that'll be something that we need to be very good with and organized with when they're in our attacking third of the field.”

The series will not be decided Thursday night as FCC will have to travel to Monterrey, Mexico and Estadio BBVA for the second leg of the competition. But earning a result will go a long way in securing passage to the next round and making the return leg easier to manage. 

FC CINCINNATI vs. CF Monterrey (Liga MX) – Thursday, March 7, 2023 – 7 p.m. ET – TQL Stadium 

Be sure to follow @FCCincinnati on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for live updates from the game.

International competition

FC Cincinnati began their quest for continental glory with a decisive 6-0 aggregate victory over Cavalier FC of Kingston, Jamaica. FCC was one of three clubs to deal a clean sheet in each leg of the opening round and has scored the second-most goals of the tournament thus far. 

The two matches with Cavalier are the club's first in Concacaf international competition, but not their first against international foes. All-time, FCC is undefeated against international clubs outside of MLS, owning a perfect 4-0-0 record. Two of these performances were in Round One of the Champions Cup, and the other two were against Chivas Guadalajara in the Leagues Cup and Leagues Cup Showcase, where FCC earned 2-0 and 3-1 victories.

In a mirrored situation to Thursday's match, when Chivas visited TQL Stadium last July for Leagues Cup they too were top of Liga MX much as CF Monterrey enters as the top club in the league with seven matches to go in their season.

Six different players accounted for all six of FCC’s goals in the Champions Cup opening round, with four registering their first tally with the club. Alvas Powell opened his FCC account against Jamaica for his second career goal in Concacaf Champions Cup/League play (the most by any club member) after scoring his first in 2014 as a member of the Portland Timbers.

Prior to this season, eight members of FC Cincinnati had competed in Concacaf Champions League, with three having played in club continental competition outside of Concacaf, including Luciano Acosta, Powell, Nick Hagglund, Miles Robinson, Alec Kann and Kipp Keller. 

Pavel Bucha appeared in the UEFA Champions League with his Czech side FC Viktoria Plzen, facing Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in the 2022/23 Group Stage. That is in addition to Yuya Kubo's (BSC Young Boys) Champions League qualifying experience and Obinna Nwobodo’s (Enugu Rangers IFC) minutes logged in the 2016/17 CAF Champions League.

Newly acquired Cincinnati wingback DeAndre Yedlin has made four appearances in Concacaf Champions League in 2013 as a member of the Seattle Sounders. He also appeared in eight continental competitions as a member of Galatasaray of the Turkish Super Lig, playing in six UEFA Europa League matches, one Europa League qualifying match and one UEFA Champions League match. Yedlin is eligible for selection for FC Cincinnati, despite being registered on Inter Miami CF's tournament roster, as the defender has not yet played in the 2024 tournament, making him free to suit up for The Orange and Blue.


Truth, Justice and the American Way – Brandon Vazquez returns to TQL Stadium for the first time since his transfer to the Liga MX side CF Monterrey in December. Across all competitions, Vazquez’s 43 goals are the most in club history, and his 32 MLS goals stand as second all-time. Since joining Rayados, the USMNT player has scored six times in 10 appearances. 

New Faces, New Goalscorers – With Miles Robinson’s goal Saturday at Soldier Field, he became the fifth member of The Orange and Blue to score his first goal with the club, joining Malik Pinto, Alvas Powell, Isaiah Foster and Dado Valenzuela. The five new goalscorers is more than all of 2022 (4) and the fastest to five since 2019. Last season, seven newcomers scored for FCC, the second most in club history.

Earn Your Stripes – Also, with the goal from Robinson and the assist that led to it, Robinson and Luciano Acosta were named to the MLS Team of the Matchday Starting XI on Monday, the first TOTMD for FC Cincinnati players this season. For Acosta, the MLS weekly team honor was the 23rd of his career in Orange and Blue.

The New Man – FC Cincinnati acquired wingback DeAndre Yedlin via trade from Inter Miami CF in exchange for Allocation Money. Yedlin, 30, arrived in Cincinnati Monday and joined training Tuesday ahead of the matchup with Monterrey. For Inter Miami CF, Yedlin had appeared in all three regular season matches, playing full 90s in each. 

SCOUTING CF Monterrey (1st Liga MX Clausura, 6-0-4 22 pts, W-D-W-D-W)

CF Monterrey – or as they are sometimes more commonly called “Rayados” – were recently named the top club in Concacaf by the confederations club index. The ranking, which considered performances in domestic and international club competition, had Liga MX side Club America as its top team for three months. However, thanks to a fast start in the Mexican top flights Clausura season, Rayados took the crown in the most recent rankings. FC Cincinnati currently sits as the 12th best club in the rankings, good for fifth best in MLS, ahead of Mexican side Deportivo Toluca FC and behind Club Universidad Nacional, aka Pumas. 

With six wins in their first 10 matches of the Liga MX Clausura season, Rayados has raced to the top of the league after finishing second in the Apertura calendar. However, despite being heavy favorites, they were upset in the opening round of the Liguilla (playoffs) by Atlético de San Luis. 

Of course, CF Monterrey’s offseason additions include former FC Cincinnati striker Brandon Vazquez, who departed the Queen City this winter for an undisclosed fee. Since joining, Vazquez has been dominant, scoring six goals in eight appearances across all competitions—including a goal in the opening round of the Concacaf Champions Cup against Comunicaciones F.C. of Guatemala. 

Fellow newcomer Sergio Canales came to Rayados to Liga MX from Real Betis of La Liga at the beginning of the 2023/2024 season and has been the top scorer for the club since arriving. In 15 appearances with the club, the Spaniard has netted eight goals and an assist with over 1,000 minutes played.

The duo have combined to score twice as many goals as the rest of the club. 

In net for The Striped Ones is Esteban Andrada, an Argentine veteran with a handful of senior national team call-ups. The keeper joined the club in 2021 after a lengthy career at Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires. He has started all 10 league matches and Round One matches of the Champions Cup. 

After a 16-year playing career, Fernando Ortiz has taken to the coaching box for Rayados. The Argentine took over the club at the beginning of 2023 after managerial stints with Club America and multiple clubs in Paraguay. In 28 games at the helm, Ortiz has led the club to a 23-8-7 record.