Supporters’ Shield winners FC Cincinnati hit the road for the last time in the 2023 regular season for a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami CF in a match that could see the Herons eliminated from the playoffs.
Coming off a loss to New York Red Bulls Wednesday night, FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan highlighted the importance of keeping his team fresh through the season's final two games in preparation for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
“We’ve just secured the Shield and knowing that we have to turn it around quickly against Miami, it was how can we go through this three-game stretch without pushing guys too far,” Noonan said after the Red Bulls match. “You have to be able to put the score line and try to win a game past it and just take what’s in the best interest of the individual player and their health so that we can go through the stretch run with as many healthy bodies as possible.”
Noonan rotated seven players out of his starting lineup for Wednesday’s match, including Landon Donovan MLS MVP frontrunner Luciano Acosta, who came in as a sub in the 59th minute and scored FCC’s lone goal. The FCC captain has struggled with pain in his heel, so the opportunity to limit his minutes late in the season comes at a premium time for the club’s long-term goals.
After the match, FC Cincinnati will not play for another 14 days as the international window opens. Three FCC players have already been called to their national teams as defenders Yerson Mosquera and Santiago Arias will play for the Colombian national team in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with a match against Uruguay and Ecuador. Junior Moreno has also been called for CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying as Venezuela will take on Brazil and Chile.
FC CINCINNATI at Toronto FC – WEDNESDAY, October 4, 2023 – 7:30 p.m. ET – TQL Stadium
Stream: Free on Apple TV
TV Talent (English): Jake Zivin (PXP) & Taylor Twellman (Analysis), Katie Witham
TV Talent (Spanish): Sammy Sadovnik (PXP) & Eduardo Biscayart (Analysis), Antonella Gonzalez (Sideline)
Radio: ESPN 1530
Radio Talent: Tom Gelehrter (play-by-play), Jeff Larentowicz (analyst)
This will be the ninth all-time meeting between FC Cincinnati and Inter Miami FC and the fourth meeting at DRV PNK Stadium. FC Cincinnati is 2-4-2 against The Herons and have never beaten them in their home grounds.
In the last meeting, FC Cincinnati fell in penalty kicks in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals. The previous time FCC visited DRV PNK Stadium was at the end of the 2022 regular season. Brandon Vazquez and Brenner each supplied a brace to earn a 4-4 draw.
FC CINCINNATI NOTES
MVP Front Runner– FC Cincinnati captain Luciano Acosta currently leads the MLS Golden Boot Award race with 15 goals and 13 assists. The award is given annually to each season’s top goal scorer, with assists being the first tiebreaker. He is tied with Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar and Atlanta United FC’s Giorgos Giakoumakis with 15 goals. Still, he leads on assists with 13 to their 10 and 3.
Acosta assisted on the winning goal Saturday night, which helped FCC secure the Supporters Shield. Acosta threaded the needle to Aaron Boupendza, who beat the keeper with a curling shot into the netting. Acosta is also a leading candidate for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP.
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.
On Short Rest - Saturday will mark the 16th time since the start of the 2022 season that FC Cincinnati will play on two days rest. Under Pat Noonan, FCC are 9-3-3 when playing a game just three days following another.
The match on Saturday marks the third in seven days for The Orange and Blue before they take two weeks off in the international break before concluding the season with MLS Decision Day 2023 against Atlanta United FC.
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 Inter Miami CF (9-16-6, 33 PTS., 14TH EASTERN CONFERENCE)
Inter Miami CF is on the brink of playoff elimination. After a 4-1 loss to Chicago Fire at Soldier Field in their last outing, Inter Miami CF could be eliminated with a loss and other outcomes around the league after this match.
After a dreadful start to the season, The Herons rebounded after a notable summer transfer window, and famed manager Tata Martino took over the club. Since returning to MLS play after Leagues Cup, Miami is 4-2-3 and is undefeated at home in that span, before which Miami was 5-14-3.
New manager Martino has experience and success at both the club and national level, serving as head coach for the Panamanian national team, the Argentine national team, the Mexican national team, Newell’s Old Boys, Barcelona, and won the 2018 MLS Cup with Atlanta United before taking over Inter Miami CF. FCC’s Brandon Vazquez and Alec Kann played for Martinez in that MLS Cup-winning season.
Striker Josef Martinez, who was a star for that Atlanta side by winning the 2018 Golden Boot, has been reunited with Martinez in Miami, where the Venezuelan national team member has seven goals – the second most on the club this season – in 19 starts for Miami. Ecuadorian forward Leonardo Campana leads all Herons in goals with nine.
Martinez was recently called up to the Venezuelan national team and FC Cincinnati’s Junior Moreno for World Cup qualifying in the next international window.
Drake Callender was also called up to his national team in the last window but will remain with the club for this one. The Inter Miami goalkeeper was called to the USMNT for the first time for friendlies against Uzbekistan and Oman but did not see any playing time. Callender, 25, is the only Heron to start 30 or more MLS matches for Inter Miami this season and has earned five clean sheets while owning a 1.61 goals against average this season.
Canadian international Kamal Miller leads the back line. Another of a series of acquisitions made midseason, Miller has started 18 matches and played in every league match since being acquired from CF Montreal.