With a series victory on the line and the opportunity to advance to the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Eastern Conference Semifinals on the line, FC Cincinnati travel back to familiar territory to take on the New York Red Bulls in what would be their final road match of the playoffs and the 2023 season as a whole.
The visit to Red Bull Arena comes 385 days after the last time FCC visited the Garden State for a playoff game, where The Orange and Blue took down the host RBNY in a winner-take-all match 2-1 on October 15, 2022, in the opening round of the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs. This visit is the 11th to Red Bull Arena all-time, the most of any away venue in club history.
In Game One, FCC took the pressure to the Red Bulls, scoring twice in the first half while matching the signature physicality that New York brings. When all was said and done, an Álvaro Barreal brace and a Lucho Acosta goal from midfield was more than enough to secure the 3-0 victory and take the Best-of-3 series lead 1-0.
Now, the slate is wiped clean. With the new playoff format, FCC will need just one more outright or PK win to secure their spot in the next round, as nothing from the first match carries over to the following one or two games.
“We know they’re going to throw everything at us,” FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan said of seeing the Red Bulls in an elimination game. “Different formations, different personnel. (When) your backs against the wall at times you go to desperate measures, and I hope we’re in a position that we have to see that, but we have to be prepared for their adjustments.”
FC Cincinnati has seen success in both of their two most recent elimination games at Red Bull Arena, knocking RBNY out of the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs and winning in PKs in the round of 16 of the 2023 U.S. Open Cup.
“I think certainly there’s a comfort level of getting a result in the building,” Noonan said, indicating that previous wins give them the confidence to win again this time. “But the games certainly aren’t easy. I think we match up well against them in the same way they probably think they match up well against us because it’s been one or two moments in all of these games that have been the deciding factor and you know who’s getting a result.”
“I think we all know what this game is all about. We know how important this is for us,” midfielder Obinna Nwobodo said. “I think for the whole team, we have the same agenda, we have the same motive. The mindset is one, which is going to win.”
FC CINCINNATI at Red Bull New York – Sunday, October 29, 2023 – 8 p.m. ET – Red Bull Arena
HOW TO WATCH
Stream: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Apple TV Talent (English): Kevin Egan (PXP) & Kyndra De St. Aubin (Analysis)
Apple TV Talent (Spanish): Alejandro Figueredo (PXP) & Jamie Macias (Analysis)
Radio: Fox Sports 1360
Radio Talent: Tom Gelehrter (play-by-play), Kevin McCloskey (analyst)
FC Cincinnati earned their first-ever victory at home against RBNY Sunday in the 3-nil Game One victory. The match marked the 14th time the two clubs have met across all competitions, and the win evened the record at 5-5-4.
In MLS Cup Playoffs, FCC are 2-0-0 against the Red Bulls and are undefeated at Red Bull Arena in postseason play. All-time, The Orange and Blue have a 3-2-3 record, which includes matches played against both RBNY and NYCFC.
FC CINCINNATI NOTES
We Got History – This meeting will be the third in the last 365 days between the two clubs that could see one or the other eliminated from competition. FC Cincinnati has come out on top in previous meetings in elimination games, defeating the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Round One of the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs, and then again in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 in penalty kicks.
Red Bulls are the most common opponent FCC have played since moving to MLS. This match will mark the 15th fixture against the MLS charter club, with the next closest club behind that being Atlanta United FC and Columbus Crew (12 matches against each).
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 17-2-5 at TQL Stadium with a 14-2-5 record against MLS teams this season.
FCC have also allowed the third-fewest goals at home this season (13) and own the best home winning percentage among MLS teams across all-competitions (.894).
And the Nominees are… – Four FC Cincinnati members have been named finalists for MLS end-of-year awards. Pat Noonan leads the group as a finalist for the Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year, captain Luciano Acosta is a finalist for Landon Donovan MLS MVP, Matt Miazga a finalist for MLS Defender of the year, and Roman Celentano a finalist for Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
A full list of nominees and voting protocols can be found here.
Do it in the playoffs – With goals in game one of the series with RBNY, Luciano Acosta and Álvaro Barreal now lead FC Cincinnati in all-time playoff goals with two a piece.17 FC Cincinnati players have made appearances in the MLS Cup Playoffs for any club, totaling 6489 minutes of game action.
Second Half Stalwarts – FC Cincinnati finished the regular season, allowing just 10 goals in the second half this season, the second fewest in MLS history, and hold a +27 goal difference in the second half this year, the fourth best all-time.
In the opening match of the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, FCC continued their strong second half play. Earning a clean sheet and scoring late to improve to +1 in 2023 postseason play.
SCOUTING New York Red Bulls (No. 8 Seed EASTERN CONFERENCE)
The Red Bulls fell behind early in Game One of the Best-of-3 playoff series, conceding in the 23rd minute. In 2023, the Red Bulls only came back to win once this season when conceding first, highlighting a significant weakness in the charter club’s current game. FC Cincinnati was able to capitalize on the pressure they applied to RBNY by scoring twice more to ice the game and take a 1-0 series lead.
To get into the playoffs, the New York Red Bulls needed some Decision Day magic to earn their spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs, starting the day on the outside looking into the playoff picture. With a PK in the 90+ minute that John Tolkin converted, the Red Bulls put themselves above the playoff line for the first time all season.
In the Wild Card game, RBNY made little doubt of their result by dominating Charlotte FC from whistle to whistle. With a 3-0 lead heading into halftime, Charlotte never made it back to within one goal and finished their season with a 5-2 finish at Red Bull Arena. Elias Manoel, who scored three times all season, earned the sixth-ever hat trick in the MLS Cup Playoffs with goals in the 10th, 37th and 78th minute. It was the first hat trick since Jordan Morris netted three in 2019 for Seattle Sounders.
Red Bulls enter the playoffs on a significant hot streak, and in the best form they’ve been in all season. Winners of their last four, with points earned in seven of their previous eight, head coach Troy Lesesne’s side has peaked at the right time.
Omir Fernandez, 24, led the club in goal scoring this season with six despite making just 22 starts and 30 appearances total. With 10 total goal contributions, he also tied for the lead with the club with former FCC Superdraft pick Frankie Amaya.
Carlos Coronel has been a stalwart in the net for the Red Bulls, starting all 34 MLS matches this season and earning nine clean sheets. With 59 saves this season, the low figure indicates how RBNY wants to play defense, clogging lanes, slowing play and limiting opportunities on goal to keep the keeper protected. That said, with a 59 percent save rate this season when challenged, the keeper is beatable.