By Jacob Sokol
Luciano Acosta (center) celebrates a goal with his teammates (Photo courtesy of FC Cincinnati)
What we’ve seen so far
FC Cincinnati has been the dominant force this season in MLS. With 44 points out of 20 games, FC Cincinnati is arguably one of the best teams to ever play in MLS. Their one weakness at the moment comes from international duty removing defender, Matt Miazga, and striker, Brandon Vazquez, from the lineup. The duo are currently competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
With or without Miazga and Vazquez, Luciano Acosta is still the most lethal player for FC Cincinnati this season. Acosta wears the #10 shirt and plays in the playmaker position. With 9 goals and 6 assists on the season, he is the clearest offensive threat on a highly talented squad.
While FC Cincinnati has been impressive this season, their last couple of matches have shown some chinks in the armor. Besides a 2-2 draw this past weekend with New England Revolution, they suffered a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of D.C. United a week earlier.
OUT: Brenner (ankle)
OUT: Matt Miazga (international duty)
OUT: Brandon Vazquez (international duty)
QUESTIONABLE: Junior Moreno (leg)
*Injury report from MLSsoccer.com, last updated 7/4/2023
Players to watch
Luciano Acosta - Acosta is one of the best players in MLS. With 9 goals and 6 assists in 1514 minutes of play, the stats speak for themselves. He won’t have Brandon Vazquez to feed the ball to, but Dominique Badji is capable of filling that role. If Acosta can’t be closed down, he will wreak havoc.
Dominique Badji - Badji hasn’t been given consistent minutes this season due to other dynamic strikers. When he has been given chances he has produced though. 4 goals and 3 assists in 687 minutes is a better goal-creation rate than Acosta. Badji also scored twice against New England this past weekend which shows he is in form.
Roman Celentano - Celentano is one of the best keepers in MLS. He has had a solid backline to help with that, led by Miazga who will be unavailable this weekend, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Celentano’s ability. With 9 clean sheets, the second most in the league, and a save rate of 74.7%, Celentano will prove difficult to beat.
Cincy's starting XI
We could see minor changes to this lineup on Saturday, but most of these players are likely to start. This was the starting lineup versus New England this past Saturday. (Lineup photo courtesy of Major League Soccer via Google)
Luciano Acosta likes to stay high up the pitch, having a lot of passing play going through him from midfield or out wide. (Graphic found at mlssoccer.com)
Blue areas represent 55% or more possession for Montréal while red areas represent 55%+ possession for their opposition. (Graphic found at theanalyst.com)
FC Cincinnati doesn't rely on possession to win games. Charlotte FC will have to be deliberate with their possession since FC Cincinnati will be looking to spring quick counters off of turnovers. They also allow their opponents to have time out wide going down their left side. This area could be an opportunity for Charlotte FC's Justin Meram to find space to operate and create chances.
Outlook for 2023
FC Cincinnati is on pace to win the 2023 Supporters' Shield. They will likely be a favorite heading into the MLS playoffs. For the moment, their squad is weakened thanks to the CONCACAF Gold Cup. They might be susceptible to dropping points for the next few weeks, but overall they are a force to be reckoned with this season.