FC Cincinnati can finally rest. After eight matches in 25 days, the Orange and Blue now have 10 days between their 1-1 draw at Vancouver Saturday evening and a home match with Toronto on June 21.
Cincinnati’s franchise-record six-match winning streak ended north of the border, but the point gained extended its overall unbeaten streak to 13 matches. With a draw by Nashville earlier on Saturday, FC Cincinnati remained eight points clear atop the East and Supporters’ Shield standings. With half of its 34 league matches remaining, Cincinnati (40 points) is just nine points away from its 2022 points total and has doubled its 34-match sum from 2021.
On Saturday night, FC Cincinnati and Vancouver trotted out rotated lineups, with both squads sitting their creative hubs—Lucho Acosta for the visitors, Julian Gressel for the hosts—on the bench to begin the match. Acosta broke the deadlock with an exquisite chip over goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka in the 83rd minute. Matt Miazga conceded a silly penalty, however, that would be converted by Ryan Gauld in the 89th minute, sending Roman Celentano the wrong direction with his strike.
So instead of its 11th one-goal victory of 2023, FC Cincinnati headed home with a draw, its first since a late April deadlock at New England. While most of the squad can recharge their batteries, four cannot. Junior Moreno and Yerson Mosquera are on international duty with Venezuela and Colombia, respectively. Head coach Pat Noonan revealed some good news last week on Mosquera: The 22-year-old’s loan from English Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers has been extended through the end of the season. The initial loan deal was due to expire on June 30.
And in good news for the individual players but bad news for the club, Miazga and Brandon Vazquez were named to the final 23-person U.S. Men’s National Team roster ahead of the Gold Cup. The Americans will begin training in Chicago on June 20 with their first match four days later at Soldier Field vs. Jamaica.
Should the U.S. advance out of the group stage, TQL Stadium would host Miazga and Vazquez in a quarterfinal contest on July 9. Thus the duo are a cinch to miss next week’s Toronto match and a road tilt at D.C. United on June 24. It would be a major upset if the Americans failed to reach the semifinals on July 12, meaning Miazga and Vazquez would miss three additional contests: a home game vs. New England (third in the East) on July 1 as well as a pair of road forays at Charlotte (July 8) and the New York Red Bulls (July 12).
With Miazga gone at center back, FC Cincinnati loses its All-Star caliber centerpiece in the middle of the back line. Nick Hagglund, limited to just 45 minutes over the past three matches with a hamstring injury, would be in line to start alongside Mosquera (once he’s back) and Ian Murphy at center back. Perhaps with Miazga’s coming absence in mind, Noonan has recently experimented with typical wingback Alvas Powell at right center back, to positive results.
Vazquez’s absence comes at a precarious time. Though he hasn’t been scoring at the same level as he did in 2022 (just four goals in 17 matches), he’s an elite aerial ball winner and a reliable two-way workhorse at forward. He reportedly remains a coveted target for German first division side Borussia Mönchengladbach. Dominique Badji has given Cincinnati admirable major minutes lately, but he’s scored just once in 37 matches with the club. Sergio Santos is hurt (again), and Quimi Ordoñez is only 20 years old. Noonan has also turned to Acosta and Yuya Kubo at forward lately, too.
Since MLS’s Secondary Transfer Window does not open until July 5, the first possible match for Brenner replacement Aaron Boupendza would be July 8. FC Cincinnati made Boupendza’s transfer official earlier this week, announcing that the 26-year-old has signed a contract through 2025 with options for 2026 and 2027.
“He’s a skillful and dynamic forward with a proven goal scoring record and an ability to play multiple positions in the attack,” FCC General Manager Chris Albright said of his new striker. “He chose to come to Cincinnati in the prime of his career, and his international and European experience will be extremely valuable to our group.”
FC Cincinnati will be forced out of its season-long comfort zone immediately after the international break. Still, the roster shake-up could prove to be just a speed bump in what’s become a charmed 2023 campaign for the Orange and Blue.
Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.