FC Cincinnati’s Future Takes Shape With Matt Miazga Acquisition

The center back returns to MLS after six years in Europe, adding to good feels at FCC HQ following a huge win over Philadelphia.

Late last week, FC Cincinnati announced the acquisition of Matt Miazga from English Premier League side Chelsea. The 27-year-old center back joins on a contract through 2025 and comes in via Targeted Allocation Money through excellent manipulation of MLS’s allocation process by General Manager Chris Albright. (More on that in a second.)

After logging 34 appearances for New York Red Bulls from 2013 to 2015, Miazga joined Chelsea in January 2016 at the age of 20. He made his only two appearances for the Blues in 2016. From 2016-2022, Miazga embarked on loan spells in the top domestic leagues the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and Spain as well as a stint in England’s second division. Overall, he made 169 appearances over six-plus years in Europe.

Miazga has also logged 22 appearances for the U.S. men’s national team, winning the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the 2020 CONCACAF Nations League. The 6-foot-3 Miazga is perhaps best known for making light of 5-6 Mexican winger Diego Lainez’s stature in 2018.

“Matt is a dominant defender that has a wealth of experience internationally and across numerous leagues in Europe,” Albright said. “But his knowledge of what it takes to compete and win in MLS, along with his high character and mentality, are what drew us to this opportunity. We feel he’s an excellent fit to the group that we’re building, and we are delighted to bring him to FC Cincinnati.”

The Orange and Blue already have a pair of star strikers in All-Star Brandon Vazquez, whose 14 goals are second in MLS, and Brenner, who has eight goals and four assists. Lucho Acsota, who is joining Vazquez in Minneapolis this week for All-Star festivities, has six goals and 60 key passes, which is second-best in MLS.

Obinna Nwobodo has required less than four months to establish himself as one of the premier defensive midfielders in the game—and he’s no slouch at setting up an attack, either. Finally, there is rookie goalkeeper Romano Celentano, who has held his own in 17 starts and plugged what could have been a major hole when Alec Kann went down seven matches into the campaign.

Enter Miazga, whose season’s worth of experience—in terms of overall matches played—in MLS was impressive enough to earn a transfer to one of the globe’s most prestigious clubs. Now he’s in his prime and joining a playoff contender as a ready-made solution to the East’s second-worst defense in terms of goals surrendered.

Albright and his team managed to convince Miazga to end his European odyssey and return to MLS. “We got wind there was a possibility he’d entertain coming back to MLS, but he had other suitors in Europe like we knew he would,” Albright said. “We were able to convince Matt this was the best place for him. It was a long process; our patience paid off. There certainly was urgency around [the deal]… . We had some other options, but being patient allowed us to land on our top target.”

Albright’s masterful use of the top spot in the allocation order put FC Cincinnati in prime position to nab Miazga without having to clear a Designated Player spot. On three separate occasions, Albright traded out of the No. 1 allocation spot, but included in every deal was the No. 2 allocation spot in addition to what amounted to free allocation money.

As the Philadelphia Union’s technical director, Albright was known for his expert knowledge of the permutations within MLS’s roster and salary rules. He’s clearly brought that knowledge over to the Queen City; he accumulated $350,000 in General Allocation Money without surrendering any assets while also still acquiring Miazga, FC Cincinnati’s first choice for a new center back for months.

Miazga wasn’t available for last Saturday night’s surprising 3-1 demolition of East-best Philadelphia. It’s expected that he’ll train with the club this week and be available for selection against Atlanta this weekend.

Oh yes, that Philadelphia victory. I’m spilling precious little digital ink on what was arguably the biggest triumph in club history because I think the addition of Miazga into the starting XI could be the difference between FC Cincinnati making or missing the playoffs. Having said that, the Orange and Blue picked a hell of a time for their first victory since June 24, ripping apart the league’s hottest club—Philly had won five successive matches by a combined score of 18-2—and top defensive unit (15 goals yielded in 23 matches).

Naturally, FC Cincinnati tallied three goals on seven shots on target, compared to one goal on two shots on target for the Union. Celentano was barely bothered, notching just one save. It was a tremendous going-away party for highly respected backup midfielder Haris Medunjanin, who is departing the team to be closer to his family in Europe.

With its first win in eight tries against Philly, FC Cincinnati (32 points) moved up to sixth in the East standings. Another match at TQL Stadium is on deck Saturday evening against playoff-contending Atlanta (28 points).

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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