Another week, another draw for FC Cincinnati last weekend at home against Nashville. After registering just one tie over their first 14 matches, the Orange and Blue’s 1-1 split last weekend at TQL Stadium was their sixth draw over eight games.
Nine points over eight matches would have been cause for celebration in years past, but not with the 2022 edition of FC Cincinnati. This team has two of the best 20 or so players in the league, so it’s capable of more than racking up near-weekly draws. One of those studs is Brandon Vazquez, whose 11th goal of the season salvaged a point against Nashville.
The other stud is MVP candidate Lucho Acosta, who will return from a three-match suspension for Saturday night’s encounter at Inter Miami. The Herons (25 points) sit just three points behind seventh-place FC Cincinnati in the East hierarchy, with three additional 26-point squads (Charlotte, red-hot Chicago, New England) sandwiched between them.
Digital ink was spilled on Acosta’s greatness earlier this season, but the creative potency of FC Cincinnati’s first-ever MLS All-Star is worth examining again. Despite missing the past three matches, he still ranks among the league leaders in assists (second), live passes that lead to a shot attempt (second), shot-creating actions (third), and completed passes into the 18-yard box (ninth).
In short, Acosta—who also has six goals to this name—remains one of the league’s elite playmakers, a creative dynamo whose mere presence makes his teammates better. Acosta, prone to occasional on-field hysterics (his brief loss of composure earned him a red card and a three-match ban), must exercise sound judgment upon his return. Sitting on four yellow cards, he is one caution away from a mandatory one-match suspension.
Another key returnee to the starting XI Saturday could be midfielder Junior Moreno. Acosta’s former teammate at D.C. United started FC Cincinnati’s first 14 contests, scoring his first two goals against Montreal in FCC’s final game prior to the international break on May 28. But until last Saturday, the veteran hadn’t been seen since the break, missing seven successive matches.
Moreno returned for a 29-minute cameo against Nashville, and his presence in the squad’s ideal starting XI next to Obinna Nwobodo would provide needed reliability. “It was good to see [Moreno] on the field,” said FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan after the Nashville match. “You can see his presence right away and just connected passes, winning balls, just has a presence.”
On paper, David Beckham’s Inter Miami looks ripe for the picking, having dropped three of its last four MLS matches. The Herons were also (predictably) blown away 6-0 by Barcelona’s star-studded attack last week in a friendly. Leo Messi ain’t walking through that door just yet, and FC Cincinnati already notched a home 3-1 decision over Miami in March.
Acosta probably won’t play the full match Saturday evening, but expect him to come back with a bang against a wobbling opponent.
Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.