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Cincinnati looking to defend turf vs. tough Orlando City

Mar 4, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA;  Orlando City SC forward Facundo Torres (17) controls the ball from FC Cincinnati defender Ray Gaddis (28) in the second half at Exploria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

FC Cincinnati still have plenty to play for after becoming the first MLS club to clinch a playoff spot.

Their immediate task is to halt visiting Orlando City’s four-game unbeaten streak on Saturday night.

League-leading FC Cincinnati (17-3-6, 57 points) punched their ticket to the playoffs for a second straight season with Wednesday’s 2-1 comeback victory at Atlanta United. MVP candidate Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez scored five minutes apart late in the second half to erase a 1-0 deficit and send Cincinnati to its fourth victory in five MLS matches.

“We’ve maintained our position consistently all year, and that’s what’s allowed us to secure the spot this early,” Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan.

“Hopefully that’s just another milestone that the guys can be pleased about — this is en route to our bigger goals.”

Like winning the Supporters’ Shield and making a deep run in the playoffs. That immediately includes continuing their dominance at home, where FCC have outscored opponents 27-8 while going 12-0-1. Cincinnati is looking to become the first MLS team to record more than 37 points through 14 home matches.

FCC played Orlando to a scoreless draw on the road in March. However, Orlando (12-6-8, 44 points), third in the Eastern Conference, is amid a 3-0-1 league stretch. That includes a 2-0-1 effort on the road, where its 22 points earned are the most in league play.

Orlando secured one of those points with its own comeback Wednesday for a 1-1 draw at Charlotte FC. After the hosts broke through via Enzo Copetti’s successful penalty strike in the 81st minute, Martin Ojeda equalized seven minutes later for Orlando.

“We will keep building. We will keep going because we are going in the right direction,” Orlando midfielder Felipe said.

While Ojeda registered his fifth goal of the season, teammate Facundo Torres has netted just three of his team-leading 10 goals through 11 road matches.

Acosta, meanwhile, has 13 goals and 11 assists this season, and is coming off his fifth match of recording at least one of each.

–Field Level Media