FC Cincinnati 1-0 Chicago Fire: Treading onwards

FC Cincinnati midfielder Luciano Acosta (10) handles the ball as Chicago Fire midfielder Federico Navarro (31) defends in the first half of the MLS match at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, June 3, 2023.
FC Cincinnati midfielder Luciano Acosta (10) handles the ball as Chicago Fire midfielder Federico Navarro (31) defends in the first half of the MLS match at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, June 3, 2023. /

FC Cincinnati’s wonderful 2023 campaign continued on Saturday night as they defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0 at TQL Stadium.

Far from the prettiest game of soccer ever seen, Luciano Acosta’s lone strike late on proved to be enough for his side to claim all three points.

The less said about this game, the better.

What happened

The first half came and went with nothing really happening.

There was a period midway through where Cincinnati looked dangerous on a few corners, and Luciano Acosta even came close with an olimpico attempt. That was it, though.

Things were different following the break. Cincy just kept getting the ball back in the area, with blocked crosses and shots falling to them again and again. The spell came to an end when Arquimides Ordóñez turned and hit a twisting shot wide of the frame.

Chicago had their best look with about 15 minutes to go. A deep cross from Alonso Aceves picked out Kei Kamara, who was in space, but he couldn’t keep his header down.

It seemed like the contest was heading for a 0-0 draw, but Cincinnati finally grabbed a goal with about 10 minutes left. It was all too simple, as a long ball from Santiago Arias found Luciano Acosta in the area, and he did the rest, settling the ball before cutting inside and firing a low shot past the goalkeeper.

The Fire pushed forward in search of a late equalizer, and they probably should have found one. Xherdan Shaqiri whipped in a super free-kick into the area, and it flew right to Rafael Czichos. He also botched his header, though, sending it way over the bar.

That proved to be the final highlight of the contest.

What it means

The win only further cements Cincinnati’s lead at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. They’re going for the one seed and home field advantage in the playoffs, and as things stand, they might just get it.

Chicago, meanwhile, will stay near the very bottom of the East following this contest. Fortunately for them nine teams in the conference still make the postseason, so it’s impossible for the Fire to fall too far off the pace at this stage. However, the lack of points could become a problem sooner rather than later.

Notes and observations

I understand resting players for the Open Cup, but both teams rocking up with heavily rotated lineups made this match tough to care about.

It’s becoming clear how head coach Frank Klopas likes to set up his side, at least on the road. Chicago has become one of the most pragmatic teams I’ve ever seen, with their only aim being to keep bodies back and limit chances for the opposition. It’s kind of getting results, but not really.

Brian Gutiérrez started this contest, and then came off at the hour mark. Does that mean he’ll have enough rest for the Open Cup game, or will the Fire bench him in that contest? He didn’t do that much on this night, although that was more down to the team’s system.

Xherdan Shaqiri getting a yellow for complaining only six minutes after he had come on was a funny moment.

There was one shot on goal in total. Sometimes the beautiful game is not so beautiful.

Hopefully both teams advance in the Open Cup and have to play each other in that tournament, whether it’s in the semifinals or the final. That could be a very fun contest.

Cincinnati deserves so much credit for how they’ve turned everything around. They used to be the laughing stocks of the league, and now they’re genuine contenders. Plenty of other teams should learn from them. (Yes this is referencing Chicago)

Man of the match – Luciano Acosta

Sometimes it just takes a moment.

Luciano Acosta created the one moment of magic on the night, and that was enough to secure three points for his side. His winning goal was a well-taken one, as he brought down a long ball before slotting home from close range, doing just enough to find the back of the net.

He’s been Cincinnati’s main man for a while now, and it doesn’t look like that’ll change anytime soon.