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FC Cincinnati Take on Cavalier FC in Concacaf Champions Cup Opener

February 22, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
FC Cincinnati News Release


The goal in 2023 was to get to this point, now it's here. FC Cincinnati open play in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Thursday night with an away match in Kingston, Jamaica. The Orange and Blue will take on Cavalier FC of the Jamaican Premier League, leaving the friendly confines of North America for the first time in club history to compete in the region's biggest club competition.

It is only by the virtue of unique scheduling that the Concacaf opener also stands as the opening match of the 2024 competitive season.

FC Cincinnati gained entrance to the Concacaf Champions Cup, formerly known as the Champions League, by winning the 2023 MLS Supporters' Shield. In all, the tournament will see 27 teams from 10 nations compete for continental glory. FCC is one of 10 MLS sides to punch their ticket to the tournament.

"It's been a long preseason, but we're ready to compete and I like the fact that we get to start the year off with an unfamiliar opponent in a tough atmosphere," head coach Pat Noonan said Wednesday at Independence Park. "I think our guys are prepared."

FCC have never played outside of Canada or the United States for a match, marking another first in club history that adds to the many new milestones from 2023.

Round One, like all rounds in the Concacaf Champions Cup up until the final, will be played on aggregate scoring over two matches, meaning Thursday's match will not be the deciding game to move on to the Round of 16. Instead, the scores of this match will combine with the return fixture next week at TQL Stadium. The combined total will determine who advances to face CF Monterrey of Liga MX in the next round, with ties first being broken through away goals then extra time and penalty kicks.

FC CINCINNATI vs. Cavalier FC (Jamaican Premier League) - Thursday, February 22, 2023 - 9 p.m. ET - National Stadium at Independence Park

Be sure to follow @FCCincinnati on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for live updates from the game.

International competition

FC Cincinnati have never played outside of the United States or Canada, and have only played seven matches since moving to MLS against non-MLS opponents. In those seven matches, The Orange and Blue own a 6-1-0 record, including two wins over the only non-U.S. based team they've seen, Chivas Guadalajara.

When playing outside the United States, FCC have a winning record, playing the three Canadian clubs to an all-time record of 4-3-2 in 9 matches, all of which have come in MLS regular season play.

Eight members of FC Cincinnati though have competed in Concacaf Champions League in the past, and three have played in club continental competition outside of Concacaf.

Luciano Acosta participated in two matches with D.C. United in 2015-2016 and played in the Copa Libertadores with Estudiantes.

Alvas Powell, a Jamaican native, is the only goal scorer in the Champions Cup on the club, scoring with Portland Timbers in 2014. He has played five matches total with Portland and Philadelphia. Nick Hagglund helped his Toronto side in 2018 reach the final before falling to Chivas.

Miles Robinson and Alec Kann both appeared with Atlanta United FC during their times there. Newly signed defender Kipp Keller has the most recent appearance, making his debut with Austin FC in 2023 in the Round of 16.

Pavel Bucha appeared in the UEFA Champions League with his Czech side FC Viktoria Plzen, facing Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in the 2022/23 Group Stage. That is in addition to Yuya Kubo's (BSC Young Boys) Champions League qualifying experience. Obinna Nwobodo (Enugu Rangers IFC) has experience in the 2016/17 CAF Champions League.

FC CINCINNATI NOTES

Three Little Birds - FC Cincinnati's attacking trio of 2023 MLS MVP Luciano Acosta, Aaron Boupendza and newcomer Corey Baird all dominated preseason play, combining to score 10 of The Orange and Blue's 12 goals in their four preseason friendlies.

One Love - FC Cincinnati today announced long-term contract extensions for assistant coaches Kenny Arena, Dominic Kinnear and director of goalkeeping Paul Rogers. The coaches are signed to remain long term in Cincinnati under third-year head coach Pat Noonan.

(Not so) Cool Runnings - While temperatures in Cincinnati remain cool, it is expected to be a comfortable 81 degrees in Kingston on Thursday afternoon. While the heat will not be an issue, the wind was a menace during the FCC training session Wednesday. Gusts are expected to reach up to 13 miles per hour with a steady breeze between four and seven miles per hour all day.

Out of Many, One - The grand prize of the Concacaf Champions Cup, in addition to the cash prize, glory and a nice trophy, is entrance to the FIFA Club World Cup in the United States in 2025. Major clubs like Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Manchester City have already punched their ticket to come to America for the event. This would provide FCC their only opportunity to play some of the biggest clubs in the world in a competitive match.

SCOUTING Cavalier FC (1st place in Jamaica Premier League, 13-2-4, 43pts, 2023 Caribbean Cup Runners-up)

Cavalier FC enters the continental competition with a full head of steam and the drive to upset an American team. "The Destroyers," nicknamed after their original clubs title, earned their place in the tournament by winning the 2022-23 Jamaican Premier League, then making it to the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup finals before falling to Robinhood of Suriname.

The club is now flying high off their cup competition success and surging in their domestic league. The Jamaica Premier League, which plays a 26-game regular season, is in the midst of their calendar, entering match week 20 after this Concacaf match is played. Cavalier is currently in first place, winners of their last four and undefeated in their last 11, scoring 30 goals on the year and conceding just eight. Per Concacaf's rankings, the JPL is the top-ranked league in the Caribbean and the 10th best league in the region.

"A goal of ours from the previous year was to enter into this competition, which would have meant we were doing something right in league play," Noonan said of the competition. "It's great for our club to be now observed more than just in league play or in our cup competitions domestically.

"We get to challenge ourselves against the best in the region and we're excited about the opportunity."

"The group's ready. It's the start of a new season, so the excitement's there," defender Matt Miazga said. "We prepared well all preseason. It was long, but it was definitely worth it. And now we can step on the pitch tomorrow and showcase ourselves."

For enterprising fans, most of Cavalier's matches are available to stream on YouTube, with their most recent matches (against Lime Hall Academy FC and Montego Bay FC) easily findable. A rudimentary viewing of the matches points towards a team that likes to play direct and will shut down opposing pressure on offense whenever possible.

Shaniel Thomas, 22, leads the team in scoring, potting 12 goals and one assist in 17 games this season. The goalkeeper duties are split between Vino Barclett, one of two internationals on the roster hailing from the island of St. Lucia, and native son Jeadine White.

Rudolph Speid coaches the club.

"This is why we work so hard. This is why we get up early in the morning and train," Speid said. "We know Cincinnati is on the rise and we are excited for the challenge."


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