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FC Cincinnati Travel to Chicago for First Road Match of MLS Season

March 1, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
FC Cincinnati News Release

FC Cincinnati will hit the road for the first time in 2024 for an Eastern Conference showdown with Chicago Fire FC on Saturday night at Soldier Field. After a nil-nil draw opening to the MLS season last Sunday against Toronto FC, sandwiched between victories in the Concacaf Champions Cup opening round, FCC are looking to get into the win column in league play against a club that just missed out on the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.

With a busy schedule to open the regular season, including an eight-game stretch in 25 days to start the season, Saturday's match in some ways feels like relief for The Orange and Blue. After utilizing a successful lineup rotation in Wednesday's Champions Cup match with Cavalier FC to earn a decisive 4-0 victory, FCC come into the Chicago match with a fresh lineup. Similarly, with four days between Saturday's contest and next Thursday's Champions Cup fixture with CF Monterrey, concerns over fitness for that match are limited given the more normal time off between games.

"We have that extra day of recovery, Saturday to Thursday. So we can go after the next two games in a very aggressive way where you're not thinking about rotations," head coach Pat Noonan said Friday before departing for Chicago. "If you need to based on performance, result, or what you think your best group is, injury, all those things factor into it. But as far as how we're looking at the next two games, there's more than enough time to recover."

Reinforcements are on the way for FC Cincinnati as for the first time all season The Orange and Blue will be at full capacity to deploy their optimal lineup. With his three-game suspension reduced to two prior to last Sunday's match with Toronto, Matt Miazga is now fully available for selection in MLS play. Miazga played 45 minutes in Wednesday's Concacaf match, but has yet to feature fully in the back three since the club's match in Kingston, Jamaica, a match which did not feature Aaron Boupendza or Luca Orellano, both of whom are available for this match.

Chicago is looking to win their opening day match after drawing away to Philadelphia Union to start the season. Under the care of longtime Chicago Fire-man Frank Klopas once again, the Fire are poised for an exciting season after making significant offseason additions.

"It's a small sample size of where we're at in the year," Noonan said of his opponent given how early it is in the calendar. "There are certainly things you can take from it, but they're on the road against a good Philly side, so maybe their approach to how they attack and defend in that game will look different than what we see. So, there's things that we will kind of work on, but it's important to understand at these stages, that you might see some variation to how teams approach the home and away aspect of it."

A win for FC Cincinnati would be their first opening road match victory in club history. Only three times have they earned a point in such a situation.

FC CINCINNATI at Chicago Fire - Saturday, March 2, 2024 - 8:30 p.m. ET - Soldier Field


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

All-time versus Chicago Fire FC

FC Cincinnati own an all-time record of 4-3-3 against the long-time MLS club, but are 2-1-1 since head coach Pat Noonan took over the club. At Chicago FCC owns a winning record of 3-1-1, making The Windy City one of three away trips, The Orange and Blue a winning record in.

Last time in Chicago, FCC battled frigid temperatures to earn a draw against the Fire. With kickoff coming at 22 degrees and the windchill impacting every minute of the game, FCC was able to escape with a 3-3 draw thanks to a brace from Junior Moreno and a goal from Sergio Santos.

In the home leg of the matchup in 2023, Luciano Acosta scored his seventh goal of the season in the 83 minute to give FCC the advantage. It was also his sixth goal in as many matches as the soon to be MVP mounted his case to be the top player in MLS.


On short rest - FC Cincinnati has been excellent under Pat Noonan when playing on short rest. A needed trait over the next few weeks as FC Cincinnati look to open the season with eight matches in 25 days. Since 2022, The Orange and Blue are 12-2-4 when playing games within three days of each other. This season FCC is already 1-0-1 on such occasions.

Century Mark - In his last appearance, Luciano Acosta made his 100th appearance as FC Cincinnati captain. His next match will be his 114th appearance for the club and his 102 start after appearing as a sub in the second leg against Cavalier FC. Acosta is the clubs all-time leader in goals and assists against Chicago Fire, having scored in the most recent matchup.

Young Stars - Several young FCC players made milestones in the clubs two-leg match with Cavalier FC in the Concacaf Champions Cup. Malik Pinto and Isaiah Foster each netted their first goals for the club, London Aghedo made his club debut, and Bret Halsey's two assists were his first multi-goal contribution game of his young career. Gerardo Valenzuela also added a goal and assist, making him the youngest in club history to both score a goal and register an assist.

Early win on the road - A win in Chicago Saturday would mark the earliest road victory by calendar date and by match week in club history, surpassing 2022's March 12, match week three victory over Orlando City SC. FC Cincinnati have never outright won its first road match of the season, but has twice collected point (2023 @ Orlando, 2021 @ Nashville)

SCOUTING Chicago Fire FC (0-0-1, 6th in Eastern Conference, D1)

After finishing just outside the playoff mark in 2023, with a chance to make the wildcard round on decision day, the Fire have returned looking to push their way up the Eastern Conference standings and get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

After an opening weekend draw gave Chicago their first point of the season, going level with Philadelphia Union 2-2 a week ago, the Fire host FC Cincinnati for their opening night with a chance to debut a newly revised roster under a familiar manager.

Frank Klopas is back as full-time manager for Chicago, his third stint as manager for his long-time club and fourth if you include his interim appointments. Klopas, who took over the role as interim in May 2023, was officially named the Fires full-time manager in December.

The appointment was just the start of a busy offseason for Chicago. One of the largest MLS free agents available was brought in in Kellyn Acosta, a new club record transfer fee was set acquiring Hugo Cuypers, a former homegrown talent returned to the club in Andrew Gutman, and new center-back Tobias Salquist was brought in from the Danish Super Liga.

A striker, a midfielder, and two new defenders to solidify the spine of the lineup offer an exciting rebuild for the club, which has struggled to perform in recent years.

Chicago's building offense includes two mainstays from 2023: homegrown youngster Brian Gutierez (who scored and assisted in Chicago's first game) and Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri. Both play as part of Chicago's three-man attacking midfield group.

Chicago most typically utilizes a 4-2-3-1 formation.

The Fire also boasts one of the youngest goalkeepers in MLS, with 19-year-old Chris Brady starting in net for Chicago on opening day. As an 18-year-old in 2023, Brady started 30 games and allowed 44 goals while picking up three clean sheets. The homegrown talent has been with the Fire for five years but went on loan to USL League One side Forward Madison, where he was named Young Player of the Year in 2020. Brady turns 20 on March 3.

Former FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Riley is also an option; he made five appearances for Chicago in 2023.

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