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Jul 2, 2024 7:57 pm

FC Cincinnati meet D.C. United, vow not to look ahead

Luciano Acosta

Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield title contenders FC Cincinnati are out to avoid a letdown in a tricky Wednesday night trip to D.C. United, who are fighting for their playoff lives.

Cincinnati’s 1-0 victory at FC Dallas on Saturday night helped the second-place Orange and Blue (13-4-3, 42 points) keep pace with East and Shield leaders Inter Miami, with the two set to meet at Cincinnati on Saturday night.

With that game looming, Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan knows it may serve his team well to rotate some of his starters Wednesday. The question is how to avoid something of a trap game with Inter Miami looming and a chance at the league’s best record still in play.

“We’re trying to figure out the best way to go about these games so we’re fresh and we can look at the matchups and what makes the most sense,” Noonan said. “(I) don’t think the guys are bigger into the fact that on the back end of this road game is a game that most circled on the calendar. If we are, we’re in trouble on Wednesday.”

The most difficult decision may be whether to start reigning MLS MVP Luciano Acosta. The 30-year-old is having another strong campaign with nine goals and 15 assists and is central to Cincy’s chances of success against Miami on Saturday.

But Wednesday’s match also represents a chance to face his former club, where he spent his first four MLS seasons.

D.C. (4-9-8, 20 points) will be trying to snap its nine-match winless streak. The team’s 2-2 draw on the road against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday should boost coach Troy Lesesne’s group.

With leading scorer Christian Benteke suspended, and with Cristian Dajome sent off in the 20th minute, first-half goals from Jared Stroud and Pedro Santos helped D.C. earn a gritty point.

“I’m incredibly happy with the group, proud of the group,” Lesesne said. “The group showed the type of character and integrity that we want to have under already challenging circumstances coming into the match, and the match obviously dictated that there was even more challenging circumstances.”

Benteke will return aiming to add to his total of 14 goals and help D.C. try to narrow a four-point gap between itself and East wild-card places. Benteke’s goal total is second best in MLS heading into the weekend’s play.

–Field Level Media

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