FC Cincinnati only need to avoid losing at D.C. United to make the MLS postseason, though coach Pat Noonan insists his side will not take a defensive approach to the game.
Cincinnati could have confirmed their first playoff spot in their history last week but fell to a surprise 3-2 defeat against Chicago Fire.
That leaves Cincinnati needing to avoid defeat against strugglers D.C., but Noonan suggested the permutations will not impact his game plan.
“We know as a group what we need to do to be a playoff team. So that part’s clear. And it’s important that when we step on the field, we’re playing to win a game, not playing a game to not lose it,” Noonan said.
“That’s two totally different approaches. We’re going to step on the field with a group that’s confident to go and play a game to win the game.
“And certainly, as the game progresses, you have to have an understanding of what you need to be a playoff team in terms of the final score.”
Sunday will mark the end of a frustrating campaign for the Black-and-Red faithful, with coach Wayne Rooney aiming for improvements next year.
The former England striker spent time with NFL side Washington Commanders this week to see a different approach to elite-level management.
“I think it’s always great when you look at different sports because even though it’s different, the message normally is the same in terms of the players mentality and character,” Rooney said.
“It’s been really interesting to see how it works, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
D.C. United – Ola Kamara
Ola Kamara has been a key attacking asset for Rooney’s side in 2022, ranking second for goals for D.C. after scoring nine times in 29 MLS appearances.
FC Cincinnati – Brandon Vazquez
Brandon Vazquez could be the fourth player in Cincinnati history to appear in 33 MLS games in a season, joining Mathieu Deplagne (2019), Alvaro Barreal (2021) and Brenner (2021).
KEY OPTA FACTS
·D.C. United hasn’t lost any of its seven all-time MLS matches against Cincinnati (W4 D3), including winning each of the last two meetings. D.C. is one of two teams Cincinnati has played at least five times without beating (W0 D2 L6 vs. NYCFC).
·D.C. United’s 1-0 loss to Montreal was the 16th time this season that its failed to score in a match. With one match left, D.C. is within reach of the MLS record of 17 goalless games in a single season, done three times before, including twice by D.C. (2010, 2017) and once by Austin (2021).
·FC Cincinnati’s 3-2 loss on Saturday was its second defeat in its last 19 games (W5 D12). The loss was just the ninth of the season for Cincinnati after losing 22 times in each of its first two full seasons.
·D.C. United has 34 goals in 33 games this season, fewest in MLS. Should D.C. fail to score against Cincinnati, it would the fourth time it failed to score more than 1.0 goal per game (2010, 2013, 2017), equaling Chivas USA and Colorado for the most such regular seasons in MLS history.
·Luciano Acosta (27 – 9 goals, 18 assists), Brandon Vázquez (22 – 17 goals, 5 assists) and Brenner (20 – 15 goals, 5 assists) all have contributed to 20 goals this season, making Cincinnati the only team with three players with at least 20 goal contributions this year. Prior to this season, no Cincinnati player had contributed to 20 goals in a single season.