Long-rumored but finally official, FC Cincinnati got their man.
The club officially acquired midfielder Luciano Acosta from Liga MX side Atlas on Wednesday, bringing the No. 10 back to MLS after four seasons with D.C. United. D.C. still had control of his MLS rights, which Cincy had to acquire to facilitate the move.
“High profile players are difficult to get over the finish line, but we succeeded and we’re very happy he joined us,” general manager Gerard Nijkamp told media on a virtual press conference. “It was complicated, he was already in the league with D.C. That was something we had to solve. He still was with Atlas, that was something to solve. Now we’re happy to have this special day to announce Lucho is a part of FC Cincinnati.”
All the work and complications were worth it as Acosta trained with his new teammates for the first time on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old is best remembered around MLS for a magical four-month stretch with D.C. United in 2018 after Wayne Rooney joined him at the club and the pair lit up the league. Acosta finished with 10 goals and 17 assists that season, being named to the MLS Best XI. That season was the crown jewel of his four years in the nation’s capital, part of his 24 goals and 35 assists over 126 appearances.
“We’ve added a proven MLS talent,” Nijkamp said. “He showed several times in our league he can product goals and service assists. We are convinced he’ll be a great addition. It’s a strong benefit to add a player who knows MLS. We saw last season how challenging it can be for players to adapt to the league, it takes time.”
Cincinnati were public in their desire for attacking help this winter, both up top and in attacking midfield. Acosta follows Brazil youth international forward Brenner in an ambitious offseason, joining incumbent attackers like Jurgen Locadia, Yuya Kubo and more. They struggled in attack last year, in part because of a lack of production in attacking midfield.
They scored just 12 goals in 23 MLS matches, far and away the fewest in the league. They were fourth-worst in chances created from open play in 2020 and second-worst in big chances created. Acosta’s presence should help the likes of Locadia and Kubo, who had four goals in a combined 2,648 minutes in their debut MLS seasons, as well as making life easier for Brenner to adapt to.
“The way Lucho plays will help all the others who must produce goals,” Nijkamp said. “That’s a reason he was high on our list from the first day this offseason.”
Cincinnati aren’t done, either.
In addition to the big money signings of Brenner and Acosta, as well as the trade for Costa Rica international Ronald Matarrita, the club continue to plan for further signings to bolster the club in the hope of making the playoffs in their third season in MLS.
“It’s important that we continue to add the right players to our group, like we have with several new additions,” Nijkamp said. “We are still looking for missing pieces in our roster. We still have a big need in central defense and also another winger who has a different profile. It’s still a work in progress.”
Tom Pettersson, Maikel van der Werff and Nick Hagglund headline the club’s options in central defense at the moment.
While much of the focus has been incoming, there have been numerous reports about potential departures in the Cincinnati squad. Rising midfielder and 2019 MLS SuperDraft top selection Frankie Amaya publicly requested a trade in a statement through his agent, though the club have stated they have no desire to move him. Questions have swarmed over Locadia’s future as well as midfielder Allan Cruz.
“At this moment, nothing is happening on that front,” Nijkamp said when asked about potential departures. “Of course, the amount of players is increasing so we’ll have to make decisions for players, especially youngsters, who need playing time.”