(Photo credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)
Two teams in much different spots will cross paths Saturday night when Eastern Conference-leading FC Cincinnati welcome visiting Charlotte FC.
FC Cincinnati (17-4-8, 59 points) lead Orlando City by nine points in the standings, while Charlotte (7-9-12, 33 points) is on the outside looking in regarding the playoff picture. Charlotte sits in 12th place, with D.C. United three points ahead in the ninth and final playoff spot. New York City FC and the Chicago Fire also stand between those teams, meaning Charlotte FC's final six fixtures all hold weight.
Charlotte FC are unbeaten over its five MLS matches since returning from Leagues Cup play, but their last four results have been draws born out of late hiccups.
"We need to overcome this mental block in the final five minutes when we are ahead in games," captain Ashley Westwood said.
Forward Karol Swiderski paces Charlotte FC with eight goals, while Kerwin Vargas, Justin Meram and Jaylin Lindsey have all dished out five assists.
Dating back to June of last year, FC Cincinnati haven't made it at all easy on visitors.
Over their last 25 home matches, the club has only been defeated twice. In that same time, it has earned 16 wins and seven draws.
Midfielder Luciano Acosta, whose name is in the mix for MLS MVP, has totaled 14 goals and 11 assists in 27 matches for FC Cincinnati. Acosta was inked to an extension through 2026 on Friday. He's the team's all-time leader in goals and assists in MLS competition.
"Lucho is a tremendously important player for our team and our club," FC Cincinnati general manager Chris Albright said. "He's clearly one of the best players in our league, capable of producing the spectacular moments that win you games."
These squads battled to a 2-2 draw on July 8 in Charlotte.
--Field Level Media