FC Cincinnati 2023 MLS season preview: Tactics, predicted XI, predictions

FC Cincinnati head into the new MLS season looking to keep the momentum going.

After finishing rock bottom in each of their first three campaigns, the Orange and Blue finally reached the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2023, playing some of the most entertaining soccer in the league in the process.

The revolution under head coach Pat Onstand and GM Chris Albright is well under way, with the likes of Brandon Vazquez and Brenner giving Cincinnati the firepower to genuinely contend with the best.

So, here’s everything you need to know about FC Cincinnati ahead of the new MLS season, including tactics, key players, and predictions.

Transfers in


Former Club


Marco Angulo

Independiente DV


Isaiah Foster

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC


Malik Pinto

Princeton Tigers

Free transfer

Paul Walters

Northwestern Wildcats

Free transfer

Hunter Morse

WMU Broncos


Joey Akpunonu

BGSU Falcons


Yerson Mosquera



Santiago Arias

Free transfer

Transfers out


Club Joined


Calvin Harris

Colorado Rapids


Ronald Matarrita


Free transfer

Ben Mines

Miami FC

Free transfer

John Nelson

St. Louis CITY SC

Expansion Draft

Harrison Robledo

Indy Eleven


Tyler Blackett


Allan Cruz


Beckham Sunderland


Nick Markanich


Zico Bailey


Geoff Cameron


While everyone expected Noonan to play the diamond formation he helped Jim Curtin carve out during his time as Philadelphia Union assistant, he actually went for a 3-4-1-2 last season.

Many of the principles were still the same, with Brandon Vazquez and Brenner working as a very effective partnership, with a top-quality No.10 behind them in Luciano Acosta. And the primary focus was on hitting teams hard on the break and using full-backs to create width.

Where things were different was that Noonan opted to solidify a previously leaky FC Cincinnati defense by using three center-backs. With Geoff Cameron replaced by the much more mobile Yerson Mosquera, Noonan may be tempted to switch to a diamond at times but, for now, we’re likely to see him ‘dance with the one that brung him’.

FC Cincinnati predicted XI (3-4-1-2): Celentano; Mosquera, Miazga, Hagglund; Arias, Nwobodo, Angulo, Barreal; Acosta; Vazquez, Brenner.

Vazquez enjoyed an incredible 2022 season.

Vazquez enjoyed an incredible 2022 season. / Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Vazquez

Things have finally clicked into place for Brandon Vazquez.

After years of struggling to be anything more than a promising backup, the former Atlanta United striker has started scoring goals for fun, hitting the net 23 times in 44 regular-season and Playoffs games since the latter half of 2021 – including 18 during the 2022 regular season.

Vazquez is now an established starter and talisman for his club, and a full US international, scoring on his debut in a friendly against Serbia last month.

If he continues on his current trajectory, Europe absolutely awaits for Vazquez, who is already drawing admiring glances from across the pond.

2023 could be a career-defining year for the 24-year-old striker.

Already an entertaining and impressive outfit, Cincinnati have upgraded in a couple of key areas this offseason, including center-back and right-wing-back.

As long as Vazquez, Brenner, and Acosta connect again as they did last year, there’s no reason to suggest they can’t finish even higher up the Eastern Conference, go deeper in the MLS Cup Playoffs, and make a push for silverware in the US Open Cup.

Things are looking bright for the Orange and Blue.

Will FC Cincinnati qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs? Yes