(Photo credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports)
FC Cincinnati are hoping to stay strong in preparation for the playoffs when they visit CF Montreal on Wednesday.
Cincinnati (17-4-7, 58 points) has dominated the MLS table since April, sitting first in the Eastern Conference since the start of the month and leading the way in the race for the Supporters' Shield since mid-month. Heading into the final stretch, it holds an eight-point advantage over Orlando City in both races.
FC Cincinnati head into the mid-week match coming off a draw against the Philadelphia Union in which Cincinnati erased a two-goal deficit in the second half. It marked the third time this season that the club has avoided defeat after trailing by multiple goals, most in MLS.
"We have six games remaining and despite maybe the period of time until the playoffs start, this is when you want to be at your best," FC Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said. "The reality is we're trying to hold that top position so we're going to need to be at our best under these circumstances."
Cincinnati captain Luciano Acosta will be back after serving a one-match suspension due to yellow card accumulation. The Argentine leads the club with 13 goals, more than twice as many as striker Brandon Vazquez, who ranks second on the team with six.
Montreal (11-14-3, 36 points) remains in a battle for a playoff spot as the season winds down. Currently above the line in eighth place, the club is one point up on D.C. United, who hold the final spot, and three points ahead of the Chicago Fire, against whom they played to a scoreless draw in their last outing.
The club is winless in its past three matches and has been shut out in two of those. And while players know the challenge they face against Cincinnati, they're confident in their abilities in front of the home crowd.
"Even if Cincinnati is currently the best team in the league, I'm positive that we're going to have a great match," CF Montreal coach Hernan Losada said. "When we play at home, the team feels good. The crowd gets behind us and we have an incredible atmosphere, which gives a massive boost to the players."
Montreal sits near the bottom of the league with 28 goals scored. Eight of those have come from Mathieu Choiniere and Chinoso Offor, who share the team lead with four apiece. Romell Quioto, who returned from injury as a substitute against Chicago, has three goals, despite being sidelined since mid-May.
--Field Level Media