Brandon Vazquez and Luciano Acosta scored late goals for visiting FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night as the MLS leaders bounced back from an early deficit to defeat Atlanta United 2-1.
Acosta scored in the 75th minute to tie the match, while Vazquez netted the winning strike at the 80-minute mark.
The result allowed Cincinnati (17-3-6, 57 points) to become the first MLS team to clinch a playoff spot this year.
With the visitors trailing 1-0, Acosta played a pass into Junior Moreno at the top of the penalty area. Moreno headed the ball down to a streaking Acosta, setting the latter up for a first-time shot into the top corner that beat Atlanta’s Brad Guzan.
Five minutes later, Acosta gathered the ball in midfield and found Alvaro Barreal on the left wing. Barreal then sent a cross to Vazquez, who finished to push Cincinnati into the lead and extend his season goal tally to five.
Despite the away side’s late lead, it was Atlanta (11-8-8, 41 points) that started the game on the front foot. Edwin Mosquera opened the scoring in the 10th minute, hammering a volley past Cincinnati’s Roman Celentano after getting on the end of a deflected cross from Xande Silva.
Moments before the opening score, talismanic midfielder Thiago Almada’s right-footed free-kick hit the crossbar from nearly 30 yards out for Atlanta.
Cincinnati began slowly, failing to muster threatening attacks early in the match, but found chances midway through the first half. Sergio Santos delivered a 25th-minute cross that nearly fooled Guzan but went unfinished in front of the goal.
The Supporters Shield leaders continued to press soon after, as Bret Halsey linked up with Santos before firing his shot over the net in the 32nd minute, but the club struggled through the remainder of the first half.
Cincinnati finished the match with four shots on target, while Atlanta only mustered one, despite holding possession 58.6 percent of the match and playing an attacking style throughout.
The late push proved vital for FC Cincinnati, as they secured their 17th win of the season, powering them closer to the MLS single-season points record of 73, set by the New England Revolution in 2021.
Meanwhile, Atlanta United saw their two-match shutout streak come to an end as they remained in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
–Field Level Media