Wilfried Nancy questioned why limits should be placed upon his Columbus Crew side after they reached the CONCACAF Champions Cup final.

Having taken a narrow 2-1 lead into the second and away leg, Columbus then impressively won 3-1 in Monterrey to secure their place in the final against Pachuca in June.

Columbus are also sitting fifth in the MLS' Eastern Conference, and Nancy believes his side can keep pushing the boundaries of their potential.

"For me, this is about trying to be limitless, and this value for me is so important," Nancy told reporters. "Why are we going to put limits on what we do?"

Nancy's men turn their attentions back to domestic football this weekend, hosting FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

Cincinnati are flying themselves having rattled off three straight MLS victories to leave them second in the East and three points behind leaders Inter Miami with a game in hand.

Despite winning 1-0 at Orlando City last time out, Noonan was not impressed with his side's showing, saying: "I don't think anybody in there is doing cartwheels because of their, and our, performance.

"We won a game on the road and did things well enough to get a win, but didn't perform anywhere near what we know we're capable of.

"Hopefully, we use this as a chance to learn a little bit about ourselves and grow from it and then hopefully, have a good week and a strong performance in Columbus."


Columbus Crew – Cucho Hernandez

Hernandez leads the Crew for goals so far this season, netting four times in eight appearances. His tally is twice as many as his team-mates have managed, and Hernandez looks the most likely to lead his team's attacking threat this Saturday.

FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

Acosta scored 17 seconds into Cincinnati’s 1-0 win over Orlando last weekend. It was the earliest goal ever scored in a 1-0 win in MLS history, and if his team are to pick up three points again this weekend, another fast start from Acosta could prove helpful.


Columbus have lost only two of their 13 all-time MLS meetings with Cincinnati (seven wins, four draws), including winning the last two in a row. The Crew have scored multiple goals in 11 of those 13 matches, including each of the last seven in a row (incl. playoffs).

Cincinnati, meanwhile, have won three straight matches in all competitions for the first time since a four-match winning run in May-June last season. Two of those wins have come on the road with Cincinnati winning seven of their last 11 away matches in all competitions dating back to last September.

Columbus are unbeaten in 27 consecutive home matches in all competitions dating back over a year, though, with only two longer home unbeaten streaks in all competitions by an MLS club before, and they look the favourites to claim victory on Saturday.


Columbus – 52.5%

Cincinnati – 21.2%

Draw – 26.3%

Luciano Acosta has hailed FC Cincinnati for coming through a testing period as they look to make it three straight wins in MLS play at Orlando City on Saturday.

After going unbeaten through their first six games of the season, Cincinnati suffered back-to-back 2-1 defeats against the New York Red Bulls and CF Montreal.

However, they have since bounced back with two wins over difficult opponents, seeing off Atlanta United and the Colorado Rapids by the same scoreline.

Acosta scored his 44th goal for Cincinnati – the most of any player in franchise history – in that latter game, and he believes their resilience has been key. 

"I think it's just about our mentality," Acosta said. "We lost those two games and it was a bit of a punch that woke us up. But now it's about the mentality and getting back to it."

Head coach Pat Noonan said of Acosta: "I think what makes it more impressive is teams are going to try to prevent him from having an impact. 

"When you're a key player and you're able to do what he's doing with the focus on stopping you in a lot of ways, that's what is unique."

Orlando, meanwhile, were beaten 2-1 by Toronto FC last week, halting their four-game unbeaten streak and dropping them to 13th in the Eastern Conference. 

Forward Duncan McGuire felt the Lions should have taken maximum points from that game and is desperate to atone at Inter&Co Stadium.

"I definitely think we should've won," he said.

"I think how difficult this felt and how this feels for us right now is going to push us and motivate us to train hard all week, to get a win for the fans at home and get the job done."


Orlando City – Duncan McGuire

Maguire scored his fourth goal of the MLS season against Toronto last week – no other Orlando player has netted more than once in 2024.

Those goals have come from an expected goals (xG) figure of 2.7, with the United States international also attempting a team-high 27 shots this campaign.

FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta 

Acosta has contributed to at least one goal in four straight MLS matches (one goal, three assists). 

It is Acosta's fifth streak of four or more straight regular-season games with a goal contribution for Cincinnati, with Brandon Vazquez the only other player to achieve that feat for the team.


Orlando earned a win and a draw against Supporters' Shield winners Cincinnati last season, making them one of two teams (also the New England Revolution) to play Cincinnati twice in the 2023 regular season and not lose either match.

The Lions may just fancy their chances of another positive result against Noonan's men, who have only won one of their last three away games (one draw, one defeat).

Orlando have only lost two of their last 17 regular-season home matches dating back to last April, winning nine and drawing six, so viewers should expect a response to their loss last time out.


Orlando City – 49.3%

FC Cincinnati – 23.6% 

Draw – 27.1%

Chris Armas says his Colorado Rapids players deserve to enjoy their meteoric rise up the MLS standings, and he is confident they will not get carried away ahead of their trip to FC Cincinnati.

Colorado sit fourth in the Western Conference with 15 points from nine games, winning three of their last four after an inconsistent start to the year.

They benefitted from two own goals as they beat FC Dallas 2-1 last time out, and Armas has no issue with his players enjoying their place in the standings, particularly given they finished rock bottom of the West in 2023.

"I see the boys looking at the TV where we have the standings posted, and they see that we're climbing, so it's all good stuff," Armas said.

"From day one the message that I preached is that everything we do will be based on hard work and that we will never get too low on ourselves.

"We don't get too high, the boys are realistic. That part's not that hard and our group is hungry and looking to improve every day."

Supporters' Shield holders Cincinnati have had an up-and-down start, going unbeaten through their first five games of the year before suffering back-to-back defeats against the New York Red Bulls and CF Montreal (both 1-2).

However, Pat Noonan's men bounced back with a statement 2-1 victory over Atlanta United last week, and defender Matt Miazga hopes that result will be a turning point.

"I look at everybody and I'm like, 'Alright, I see in his face, I see in his face. We want it,'" Miazga said. 

"We all realised we are a top team, with big personalities, big characters, and it's time to show up in big moments."


FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

Acosta assisted Cincinnati's equaliser against Atlanta last Saturday before scoring the winner two minutes later. 

That was Acosta's 13th regular-season match with a goal and an assist since the start of the 2022 season, three more than any other player in MLS has managed during that time.

Colorado Rapids – Djordje Mihailovic

Mihailovic has created at least twice as many chances as any other Colorado player in MLS this term (16), with Keegan Rosenberry and Sam Vines creating eight apiece.

He also has two goals and one assist to his name, while only Rafael Navarro (16) has bettered his 10 successful dribbles among his team-mates.


Cincinnati earned their first win over the Rapids last May, triumphing 1-0 on the road. The Rapids had won the first two meetings between the sides, including a 2-0 victory on their only previous trip to Cincinnati.

The Rapids also enter Saturday's game having won successive regular-season matches for the first time since September 2022, eyeing their first three-game winning streak since August 2021.

However, Cincinnati ended their poor run by beating Atlanta last time out and have, despite some underwhelming performances, only lost two of their nine league games this term (four wins, three draws). On home soil, the Supporters' Shield holders are favourites.


FC Cincinnati – 49.3%

Colorado Rapids – 23.3%

Draw – 27.4%

Though faced with uphill tasks to overturn 0-2 and 0-3 deficits, Caribbean clubs Cavalier of Jamaica and Dominican Republic’s Moca FC, will be intent on leaving everything on the pitch when they challenge FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC in Round one return leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup on Wednesday.

Cavalier will be away to FC Cincinnati at the TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio t 7:00pm, while Moca FC are also away to Nashville SC at Geodis Park in Tennessee for the 9:15pm encounter.

Last week’s first leg was the first ever Champions Cup match for both Cavalier and FC Cincinnati, with the Major League Soccer (MLS) side proving too good for their Jamaica Premier League (JPL) counterpart, despite a gritty effort by the latter.

Sergio Santos and Malik Pinto did the damage for FC Cincinnati inside Jamaica’s National Stadium. But perhaps more impressive was the effort from FC Cincinnati’s defence to shutout the highest scoring team from the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup, which comprises Golden Boot winner Shaniel Thomas.

With a two-goal cushion and a pair of away goals, FC Cincinnati, playing their first ever Champions Cup match at home, are in the driver’s seat to progress to the Round of 16, and only need a repeat of last week’s performance to confirm that much.

While MLS clubs hold a seven-win advantage in meetings with Jamaican clubs, that statistic will mean very little to Rudolph Speid and his Cavalier side, who will be hoping to summon their best all-round performance to not only shutout the menacing Luciano Acosta and company, but more importantly, score some goals of their own.

Cavalier twice scored five goals during last year’s Caribbean Cup, doing so in the group stage against Golden Lion of Martinique in a 5-2 win, followed by a 5-0 win at fellow Jamaican club Harbour View in the semifinals.

Cavalier will require that kind of output if they are to turn this series around in their favour. In addition to Thomas, Jalmaro Calvin and Orlando Russell, will need to fire on all cylinders.

Meanwhile, Nashville SC, who got their first-leg goals from Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge and Tyler Boyd, will be aiming to maintain their dominance to also confirm their spot in the Round of 16.

However, with Mukhtar and Surridge both carrying injuries, their absence could dampen Nashville’s attacking prowess and possibly present a window of opportunity on which Moca FC will be aiming to capitalise on.

A win on United States soil would see Moca FC being the first Dominican Republic team to do so. Though highly unlikely, it is by no means impossible and Gustavo Ascona, who was one of the stars of the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup with four goals, along with Juan Angeles, will be integral to their chances.


Jamaican club Cavalier and Dominican Republic’s Moca FC will be targeting quick starts in their respective 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Round One campaigns, as they tackle Major League Soccer (MLS) outfits FC Cincinnati and Nashville FC in first leg action on Thursday.

Moca FC hosts Nashville SC at the Estadio Cibao in Santiago de los Caballeros at 7:00pm, while Cavalier will also be at home to FC Cincinnati at the National Stadium at 9:00pm Jamaica time.

Cavalier, who secured their spot in this edition of the Champions Cup by virtue of their runner-up finish in last year’s Concacaf Caribbean Cup, will be hoping to carry their form from the Jamaica Premier League into play and upset the proverbial applecart across the two-leg tie.

The Rudolph Speid-coached side currently head the Jamaica Premier League standings on the back of a 12-match unbeaten run, the last four of which ended in clean sheet victories.

“We have only conceded two goals in 12 (Jamaica Premier League) games, one being an own goal. So, we are on a trajectory and it is something that we plan because we know that we will be up against some good attackers in the Concacaf Champions League, so we try to hone our defence,” Speid said.

While the level of competition on the Champions Cup stage is more formidable that the Jamaica Premier League and the Caribbean Cup, Cavalier have proven that they can compete and, if their rich scoring from the Caribbean Cup, in particular, is anything to go by, then FC Cincinnati will have to put every foot right defensively.

No player had more goals in the Caribbean Cup than Shaniel Thomas, who finished with eight goals, including a pair of hat-tricks. However, Thomas didn’t do it alone as Jalmaro Calvin also scored four goals and was one of the playmakers in attack.

Speid is backing that dynamic duo and others to execute accordingly against an FC Cincinnati team playing its first match of the year.

“We just want to see what we can get from the two games against Cincinnati,” Speid added.

Cincinnati FC also enjoyed a fruitful 2023 season in MLS, where they won the Supporters Shield as the team with the best regular season record.

Like Cavalier, the Ohio-based club will be making their Champions Cup debut as well but boast both quality and experience within the squad. Attacking midfielder and 2023 MLS Most Valuable Player Luciano Acosta, who had 17 goals and 14 assists in 2023, is no stranger to the Champions Cup, as he enjoyed a stint with DC United in 2015-16 season. Now, almost eight years later, Acosta will get another crack at Concacaf glory.

FC Cincinnati also have great strength in defence, especially in central defenders Matt Miazga and Miles Robinson, both of whom have won a Concacaf Gold Cup with the United States Men’s National team.

A pair of seasoned FC Cincinnati defenders going up against Cavalier’s prolific attack should make for an intriguing first leg.

Moca FC vs Nashville SC

These two teams will also be making their Concacaf Champions Cup debuts, as Moca FC progressed by virtue of their third-place finish in the Caribbean Cup, while Nashville SC, due to their runner-up finish in last year’s Leagues Cup.

Moca used a stifling defence and timely goal-scoring to reach the knockout stage of the Caribbean Cup, as they conceded just three goals in their four group stage games.

In attack, Gustavo Ascona was a headache for opponents defence in scoring four goals, while Victor Sanchez was also threat in notching two goals.

But they are up against an MLS team that boast one of the strongest squads in the Eastern Conference, which makes for a daunting assignment.

Leading the way for Nashville is talented midfielder Hany Mukhtar, who pocketed MLS’s Most Valuable Player for the 2022 season, a feat he followed up with 15 goals and 11 assists in 2023. New arrival Tyler Boyd should also help in attack, after scoring seven goals and contributing four assists last season with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Nashville SC are also quite strong in defence, with United States Internationals Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore at the back. 

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