Luciano Acosta's last MLS regular-season appearance came against FC Cincinnati, a 34-minute stint off the bench for D.C. United. Now, his next MLS match will come with Cincy's badge on his chest after his transfer this week from Liga MX's Atlas.
Both Cincinnati and Acosta hope to be at a much different place in 2021 than at the end of 2019, too.
Cincinnati were wrapping up a historically-difficult expansion campaign, having set a record for the worst goal difference in a season. Acosta was at the end of a disappointing season individually after a proposed move to Paris Saint-Germain collapsed on deadline day the previous winter. By the end of the year, the Argentine midfielder was dropped from the starting XI, a previously unthinkable proposition for a player who made the MLS Best XI just a season prior (2018).
Cincy and D.C. tied 0-0 that day, despite FCC playing the entire second half with two red cards. Cincy's season ended, and D.C. United were trounced in Round One of the playoffs shortly thereafter. Acosta departed for Atlas in Mexico a few months later. It was a poetic 90-minute microcosm for both.
That's all in the past now. With a new training facility opened and a beautiful new stadium they'll debut in May, Cincy have taken equally ambitious swings this offseason in signing Acosta and Brazilian forward Brenner.
“This is a new team, a team with big expectations," Acosta said via a translator on a virtual press conference. "As the saying goes, the third try is the charm.”
Acosta was away from MLS for less time than anticipated, returning from Atlas after 14 months, fueled in part by the global pandemic.
“It was a very long process that made me very anxious," Acosta said. "Once I heard FC Cincinnati was interested in me, memories of MLS flooded in. I’m very excited for a new chapter. ... One thing that stood out was the energy they put into the negotiation process. The desire they had in me, I really valued that.”
Acosta's signing has already boosted their club-record signing Brenner, and their partnership will go a long way in shaping FCC's fate on the pitch. That duo's already getting along well in limited training sessions.
“I’m very excited by Luciano’s arrival," Brenner said. "He’s a great player, an experienced player that I’m learning with and already like playing with. He’s also South American, that’s a great thing for us to connect on. I’m really excited to play with him. We can do great things together.”
In Acosta's career-best 2018 season, he recorded 10 goals and 17 assists, placing among the league leaders in chances created, big chances created and expected assists. He should help boost both Brenner and fellow DP forward Jurgen Locadia.
“Locadia has been helping me a lot since my arrival, he’s a great person," Brenner said. "It’s been great playing with him already in training. Also with Acosta’s arrival, it’ll be great to play with both of them.”
With Brenner and Acosta the faces of their rebuild, Cincinnati hope to prove Acosta's wish – that 2021 introduces a big leap forward – is right on the nose.
"I just want to make history," Brenner said.