FC Cincinnati find "great addition" in DP striker Aaron Boupendza

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As good as FC Cincinnati have been this season, the Supporters’ Shield leaders aren’t without flaws – most notably their lack of goal production from a Designated Player striker.

Enter Aaron Boupendza, the Orange & Blue’s new DP signing who was unveiled to the media Monday afternoon and touted by general manager Chris Albright as the final piece of the club’s puzzle as they make a push for silverware this year.

“He’s a player… that’s shown the ability to score goals everywhere he’s gone. And scoring goals in our game is the most important thing, it’s the hardest thing to do,” Albright said of the 26-year-old Gabon international.

Most recently a member of Saudi Pro League side Al-Shabab FC, Boupendza also enjoyed productive stints in France, Portugal and the Turkish Süper Lig. In the latter competition, he was the top scorer of the 2020-21 campaign, netting 22 goals and one assist in 36 league games for Hatayspor.

While on paper Boupendza fills the void left by outgoing DP striker Brenner – limited to just one goal in eight appearances this year as the club negotiated his transfer to Serie A club Udinese – Albright doesn’t consider him a like-for-like replacement for the Brazilian.

“I don’t feel like this is a big replacement, I think this is just a great addition to our group,” he said.

A win-now move

So great, in fact, Cincinnati – tops in MLS with a 13W-2L-6D record – made the signing with the intention of winning trophies now instead of later.

“We could’ve added a youth DP,” he said of the club’s decision to take a more aggressive approach in the Secondary Transfer Window. “But we thought someone with a little bit more of a proven record would give our team, our fans, a chance to, you know, maybe take a shot at something a little bit sooner.”

That’s a clear indication of the club’s MLS Cup ambitions. But Cincy are also in contention for the US Open Cup (they host Inter Miami CF in the semifinals on Aug. 23), as well as the upcoming Leagues Cup tournament.

“All of a sudden where we sit today, you know we can’t deny that we have a couple of opportunities out in front of us,” Albright said. “So yeah, it definitely affected how we addressed this.”

As for Boupendza, the striker is excited to get started with his new teammates – particularly All-Star No. 10 Luciano Acosta, the man who pulls the strings in Cincinnati’s midfield.

“He’s an amazing player. I trained with him today,” he said of the Argentine playmaker, who has 10g/7a this season. “… I think with this player we can score a lot of goals”

Vazquez staying put... for now

Boupendza is expected to share goal-scoring duties up top with Brandon Vazquez, currently on US men's national team duty at the Concacaf Gold Cup.

Despite interest from abroad, and Vazquez’s stated intention to make an eventual move to Europe, Albright all but ruled out the possibility of the 24-year-old departing in 2023. German Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach is one reported suitor.

“Brandon’s a big part of our success this season,” the GM said, alluding to Vazquez’s dramatic goal in front of the local TQL Stadium supporters during Sunday’s Gold Cup quarterfinal win over Canada – a game that also featured Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga.

“You can see that those two guys are gigantic pieces in what we’re trying to do this year and going forward.”

However, Albright did concede the club may not be able to hold on to Vazquez forever.

“We’ll obviously, you know, reevaluate as we go into the wintertime with Brandon," Albright said, "to help him achieve those dreams [of playing in Europe]."