The Supporters’ Shield leaders announced on Friday they’ve rewarded their captain with an extension through 2026 with an option for 2027 – locking in this year’s Landon Donovan MLS MVP favorite for the long term as they look to complete their transformation from perennial Wooden Spoon contenders to genuine league powerhouse.
“Paying Lucho lots of money for the next three to four years is certainly proof of that,” general manager Chris Albright, one of the main architects behind the club’s turnaround, told reporters during a media availability Friday.
“But [the contract] is deserved. It gets him, I think, more commensurate with sort of his performances amongst his peers.”
Model of consistency
Acosta arguably has few peers in MLS these days. The 29-year-old Argentine playmaker is enjoying a career season thanks to a 14-goal, 11-assist output that has him tops in the league in goal contributions (25) and second in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race.
And with his future now secure, he’s squarely focused on helping Cincinnati reach the next level.
“Obviously this is a plus for me,” stated Acosta, “… This feels like motivation to go for everything.”
In the short term, that means securing what would be the club’s first-ever piece of silverware: the Supporters’ Shield.
With a nine-point cushion atop the league standings (17W-4L-8D, 59 points) and just five games remaining, the trophy is theirs for the taking. As the first team to clinch an Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs berth, Cincinnati are also serious candidates to compete for the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy in the Dec. 9 final.
“The most important thing is everything we’ve achieved with this team, this club,” stated Acosta, who signed with the Orange & Blue as a Designated Player early in the 2021 season – their last year spent at the bottom of the MLS standings before reaching the postseason in 2022 for the first time in club history.
“… The process we’ve gone through since I arrived, how much this club has grown. That’s the most important thing.”
"Best No. 10 in the league"
Acosta, the club’s all-time leader in both goals (31) and assists (40) in MLS competition, has been instrumental in said growth, according to head coach Pat Noonan.
“He’s capable of things that others aren’t,” the second-year manager said. “And when you find players like that and you’re able to keep them on your team, it’s, I think, positioning us to hopefully continue these successes as we move forward.”
Albright is just as enthusiastic about keeping Acosta in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future.
“Being able to go to sleep at night knowing you have the best No. 10 in the league on your team, that’s really comforting,” he said.
As the club’s captain and offensive centerpiece, along with US men’s national team striker Brandon Vazquez and fellow DP Aaron Boupendza, Acosta knows what’s expected of him, especially with his new deal in place.
“We’re achieving great things,” Acosta said, before suggesting even better days await FC Cincinnati. “While we haven’t achieved anything compared to what we can achieve, it was always in my mind, I’ve always had faith that I can leave my mark at this club.”