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The Pitch (Matchday 15): Top Things to Watch in MLS This Week

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Lucho’s Legacy Rises with FC Cincinnati

Matchday 15_Lucho Legacy

Luciano ‘Lucho’ Acosta was the hero for FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium on Matchday 14, scoring a brace in a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Crew. It was the club’s first win over the Crew since October 14, 2020, and it was Acosta’s first win over his club’s bitter rivals since he joined Cincinnati in 2021.

The win and individual performance were two notches in Acosta’s belt. Seven of his eight goal contributions have come at TQL Stadium this season, propelling Cincinnati atop the Supporters’ Shield standings through 13 games played. His magic from midfield has won Cincinnati six points this season, and Acosta’s goals helped Cincinnati become the third team in post-shootout MLS history to win each of its first eight home games to start a season.

Acosta’s performances are slowly building his legacy as a club legend and MLS great. He’s set the club record for assists in a season twice since 2021, with last season’s league-leading 19 being the benchmark to beat in 2023. The Argentine also led the club to its first appearance in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and first postseason win as club captain, earning MLS Best XI and MLS All-Star honors along the way.

His MLS career also sits among those of the best MLS midfielders in recent years. Only Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro (75) and Maximiliano Moralez (69) have more assists than Acosta (67) since 2016, and he is the only player with at least 20 goals and 30 assists since his return to MLS in 2021.

Acosta now has opportunities to add trophies to his legacy with a knockout game against the New York Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, May 23 before continuing the Supporters’ Shield journey on Saturday, May 27 against the Colorado Rapids (9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass).

Champions of the East Collide in NYCFC vs. Philadelphia Union

Matchday 15_NYCvPHI

New York City FC and the Philadelphia Union have met in each of the previous two Eastern Conference Finals, with NYCFC coming out on top in 2021 and the Union returning the favor in 2022. Now, the Eastern Conference foes will meet for the first time this season on Matchday 15 when the Union travels to Citi Field on Saturday, May 27 (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass).

Historically, NYCFC holds a slight advantage in this series with an 8-7-2 record, but the Union swept NYCFC during the regular season before winning their Eastern Conference Final showdown in 2022.

Led by Dániel Gazdag, who has six goals in 12 games played, the Union will look to extend their unbeaten streak to five games. NYCFC, who begins a three-game homestead in its first home match since April 22, are 4-0-1 at home this season and will look to Santiago Rodríguez to be the difference maker to end the team’s four-game winless run.

Facing off for the first time in 2023, the two clubs will look to move up the Eastern Conference standings in hopes of getting closer to a return to the Eastern Conference Final for a third consecutive season.

Short-Term Signings Turning Long-term Success in in MLS

The Pitch Week 15_Short-Term Agreements

Already in 2023, players on short-term agreements, or call-ups, have seized the opportunity to carve out larger roles and even first-team contracts.

Perhaps no player has risen to the occasion more than Charlotte FC’s Brandon Cambridge.

Cambridge ecame the first player in MLS history to win both MLS Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire and MLS NEXT Pro Player of the Matchday as a member of Crown Legacy FC on Thursday, May 18. The 21-year-old performed so well on his short-term agreements in March that he has become a regular first-team player for Charlotte.

Another talented youngster to follow the same path was Inter Miami CF’s David Ruiz. Ruiz was terrific in MLS NEXT Pro in 2022, saw action during two short-term call-ups, and then earned a first-team contract. On May 13, it came full circle as Ruiz became the youngest player in club history (19 years, 95 days) to produce a goal and an assist in a match. Ruiz is now starring for Honduras at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The successful short-term agreement stints have only continued throughout the month of May, including Cody Baker (Seattle Sounders FC), Noel Caliskan (Portland Timbers), Alonso Coello (Toronto FC), Levonte Johnson (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Paul Rothrock (Seattle Sounders FC), and many more. With MLS first teams looking for sparks throughout their club, several other players will have the opportunity to capitalize on these agreements in the coming weeks.

AAPI Heritage Month Spotlight – LAFC's Kellyn Acosta


In his 12th MLS season, LAFC midfielder Kellyn Acosta continues to make his impact felt on the field for the defending MLS Cup champions, as they look to become the first MLS team to repeat as champions since the 2011-12 LA Galaxy. Off the field, he continues to blaze trails, particularly in the Japanese-American community.

Acosta’s father, Kenneth, was born in Japan and lived in the country until he was 10 years old. As a youth, Kellyn spent meaningful time with his grandmother, who hails from Japan, and he was surrounded by the Japanese language, cultures, and food.

"My Japanese background comes from my dad's side of the family. My dad is actually half Japanese," Acosta shared during an interview with in 2022. "He was born in Japan. His first language is Japanese. He lived there until he was about 10 years old and then moved to the states. He was part of the ESL. He was a foreigner coming into the country and so for me obviously having that background is a little bit different because I'm American through and through, but I still have ties to Japan."

Although he was born in Plano, TX, Acosta is acutely aware that his background and heritage, as well as those of the over 400 Major League Soccer players born in nearly 80 countries outside of the United States and Canada are what makes the league special from a global perspective.

"I'm African-American, I have Japanese roots, I even have some Hispanic roots in my extended family,” said Acosta to “So I'm a special case where I can relate to all groups of people. But I think when we all come together and unite around our diversity, it's special and what makes us unique as a league and a team."

For more on Acosta and his Japanese roots | HERE

By the Numbers


Below is a sampling of notable stats and figures entering Matchday 15, including an update on MLS clubs in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Canadian Championship, Hany Mukhtar’s perpetual MVP form, and the immediate success of the U.S. U-20 Men’s World Cup team.

  • 9: Nine of the 11 starters on the United States U-20 Men’s Youth National Team competing in the U-20 World Cup have appeared in MLS action: Justin Che, Brandan Craig, Diego Luna, Jack McGlynn, Gabriel ‘Gaga’ Slonina, Quinn Sullivan, Obed Vargas, Caleb Wiley, and Owen Wolff.
  • 16: Sixteen MLS clubs remain in play in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (14) and the Canadian Championship (two) as the competitions enter the Round of 16 and semifinals, respectively. Four MLS clubs who previously won the U.S. Open Cup are still in play: Chicago Fire FC, Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo FC, and the LA Galaxy. In the Canadian Championship semifinals on Wednesday evening, CF Montréal takes on Forge FC at Stade Saputo (7 p.m. ET) and the Vancouver Whitecaps travel to Pacific FC (10 p.m. ET) with a spot in the final on the line.
  • 25: Following a victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Matchday 14, LAFC sits atop the Western Conference with 25 points through 12 games. Their 25 points are the most by a defending MLS Cup champion after 12 matches of a season in league history.
  • 45: The 45 goals scored on Matchday 14 were tied for the fifth-most on a single day in MLS history. Two of the top 10 highest goal-scoring totals on a single day have occurred during the 2023 season (44, March 18).
  • 67.6%: Nashville SC midfielder Hany Mukhtar, who has a league-high 48 goal contributions since the start of the 2022 MLS season, has scored or assisted on 48 of Nashville’s 71 goals (70.4%) since the start of last season.

Tap-Ins: Matchday 15

A look at other headlines and activity around Major League Soccer ahead of Matchday 15: