For all their early success in 2023, FC Cincinnati had yet to put together a resounding performance affirming their status as a bonafide MLS Cup presented by Audi contender.
They confidently checked that box Wednesday night, easily defeating CF Montréal with an emphatic 3-0 home win in Matchday 13. They're now atop the Supporters' Shield standings with an 8W-1L-3D record for an MLS-best 27 points, just above Eastern Conference foe New England Revolution.
For Brandon Vazquez, who sealed Cincy’s victory in the 65th minute with his third goal of the season, this kind of result is to be expected from a team with trophy aspirations.
"We have a championship in sight," the 24-year-old US men's national team striker said postgame on MLS 360.
Added Vazquez: "TQL Stadium, the fans, everyone has the same expectations. I think we have the team to beat anyone in the league. And like I said, we should be winning everything in here, especially with the team we have."
Now first in the league, what made this win so special was the manner in which it came about. Cincinnati set the tone just two minutes in, forcing a Joel Waterman own-goal before captain Luciano Acosta doubled the hosts’ advantage in the 26th minute. Vazquez then put the icing on the cake for their most lopsided result of the season to date.
“That was probably our strongest overall [performance], in every way,” head coach Pat Noonan said post-match, continuing the turnaround for a young club that spent 2019-21 finishing last in MLS. “Nice to get three goals. Overall, really pleased.”
Vazquez was equally as proud of the team’s showing, although the 2022 MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire selection reminded the MLS 360 crew blowouts are just a small part of what makes a championship-caliber team.
“To be able to not be at our best and still add points up, I think that’s a really important attribute of the team," Vazquez said, referencing their penchant for one-goal results this year.
“I think that’s what makes the difference between great teams and good teams.”