FC Cincinnati, the league’s leaders, head into Saturday’s Ohio derby against the Columbus Crew with their sights set on the postseason.
Cincinnati leads the Eastern Conference standings and has the best overall record in the league in their sixth season in MLS.
While the playoffs don’t start until late October, striker Brandon Vazquez is open about the team’s goals.
“We have a championship in sight. The fans, everyone has the same expectations. I think we have the team to beat anyone in the league. We should be winning everything in here (at home), especially with the team we have,” he said.
The cornerstone for the early season success has been seven straight wins at home, the most recent being a 3-0 victory over Montreal on Wednesday.
In a league that takes pride in the parity created by the salary cap system, such a start is rare, and Cincinnati is only the fourth team to have done it at home.
The club’s fans have had to wait three frustrating seasons, finishing towards the bottom of the standings until last year’s run to the conference semi-finals, for their team to get among the elite in the league.
“What I like is the fact that we’re winning in front of fans that have obviously struggled to find some consistency,” said head coach Pat Noonan.
“We had to win more games at home and we’ve already surpassed last year, which is certainly a positive,” he added.
With his creativity and ability to lead counter-attacks, Argentine attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta has been at the core of Cincinnati’s success.
Vazquez is a constant threat in the attack, despite the fact that he is losing his long-term partner, Brazilian Brenner, who is transferring to Udinese in Italy.
Columbus comes into the game off a 2-0 home win against the Los Angeles Galaxy, and the Crew now sit in fifth place in the East.