Inter Miami, FC Cincinnati meet with top spot on line

Both Inter Miami and FC Cincinnati have built plenty of momentum entering the long-awaited first meeting of the season between the top two teams in MLS.

Trying for a fifth straight victory, visiting Miami looks to increase its league-leading advantage over second-place Cincinnati on Saturday night.

Miami (14-3-5, 47 points) has shown it’s not a top-heavy club, winning the last four matches by a 2-1 result, while playing without superstars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

With both players still on international duty, and fellow key contributors Jordi Alba and Diego Gomez amid yellow-card accumulation suspension, short-handed Miami is up for a challenge to extend its 7-0-1 unbeaten road run.

Cincinnati (14-4-3, 45 points), which has won four of its past five matches, is out to take over the top spot in MLS.

“Both teams are in good form, and certainly playing with confidence,” FC Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said.

Miami homegrown player Benjamin Cremaschi scored the tiebreaking goal in the 86th minute at Charlotte on Wednesday. Cremaschi not only delivered his third goal of the season, he also added an assist.

“The team has been consistent with our recent performances, serious and hard-working,” Miami coach Tata Martino said.

Cincinnati has conceded seven goals while losing two of the last three at home. However, it has won the last two matches overall, most recently a 3-2 victory at D.C. United on Wednesday. Pavel Bucha posted a brace as FCC matched an MLS, non-shootout era record with their seventh straight road win.

“With the current state of the group, and where we’re at, we have to be pleased with wins,” Noonan said.

“Whoever we’re playing, whether home or away, at this stage, certainly winning is an important part of where we want to be at the end of the year.”

Bucha has recorded all three of his MLS goals this season in the last five matches. Budding Cincinnati star Luca Orellano has two goals with an assist in the last four matches, and reigning MLS MVP Luciano Acosta has five goals and six assists in 10 league home contests.

Cincinnati is 3-0-1 against Miami after losing the first four meetings between the clubs.

–Field Level Media