The 2021 season got off to a dream start for FC Cincinnati.
Brazilian forward Brenner Souza da Silva and midfielder Luciano Acosta announced their presence in a big way, scoring a goal each in the first 12 minutes of the opener against Nashville, but no one has scored since.
“I think that this is a team that can compete," Queen City Press FC Cincinnati beat writer Laurel Pfahler said. "It's just getting over that hump of being able to win those closer games once they are scoring some goals.”
Acosta joined FC Cincinnati in the offseason, transferring from Liga MX side Atlas F.C., before signing a three-year contract with FC Cincinnati. He was last in the MLS from 2016-2019 as a member of D.C. United and was known as one of the top attacking midfielders.
Brenner is the other prized offseason acquisition. He transferred from Brazil's Sao Paulo FC in February and scored 11 goals and three assists in 27 matches with Sao Paulo.
Pfahler says expectations are high for the duo.
“The transfer fees that FC Cincinnati paid for Brenner and then to get Acosta as well, you're talking almost $16 million between them," Pfahler said.
Acosta has missed the last two matches with an arm injury.
“When they got to Acosta, it was like, there's the missing puzzle piece, it's going to make huge difference," Pfahler said. "We saw it right away, and now it kind of just reminds you of 2019 and 2020 again.”
The 21-year-old Brenner is known as a "fox in the box" because of his scoring ability within the box, but he needs some help.
“Not having Acosta, that's a big thing for him because there's no one really setting him up," Pfahler said. "Acosta is also the only other player on the team who speaks Portuguese so he's missing the one person who understands him on the pitch."
As the club is days away from its first ever match at TQL Stadium, there’s added pressure to produce, but head coach Jaap Stam is confident in the orange and blue.
“The quality that's being brought in is there and eventually we will grow, we will bond," Stam said. "We will succeed in what we're trying to do but you know when you're not winning games, there's always the criticism.”