Just two years ago, as a member of D.C. United, Argentine playmaker Luciano “Lucho” Acosta was an object of interest for French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain.
That same year, FC Cincinnati was taking its lashes as the historically-worst team in MLS history.
As of Wednesday, the two have joined forces and you could argue that they desperately need each other.
In large part, the PSG interest was the fruit of Acosta’s gaudy 10-goal, 17-assist season effort the year prior. But the European dream fell apart faster than it came for the now 26-year-old, and when he departed from D.C., his rise to prominence took a hit with a largely unproductive stint with Atlas in Liga MX.
Marking his return to the league with back-to-back Eastern Conference cellar tenant FC Cincinnati, Acosta finds himself in a situation where he will be prioritized. For the team, he could be the playmaker that it has been devoid of in the brutal first two seasons of MLS life.
Cincinnati general manager Gerard Nijkamp, who admitted that the team is hoping to be a bridge to Europe for newcomer and $13 million striker Brenner last month, did not rule out that Acosta has the same possibility of eventual financial upside.
“I hope for now, that he is playing for a while in our club, and to make us better, and to improve himself.” He said. “But yes, he is just 26 years old…”
And yes, we want to be the bridge. Going through the U.S., finding the next step in Europe, and using our network on that. He was already on the radar with several clubs in Europe,”
There is no denying that Acosta’s value was plummeting at Atlas. His clip of two assists and one goal through 23 appearances, which were rarely in 90-minute shifts tells that story. Nijkamp had been monitoring the situation for some time, and pulled the trigger on making the deal early last week.
“Going into the offseason, knowing that we have a need on the 10 position, you make a group of potential players we like or we want to sign,” said Nijkamp. “From the first moment, Lucho was already on our list,”
On Wednesday, Nijkamp declined to go into financial specifics of the transaction but D.C. United got a piece of it, to the tune of at least an initial $250,000 in general allocation money plus conditional incentives. Further, the team shared that Acosta is on a three-year contract with an option for a fourth.
“It was complicated because he was already in the league with D.C., so that was something to solve with D.C., then he is still in contract with Atlas, that’s something we have to solve, there are demands on this part…” Nijkamp said. “We solved it, all of these things, and now we are happy that we have this special day to announce that Lucho is part of the FCC family.”
FC Cincinnati needs to show a new look. Acosta needs to revive his reputation. The signing seems to make perfect sense.
More than that, Nijkamp himself desperately needs a win.
After the turbulent run of coaches that have come through FC Cincinnati’s doors in the last 24 months, the appointment of Jaap Stam coincidentally or not, has unlocked the pockets of FC Cincinnati’s ownership and for Nijkamp’s sake, he needs to hit on the 2021 roster to settle the belly of a rabid fanbase eager to cheer on a credible squad.
The combination of Acosta, Brenner, winger Jürgen Locadia, and exciting youngster Alvaro Barreal leading the attack has potential for real success, but the team has not earned the credit needed to expect it.
With the playmaker position seemingly settled, the latest overhaul is not finished.
A consistent narrative coming from Nijkamp this offseason is that a center back and winger are on the docket as well.
Ronald Matarrita, who appeared in the postseason the last five seasons with NYCFC, represents the lone defensive upgrade the team has made in the offseason.
The Dutchman kept his cards close to the vest on how close he feels to signing those final pieces on Wednesday, mentioning that he hopes to announce the final signings soon, but going on to say that if the right players are not found it might become business for the summer transfer window.