Cincinnati Soccer Talk’s End of Season Awards are back for the 2022 season. Tuesday we announced our Fan-Voted Player of the Year and our Goal of the Year 2022 FC Cincinnati Goal of the Year. Wednesday we announced our Moment of the Year followed by the Unsung Hero on Thursday. We will end our awards week with the Staff-Voted Player of the Year today!
2022 was certainly a page-turning season for FC Cincinnati. Many of our Player of the Year nominees have shown talent prior to 2022, but all had shown a marked improvement over their predecessor or their play last year. It was very difficult to come up with a Player of the Year as several of our nominees set league or club records. Let us know what you think!
Jason Ashcraft: A league-leading 19 assists in the regular season, second in league play with 80 key passes, and 10 goals during the regular season; if this doesn’t scream MVP, I don’t know what does. Lucho has been the heartbeat of FCC this season. When he has a bad game, the club has a bad game, when he’s firing on all cylinders, the club wins. Lucho took on a key leadership role this season by wearing the captain’s armband for most of the year and showed that he really cares about the team with messages to the fans after tough losses and during the whole #FreeLucho craze. Lucho is our MVP this season.
Boston Brazzell: There is one piece of the FC Cincinnati puzzle that unlocks all the other key pieces. Vazquez and Brenner broke the MLS record for a duo scoring goals. Both racked up 18 goals but one person was serving in many of those balls. Even when he wasn’t credited with the assist, one key player was getting that ball into position for someone else to earn the assist. The FC Cincinnati attack goes through Lucho Acosta and if he has a good match, Brenner and Vazquez likely have a good match. Not only that, Acosta has shifted the attack closer to the net as he isn’t afraid to get into the box and make the passes needed. Lucho stopped the low percentage wing crosses and centralized the attack. His best asset however is his vision. When Acosta gets the ball in transition he always looks to spring the attack. He will kick the ball to where the player should be, sometimes even if they failed to make the run. He knows what should happen and when it does happen it creates goal-scoring opportunities. We have seen that chemistry evolve as players have learned to trust his vision and leadership
Jeremy Lance: A starting keeper going down with an injury can derail any club’s season. Being forced to hand the reigns to a rookie draft pick would normally bring a club’s playoff hopes to a quick end. Roman Celentano was thrown into action on April 24th, vs the eventual Western Conference top seed, and instantly looked like he belonged. Instead of riding out loss of their newly signed #1 keeper, Roman helped FCC win 4 of his first 5 starts.
Roman finished the season with stats that were in and around the top 10 in the league. Compared to some of the top keepers in the league, his numbers don’t stand up, but that’s not the point. In any normal situation, a backup rookie keeper, who only months ago was facing competition such as the mighty Trine University Thunder, isn’t supposed to handle things this well. Celentano not only rose to the occasion, he smashed all expectations. Can you remember the last time you had this much confidence in FCC’s starting keeper? I bet it wasn’t more recent than 2018.
A lot needed to go right for the 2022 season to be this successful. An offseason draft pick walking into a starting role and becoming a rock solid star keeper, lands right at the top of that list. Without Roman, I’m not sure where we’d be right now.
Ken Hoetker: Honestly, I know this award will go to an offensive player but my selection for MVP is Obi Nwobodo.
He literally changed the way opponents attack FCC’s midfield. Long gone are the days where a team could slice their way down the pitch like a hot knife through butter. Obi became that DESTROYER and changed the game for Pat Noonan’s squad. I will let his defensive statistics do the talking.
Geoff Tebbetts: There’s something to be said about Vazquez’s consistency over the season. The 18 goals and 8 assists leap off the page, even in comparison to Acosta and Brenner’s numbers. He missed only one game from injury (the 2-1 home loss to LAFC), starting 32 of the 33 games he played. FCC’s first and last goals of the regular season were scored by Vazquez, and it seemed that every goal he scored in between was a quality winner. He did not disappear from the scoring column for long, his droughts lasting only two matches.
Most importantly, Vazquez lifted his personal stock to one that got both national and international pundits talking about entry into the USMNT and El Tri rosters. That’s the power of the Superman in action.
Bryan Weigel: I guess, there is a caveat to my argument. Imagine what the Brazilian could have done with a full season! 18 goals and 6 assists in just over 2000 minutes. FCC have lost TWO games since Brenner began to round into form in mid-June and his goals vs. RSL, Seattle and DC down the stretch ensured a 5th place finish for FCC. While the Brenner-FCC marriage has been far from perfect, his performances over the 2nd half of the season made him a nominee for the league Young Player of the Year award and a star in the league.
His relationship with Brandon Vazquez and Lucho Acosta has made one of the best attacking trios in the league with Brenner & Vazquez being their first two teammates in league history to score 18 goals apiece.
Brenner’s scoring helped keep FCC afloat when his strike partner had a brief cool period and was invaluable. I don’t know how many more games we will see out of the Brazilian, but his last 4 1/2 months has been outstanding and he will be thought of fondly in the Queen City.
WINNER: LUCIANO ACOSTA