Cincinnati looks to advance in MLS playoffs

FC Cincinnati finished top of the overall regular season table (Lauren Sopourn)
FC Cincinnati finished top of the overall regular season table (Lauren Sopourn)

Regular-season league winner FC Cincinnati seeks a victory in the club's final away match of the season on Saturday at New York Red Bulls to advance in the Major League Soccer playoffs.

Following a 3-0 home triumph in the opener of their best-of-three first round series, Cincinnati will try to extend the mastery of the Red Bulls and clinch a berth in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

"We all know what this game is all about. We know how important this is for us," said Nigerian midfielder Obinna Nwobodo.

"For the whole team, we have the same agenda, we have the same motive. The mindset is one, which is going to win."

With all subsequent playoff rounds using a knockout format and Cincinnati owning a home-field edge throughout the playoffs, the trip to New York marks the last away match for the club no matter the result.

"We know they're going to throw everything at us," Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said. "Different formations, different personnel -- your back is against the wall, at times you go to desperate measures.

"I hope we're in a position that we have to see that, but we have to be prepared for their adjustments."

Cincinnati has enjoyed success at Red Bull Arena before, knocking New York out of last year's playoffs there and taking a US Open Cup match earlier this year.

"Certainly there's a comfort level of getting a result in the building, but the games certainly aren't easy," Noonan said.

Higher-seeded hosts won seven of the eight opening matches in the first round, the only upset being Sporting Kansas City's 4-1 win at Western Conference top seed St. Louis City.

Other second-match hosts in the first round will be trying to win to force a third game, including Dallas against Seattle on Saturday and Vancouver on Sunday as reigning champion Los Angeles FC visits.

Potential winner-take-all third games could begin as early as Thursday.