Finally done: FC Cincinnati announces Acosta signing

FC Cincinnati made it official Wednesday: The club has signed former Atlas FC attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta as a designated player.

A source with knowledge of the deal confirmed Acosta arrives on a $3 million transfer fee, as first reported by MLS Multiplex. He joined Atlas after his contract with D.C. United expired in Dec. 2019, and the 26-year-old from Argentina was set to remain with Los Zorros (the foxes) through 2025. FCC signed him to a three-year contract with one option, after acquiring his MLS rights from D.C. for $250,000 in GAM, plus more with incentives.

Acosta returns to MLS filling the biggest need as the new No. 10 (center attacking midfielder) for FC Cincinnati, which last month added Brazilian striker Brenner on a five-year contract with a $13 million transfer fee going to Sao Paulo.

The Orange and Blue’s announcement of the Acosta signing has been long-awaited since The Athletic first reported in early February that a deal with D.C. United for Acosta’s MLS rights was close to finalized. That step was complete, according to The Washington Post’s Steven Goff, on Feb. 24, but Acosta continued training and playing matches with Atlas until the Liga MX side announced his departure to FCC a week ago.

“Atlas FC has received a offer from FC Cincinnati for Luciano Acosta,” Atlas officials said in a statement published on the club’s website and on social media. “The offer was accepted by the player, and we can confirm his transfer to the Major League Soccer club. We thank Luciano for his efforts and wish him success in the next stage of his career.”

At that time, FCC was still working to finalize the deal with the league office. The club finally teased the signing Tuesday on Twitter with an old video of a fox running around the fields at Mercy Health Training Center, repurposed with the caption: “We’re bringing in a fox. He’s scoping out the facilities first.”

The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer had reported on Twitter that Acosta was expected to arrive in Cincinnati last Thursday and that FCC was paying D.C. United $550,000 in GAM for his rights spread over two years ($325,000 this year and $225,000 in 2022), but it is unclear if that includes the incentives or if that figure has since been negotiated down.

Acosta, who had a green card while with D.C. United and will still count as a domestic player, brings valuable MLS experience for a crucial position in the attacking midfield spot that has been a weakness for FCC the past two years. He was an MLS Best XI selection with D.C. United in 2018, posting career highs in goals (10) and assists (17). But, by the end of his fourth season in 2019, he found himself on the bench while then-coach Ben Olsen attempted to shift tactics amid the club’s slumps, and Acosta departed D.C. with 24 goals and 35 assists in 126 career regular-season matches (109 starts).

With Atlas, Acosta also had his ups and down. He had been struggling to get playing time earlier during this Clausura season, starting one of just the first seven games, but he now comes to Cincinnati in good form after three straight starts to finish his time with the Guadalajara club.

In his last appearance March 6, Acosta had an assist in a win over FC Juarez, which helped continue a seven-game unbeaten streak for Atlas. He was the match’s MVP.

With FCC, Acosta fills the final of three designated player spots permitted, though right now it would appear the team has five. The Orange and Blue should be in a position to buy down Yuya Kubo and Allan Cruz from their DP statuses, leaving Jurgen Locadia, Brenner (a young DP) and Acosta as the three.

Locadia remains on loan from Brighton until the end of June with a looming transfer fee estimated at $8 million if FCC triggers the purchase option on his contract, which runs through 2022. General manager Gerard Nijkamp indicated Locadia’s status with the team will be evaluated this preseason, after the Dutch forward/winger totaled just two goals in his first season with FCC.

Acosta, known as a talented distributor, should help provide the forwards and wingers better service in 2021 – something expected of any No. 10, but especially now as the Orange and Blue try to improve on a disappointing 12 goals scored last season.

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