Luciano Acosta lifts FC Cincinnati past Philadelphia Union

Luciano Acosta converted a penalty kick in the 69th minute and FC Cincinnati continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 1-0 victory over the visiting Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.

Acosta's penalty followed a sequence where it appeared his teammate Brenner had scored from open play. Instead, referee Ted Unkel had blown for a penalty on the initial chance when Union goalkeeper Andre Blake tripped Acosta.

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Acosta's first goal of the season helped Cincinnati (5-0-2, 17 points) extract a small measure of revenge for their 2022 conference semifinal defeat to Philadelphia, the eventual Eastern Conference champion.

It sealed Cincinnati's third consecutive victory, all by identical 1-0 scores. Roman Celentano made four saves to preserve his fourth clean sheet of the season.

The Union saw their MLS winless extended to four matches. But with Philadelphia (2-4-1, 7 points) balancing two competitions early in the season, it wasn't a full-strength team that suffered defeat.

Union coach Jim Curtin made six changes to the starting lineup that played in a 1-0 home victory over Altas FC in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday night.

Philadelphia also switched to an unusual 5-3-2 formation to start the game, a defensive setup that allowed Cincinnati to have 75 percent of possession before halftime but flummoxed the home side in terms of creating dangerous chances.

The Union even started the second half brightly, and in the 53rd minute, Jesus Bueno fired narrowly over the crossbar on one of the visitors' first real forays forward.

And shortly after that, Curtin turned to reinforcements in the form of attackers Daniel Gazdag and Mikael Uhre, and midfielder and captain Alejandro Bedoya.

But that seemed to rouse the home side.

In the 59th minute, Brenner nearly got onto the end of Brandon Vazquez's firmly struck cross from the right. Then seven minutes later, the sequence kicked off that led to Acosta's penalty.

The Union pushed forward in the late stages and Bedoya, Gazdag and Nathan Harriel all forced Celentano into late stops.