Quick, name an Argentine star who plays for FC Cincinnati.
Let me guess, you chose Lucho Acosta. That’s an understandable choice, given the 29-year-old attacking midfielder is the odds-on favorite to take home this year’s MLS MVP award after leading the Supporters’ Shield winners in goals and assists during the regular season.
But Acosta isn’t the only Argentine star responsible for his team’s success in 2023. Plenty of credit must be reserved for one of Acosta’s countrymen: Alvaro Barreal.
In Cincinnati’s first playoff game in 2023 — a 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls — Barreal scored twice from his left wingback position. Pulling strings in the attack isn’t a skill Barreal just unearthed for the postseason. The 23-year-old’s five goals in the regular season puts him tied for the lead among MLS outside backs, while he led that same group of players in expected assists (xA) and key passes, per American Soccer Analysis.
Moving up and down the left wing and often popping up in midfield, Barreal is more involved in the attack than virtually any other outside back in MLS. With European suitors swirling, Barreal’s last spell for Cincy might just be this year’s MLS Cup, should they make it that far.
Here’s how FC Cincinnati’s other Argentine went from afterthought to superstar, and how he’s powering the best team in MLS.