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CINCINNATI: (FILES) Luciano Acosta, #10 of FC Cincinnati, celebrates after scoring a goal against Inter Miami CF in the 18th minute of the first half in the 2023 US Open Cup semifinal match at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. – AFP
CINCINNATI: (FILES) Luciano Acosta, #10 of FC Cincinnati, celebrates after scoring a goal against Inter Miami CF in the 18th minute of the first half in the 2023 US Open Cup semifinal match at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. – AFP
Cincinnati midfielder Acosta named MLS Most Valuable Player

NEW YORK: FC Cincinnati midfielder Luciano Acosta, who scored 17 goals and set up 14 others this season, was named Major League Soccer’s 2023 Most Valuable Player on Monday. The 29-year-old Argentine striker became the first player in league history to claim the MVP award after leading his team to its first MLS award after Cincinnati claimed the Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record.

“I still don’t feel like this trophy is mine,” Acosta said. “I feel like we’ve done a great job with the whole team but I did dream of winning this MVP at some point. “You dream of winning individual awards but they’re not the priority. The priority is always to win with the group and we did that.”

Acosta became only the sixth player in MLS history with three or more seasons producing at least 10 goals and 10 assists. Cincinnati will have a prime chance to play for the MLS Cup. The club will host arch-rival Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference playoff final on Saturday.

One of the Ohio clubs will play either Houston or defending champion Los Angeles FC in the MLS Cup final on December 9. Acosta paid tribute to countryman Lionel Messi, who led Argentina to the World Cup crown last year. Messi played only a few MLS contests for Inter Miami this season but expects to have a full campaign in 2024.

“He has played very few games, otherwise he would be sitting here with the MVP,” Acosta said. “I try to enjoy it because if next year it is his turn to win, which obviously he will, we will fight to win it again.”

Acosta becomes the ninth South American-born player to win the MVP award, the first since Atlanta’s Josef Martinez of Venezuela in 2018. He became the fourth Argentine player to capture the honor after Portland’s Diego Valeri in 2015, Guillermo Barros Schelotto of Columbus in 2008 and DC United’s Christian Gomez in 2006. Acosta, who has 58 goals since his MLS debut in 2016, won with 60.37% of votes from players, club staff and a media panel. Denis Bouanga of LAFC was second on 14.97% with Atlanta’s Thiago Almada third on 6.46%. – AFP

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