FC Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta and Álvaro Barreal are gearing up to go head-to-head with none other than their fellow countryman and football legend, Lionel Messi. The clash is set to take place in Cincinnati on Wednesday as Tata Martino’s Miami side squares off against FC Cincinnati in the semifinals of the US Open Cup.
Having recently secured victory in the Leagues Cup with Inter Miami, Messi’s eyes are now set on another milestone – a chance to secure a spot in a second final since his transition to the United States. This matchup, however, will carry an extra layer of significance for Acosta and Barreal as they find themselves facing their own nation’s current leader and captain on the field.
“Everyone was happy with Messi’s arrival in the league; it revolutionized everything. It’s very difficult to face him, but we’re prepared. We’re going to go out and try to put in a great performance,” Barreal shared in an interview with ESPN.
Reflecting on the challenge of competing against Messi, Barreal stated, “Leo is Leo; at any moment, he can unlock your defense. The main thing we have to have is concentration.” The 23-year-old from Buenos Aires is poised to mark his 100th appearance for Cincinnati, a milestone that holds special significance if he gets the opportunity to play against the Leagues Cup champions.
While the on-field battle is set to capture the fans’ attention, the off-field camaraderie is equally engaging. Acosta, who serves as the captain and number 10 for Cincinnati, expressed his dream of obtaining Messi’s iconic shirt. “If I have the chance, I’ll ask him [Messi] too. It’s a dream for me; he’s an idol. He’s the captain, so we’re going to respect him, but obviously, I’m going to ask him for it. We’ll see who takes it!” Acosta exclaimed.
With 13 goals and eight assists in 30 games this year, Acosta has proven himself to be a pivotal player for Cincinnati since his arrival in 2021. Acknowledging the gravity of the match, he revealed his intention to approach Messi for his shirt, stating, “He has two, one for the first half and one for the second half. In the tunnel, I’m going to ask him for it. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I’m going to send a little message to see if I can guarantee it. It would be the first shirt of his that I’ll have.”
As the tension builds for this electrifying semifinal encounter, the former Boca player, Acosta, couldn’t help but praise Messi’s prowess. “They have the No. 10 that makes the impossible possible. We are first in the league; I think it will be a great semifinal. Nobody wants to miss this game… A lot of people have called me to ask me for tickets,” Acosta noted.
The fate of the matchup will determine the finalist from this clash, who will then square off against the winner between Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake. The football world watches with bated breath as these Argentine talents vie for supremacy on the American field.