Cincinnati boss Pat Noonan expects a difficult test when the high-flying New York Red Bulls visit Ohio, but has emphasized the fluid nature of the MLS standings as his team bid to continue their strong season.

Cincinnati are unbeaten through their last four league outings, and sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, seven points shy of the Bulls at the summit.

While Noonan highlighted the quality available to Gerhard Struber as he looked ahead to the contest, he knows a positive result could make all the difference for his team.

“I think that the opponents at the top of the table speak to the balance of the conference in a league where if you win a couple games, you can jump pretty quickly or drop pretty quickly,” Noonan said.

“It is a strong opponent, and certainly a Red Bulls team that has had success on the road early on this year.

“They understand how to how to approach the road games in ways to get results. We know it’ll be a challenging game.”

The Red Bulls have won three of their last four league games to sit two points clear of Philadelphia at the top of the standings, but head coach Gerhard Struber has been impressed with their next opponents and expects a tough test.

“I think we cannot compare Cincinnati with last season, they play a completely different style, moving more in the direction of Philadelphia and also our own direction, more direct, searching for moments in transition,” Struber said.

“I would say it’s a completely different opponent now and a very dangerous opponent, a very interesting team.”

Midfielder Carlos Coronel added: “We have a lot of confidence out on the field. Cincinnati have changed a lot, but we’re just going to go out there and play our game.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FC Cincinnati – Brenner

Brenner scored for the third straight game in Cincinnati’s draw at New England, and has scored five goals in his last three games, equaling his total from his previous 31 league appearances. The pacey Brazilian is exuding confidence at present and could play a decisive role again.

New York Red Bulls – Luquinhas

Luquinhas’ five MLS goals this season make him the visitors’ second-highest goalscorer after Lewis Morgan (eight), and he may sparkle in what could be a battle of two Brazilians in Ohio.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– FC Cincinnati’s three-match unbeaten run against the Red Bulls (W2 D1) ended in their last meeting, a 1-0 New York road win in October 2021.

– The Red Bulls have won on both of their previous visits to Cincinnati, also winning 2-0 in May 2019.

– FC Cincinnati’s 2-2 draw at New England on Sunday took it to 25 points for the season, setting a new club record for points in a single regular season, surpassing the 24 from the team’s inaugural 2019 season.

– The Red Bulls picked up their league-leading sixth away win when beating Kansas City 1-0 on Sunday. New York have recorded more away wins in a season just three times in club history: seven wins in 2002, and eight wins in 2000 and 2018.

– Aaron Long scored his 11th career MLS goal in the Red Bulls’ win over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. All 11 of Long’s goals in league play have been scored on set pieces, either off free kicks (6) or corners (5).