It's Cincy Hate Week
I understand that some of you reading this are not Nashville SC supporters. Some of you are more casual fans (nothing wrong with that at all!), and some of y'all just wanna read about this match because you're MLS sickos. Regardless, this is an important week.
It all started in 2018 when Nashville SC entered USL after growing from a grassroots fan-owned club in NPSL. FC Cincinnati was a powerhouse in USL. They set the league record for most wins and most points in a season that year. They earned their MLS expansion bid in May 2018 and finished the season with a tifo that said that FCC had "Crushed This League."
That same season, Nashville and Cincy faced each other three times with all three matches ending in draws (0-0, 1-1, and 3-3 respectively) before facing each other in the first round of the USL Cup playoffs. The score was 0-0 at the end of regular time, but extra time saw some fireworks with a Corben Bone goal for Cincy in the 95th minute and a Bradley Bourgeois goal for Nashville in the 115th to send the match to penalties. Cincinnati edged out the win 5-6 in pks only to lose the next match.
The two clubs faced each other in a preseason match that also ended in a draw. After 2020 saw Nashville moved from East to West and back East again, the Cincy match was canceled due to COVID-19. The supporters had to wait until April 2021 for another chance at each other only to see another draw (2-2) at Nissan Stadium though this time saw FCC go up 0-2 early and Nashville fight back to equalize.
On July 24, we saw the first match that ended in a team taking all three points. Nashville dominated the Ohioans 3-0 with a brace from CJ Sapong and another goal from Randall Leal which was assisted by Sapong.
With the seal broken, the next match in October saw Nashville and Cincinnati trade blows like prize fighters before NSC lowered the boom defeating the Knifey Lions by a score of 6-3.
Last season, Nashville was back in the Western Conference, so they only faced Cincinnati once, and, you guessed it, the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
This league has not been as kind to FC Cincinnati as the USL was. In fact, the first three years FCC played in the top flight saw them earn the Wooden Spoon, a tongue-in-cheek "award" given to the statistically worst team in the whole league. Only one other team (Chicago Fire) had ever "won" the spoon two years in a row, but no one else has ever been bottom of the barrel three straight seasons. To put it in perspective, Nashville SC has NEVER missed the playoffs in its professional career in both leagues.
Now, I say all that to get people riled up (guilty!), but last season saw a turn around for FCC. They finished the season fifth in the East with 49 points and lost to eventual Eastern Conference champs Philadelphia Union. They were one point behind, you guessed it, Nashville SC who ended with 50 points. This year, FCC are undefeated with two wins and two draws. Defeating Seattle 1-0 was a huge win even if the Sounders were rotating due to CONCACAF Champions League, but fighting back to draw Chicago Fire 3-3 last weekend was less than desirable although it showed determination.
Cincinnati make their first trip to Geodis Park this Saturday night, and that might not bode well for them. Both of their draws were away from home, so we might see a nod to history and another tie. I wouldn't expect it to be 0-0 though.
Junior Moreno, the Venezuelan midfielder, has two goals and an assist on the year, and USMNT rising star Brandon Vazquez has an assist but hasn't scored yet. The biggest player to watch is Luciano Acosta. The Argentinian attacking midfielder is dangerous with the ball at his feet and is able to pick out passes at will. The issue is his fitness. He didn't start last week against Chicago, but subbed in with 10 minutes remaining and immediately triggered the comeback, assisting the second goal before Moreno scored the equalizer.
For Nashville, reigning league MVP and Golden Boot winner Hany Mukhtar has been working his way back to full-match fitness, starting the last two matches after subbing in for 15 minutes and 45 minutes in the first two respectively. Mukhtar has yet to hit the back of the net, but he has assisted twice, both to new signing Jacob Shaffelburg and both of those at home.
Leal has four goals and three assists all time against FC Cincinnati, but he has been missing since Week 1. Unfortunately, head coach Gary Smith said on Thursday that Leal still hasn't trained with the full team and is out. Smith did say that midfield anchor Anibal Godoy has looked good in training and should be available after two missed matches.
This is the bonfire match. This is for Big Bird. This is where we take their three consecutive Wooden Spoons and force-feed them some humble pie. I predict a 3-1 win for the Boys in Gold. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. on AppleTV.