FC Cincy fans, something happen to me tonight that I have chosen to take as both ironic and fitting for how the first two games have gone for our club. I sit here, on the job at my firehouse, spending my down time doing what I've grown to love, writing about our FCC. I was finishing an article, on which I spent hours. I had written about the NYCFC match, the episode of MLSNow Podcast in which I speak with David and Gavin about FC Cincinnati, and my thoughts on where we go from here. Then when fate stepped in.
My computer seemed to have what I can only describe as a Stroke. Long story short, my article of which I was very proud, was lost. Instead of "Rage Quitting" and going to bed, I've chosen to use this pain to put things in perspective.
Not unlike my article, the 2021 season has been a flash of joy followed by a "Crash" back to Earth. As amazing as the first 15 minutes of FC Cincinnati's 2021 season was, the time since then as been disappointing. Since that dream start to the Nashville match, FCC has been on the back foot. After Lucho and Brenner scored their goals, Nashville was forced to change their tactics. That change shed light on the fact that an issue FC Cincinnati has had since entering MLS is STILL present. Building from the back.
Manager Jaap Stam's desired style of play, the Dutch "total football", requires center backs to be able to connect with midfield and get the attack going. That connection is still an issue. The final 75+ minutes of the Nashville match saw Cincy defending a barrage of shots that caused FCC fans to be relieved that the match ended in a 2-2 draw. It also caused Goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton to be named to MLS Team of the Week.
FC Cincinnati couldn't pass their way out of their own third. Instead they were forced to clear the ball right back to Nashville only to be attacked again. Saturday's game was to show if they had resolved that issue, though unexpected injuries prevented that.
Cincy fans knew we were in for a rough night when about an hour before kickoff FCC posted the lineup... then again... and again.
The initial shock was that Luciano Acosta was missing. The player that I've written about being the most important player on the pitch, not just because what he brings, but because he has no real replacement. Pat Brennen of Cincinnati.com and Laurel Pfahler of Queencitypress.com later reported that Luciano had fallen and injured his elbow. Jaap Stam later said that Lucho is "day to day." If that wasn't enough, they reported that Tyton had pulled a muscle during warmups and was a late scratch.
His replacement Cody Copper struggled, and the following match did not go well.
FC Cincinnati gave up five goals to set pieces.... five. In my opinion, giving up so many goals on set pieces shows that the defense was confused on assignments. In other words, there was a lack of leadership. that being said, I won't sit here and tell you that Tyton would have prevented all five goals. I will say however that he definitely would've helped.
While recording the newest MLS Now Podcast (which should drop today) David and Gavin asked some tough but fair questions about FC Cincinnati's direction. Here was are, fresh off a blowout loss. Acosta is injured, maybe Tyton as well and the back line is still a major problem. Kubo is playing the No. 8, a position he's never really played and you could argue is not suited for. All this has many FCC fans taking to twitter to vent their despair with hashtags such as #StamOut and #NijkampOut. My colleagues asked me about all this, and I think were surprised by my answers.
I'm here however to remind those raging fans that the season is young. Like it or not, Stam and especially Nijkamp aren't anywhere any time soon. We're approaching only our third game. As Third Eye Blind once said "Step back from that ledge my friend" (I know, I'm sorry, please keep reading). For FC Cincy fans have reason to hope.
Help is no longer "On the way" It's here!! Back in March I wrote about the club adding 20 year old winger Isaac Atanga and 21 year old center back Gustavo Vallecilla.
Atanga has been training with the team for a few days now and the "Pacey" winger may already be the fastest player on the roster. As exciting as adding Atanga is, he brings added depth to a position that perhaps had too much to begin with. Vallecilla on the other hand comes to help shore up the teams biggest weakness. Gustavo was reported to potentially arrive early this week, and he will have to complete quarantine protocol, he should be available for the home opener. While Vallecilla is an exciting young prospect, it would be asking a lot from any player to come in and quickly save a struggling defense.
The club would do well to add a talented MLS center back with some of that $950,000 in GAM they acquired from the Amaya trade. There is still no word on Maikel van der Werff's return from injury, and the team could use some more talented veteran leadership on the back line. Especially if Tyton is going to miss more time. While all of this will help no doubt, the REAL reason for hope is fast approaching. There's still an Ace in the club's back pocket.... US!!
On May 16th, FC Cincinnati will finally open what is the best soccer specific stadium in the Nation. West End stadium (now TQL stadium) is a literal shining beacon that things will be better. Not just for the club, but for the Country. The club's ability to play home games gives them back the very aspect that made them who they are... the fans.
There was no experience in MLS like a packed Nippert Stadium, and that was on a turf field in a football stadium. Yes, we're only allowed to fill 30% of the stands, but there is reason to believe that will increase throughout the season.
The new stadium, due to it's fan friendly soccer specific design, will be deafening when packed with rabid FC Cincy fans! So much so that the Music Hall will have to complain that they need more sound deadening for the building.
"You win with people."-- Woody Hayes
Many FC Cincinnati players have never experienced what a home game with fans is like. When they do, expect them to play inspired soccer. The March, the Stadium, the Chants, the Tifos and the fans will bolster this team. The fans made this team then, and they're rescue it now. Brighter days will come for this club because we're back and we're bringing them!
Well, consider my Jeff Berding-esque rant completed. I better submit this thing before fate steps in again.
By: Rob Burkhardt