When you hear or see Cincinnati, what do you think? For some, you’ll think “Where is that?”
For others, they will immediately think of the horrible luck Cincinnati sports teams have had in recent years.
But this year, the soccer fans of Cincinnati have been given a gift (something uncommon for Cincy sports fans); – the gift of a soccer team. But not just any soccer team that will remain in the third division of US Soccer – a team that can possibly bring MLS soccer to southwestern Ohio.
With the financial backing of the Lindners and the support of soccer fans from the Cincinnati area, the team has potential to be very successful on and off of the field. FC Cincinnati has quickly shot up the list of potential MLS expansion teams in years to come.
FC Cincinnati has taken Cincinnati by storm, and has no intentions of stopping.
Soccer in Cincinnati has been trying to take off for quite some time. Although having a team in the Cincinnati Saints (NPSL), the team was known by little. However, the Saints looked to get their name out during the 2014 World Cup by hosting watch parties at the downtown Fountain Square. This was attended to by many, but the Saints still struggled to become a known organization.
Fast forward to a year later. After an article from Wrong Side of the Pond was published talking about a USL side coming to Cincinnati, many rumors started to pop up. What would happen to the Saints? Is this team just the Dayton Dutch Lions moving to Cincinnati? Or are their affiliate, the Cincinnati Dutch Lions, moving up?
Those questions would be answered soon. On August 12, 2015, it was announced that Futbol Club Cincinnati (FC Cincinnati) will be arriving in 2016.
Behind the Scenes
A major reason as to why the Cincinnati Saints never took off was the lack of money. FC Cincinnati came in with the ownership of the Lindner family, who previously owned the Cincinnati Reds. Jeff Berding, who worked with the Cincinnati Bengals, became the club’s President and General Manager.
So, the executive part got sorted out. Where is this team going to play?
Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park are too big for a third division soccer team. That leaves one choice – Nippert Stadium. Nippert is on the campus at the University of Cincinnati and is the home of UC football. The upper deck will be closed, but the field would be replaced to fit a full-sized pitch.
Okay okay, so FCC has a solid ownership and a good stadium. Who’s going to coach?
It kept getting better for Cincy soccer fans.
On the same day the club was announced, they unveiled their coach. Former United States Men’s National Team captain, John Harkes, would be the first coach at FC Cincinnati.
With FCC coming in with a financially sound ownership and a great coach, everything seemed fine.
Well, besides for the Cincinnati Saints.
The arrival of FC Cincinnati gave the Saints’ owner David Satterwhite two options: Stay and take a huge risk in fighting FCC for fans (and money), or relocate and try building the team in a different market.
After a few weeks of speculation, it was announced that the Saints were packing up and moving to Dayton. The team would later be renamed the Dayton Dynamo.
The relocation angered the Saints’ faithful. Notable fan group, the 7 Hills Crusaders, expressed their anger via social media, calling FC Cincinnati “FC Dolla Dolla Bill ‘Yall” and other names implying their a money team, not a soccer team.
FC Cincinnati has taken off
The preseason was nothing but a success for FCC. The team’s inaugural roster was announced, which really ramped up expectations. Former MLS star and UC player Omar Cummings would make the headlines as FCC’s “star”. However, Cincinnati native and former MLS defender Austin Berry caught the eyes of many as well. The lineup showed the USL Pro that FCC is here, and they plan on rising fast.
The team traveled to Florida to participate in the IMG Suncoast Classic, where they’d face teams that benchmarked how good FCC really is.
The first ever game (albeit a preseason game) was against Icelandic side KR Reykjavik. After going down 2-0, it seemed maybe fans were getting ahead of themselves. But a quick response and a 90th minute wonder goal made the first result in the club’s history a 2-2 draw.
Next up was the big match – New York City FC. A team that is backed by Manchester City (which meant a similar case of criticism due to their financial prowess), many fans were hoping for a good game. It would be a battle of youngsters/members of NYCFC trying to break into the team versus players who are still getting used to each other. After falling behind yet again, FCC responded with two late goals in a thrilling 2-1 win over the MLS side.
The tournament would be wrapped up with an easy 4-0 win over Danish side HB Koge.
Although the tournament ended, FCC still had some preseason games to get ready for the upcoming season. The team traveled to Indianapolis to face NASL side Indy Eleven, and came home with a 1-1 draw. Cincy would then give fans the first chance to see their team in Cincinnati, when the team faced Xavier University’s Men’s Soccer team at Xavier. The result was a 2-0 win for FCC, and fans were delighted to say that soccer is in Cincinnati.
All Coming Together
Tomorrow, FC Cincinnati will kick off their season with an away game against the Charleston Battery. After seeing a team be formed, the addition of quality players, and the excitement building up, soccer finally has landed (and made a firm stance) in the Queen City.
Although the team was battered with criticism – whether it was about their financial background or their extremely cringey cheers video – the team has filled Cincinnati wtih excitement of a team that people can get around.
Now this story is great in that fans are given a team, but I encourage everyone to go out and follow their local team. They could be in the lowest divisions of soccer, but having a team where you only have to drive 15 minutes to see is different than cheering for the MLS team that is 2 hours away. Supporting your local side will help soccer grow in America; which like FC Cincinnati, is taking American sports by storm.
I write about the beautiful game. From the smallest islands to the biggest teams, it all will be covered.