If you ever wanted to see two different Cincinnatis, you need only look at the Bengals and FC Cincinnati.
The Bengals just completed a very disappointing season with mishap after gaff after screwup. They missed the playoffs, managed to fail to trade a player, managed to draft a player who may or may not have been hurt and then may or may not have benched for running the wrong route once. The team’s biggest accomplishment was helping a different team get into the playoffs. And yet they signed up their long standing mediocre coach for another two years. You know, in case the last 16 or so left some doubt as to what you get with a Marvin Lewis team.
Bengals fans are angry. The team has condemned itself to another few years of mediocrity. In fact most fans are now just waiting for the owner of the team to pass away before they’re willing to invest in the club again. Yet those same and have made that same promise a few times over the last 25 years. But it is clear this is a franchise that has decided being “just good enough” is acceptable.
Meanwhile, another futbol team is trying to achieve as much as it can. FC Cincinnati is a finalist in joining MLS, something most observers now predict will happen. And a team that has lost in the first round in the playoffs has decided to completely retool its entire roster. This is the same team that last year, right before the season, fired its coach for not meeting benchmarks.
And how about that new roster? This is a team now that is extremely deep. To quote a user on Reddit “The NASL isn't dead. It's just going on an all-star tour through USL dressed in orange and blue.” Koch and his staff are putting together an NASL dream-team that should be brutal to defend against. Goals, assist, and chances created leaders from the NASL last year are now calling Cincinnati home. Keep in mind the NASL had a winning record against USL teams in last year’s Open Cup.
FCC will now find on its roster Lance Laing, Tommy Heinemann, Emmanuel Ledesma, Forest Lasso, and Tyler Gibson. A veritable who’s-who of extremely talented players being courted by MLS teams from the lower divisions. Throw in Paddy Barrett and Dekel Keinan and this is starting to look like a team gunning for the Open Cup trophy and a CONCACAF Champions League berth.
These last two years the question has come up: who on this roster could go to MLS if we moved? The short answer had typically been Delbridge, Walker, maybe Hildebrandt. Mitch answered that question for us by going to be a backup in MLS behind Brad Guzman in Atlanta. Harrison has left to the Australian A-League which is a comparable level to MLS. And Kenny is still on this roster and most likely the captain of this team going into the preseason.
But now the answer to the question of who could move to MLS with us? Ledesma, Laing, Gibson, Lasso, Walker, and Richey are all in the conversation. That’s an incredible leap in talent from the last two years. No offense to the guys we’ve had in the past, we’ve had an incredibly successful two years by anyone’s measure, but now we’re looking at a team that should “walk the league” and be an absolute terror to play in the Open Cup.
And when you look at the Bengals and their complacency, it’s refreshing to see these additions. It’s refreshing to see a team that represents your hometown wanting to go out and win. The Reds told us it might be awhile before they’re competitive. The Bengals have said the same in their actions. The Cyclones are hopelessly adrift in the minor leagues. When it comes to professional sports in Cincinnati, there is only one team out there, year in and year out, trying to represent our city in the best way possible. Even if you’re not a soccer fan, you have to take notice of that fact.