Is there a tradition better than opening day in Cincinnati? The beauty of the long march to the stadium, family and friends getting back together, the beer, the team that we love despite playoff failure. And today, none of this has anything to do with baseball.
Today we are about to start the second season in FC Cincinnati’s existence. For long time fans of the sport here in the Queen City, this whole thing still feels like a fairytale. We have seen team after team pop-up, only to disappear as quickly as they arrived. But this time, this time it feels different. Let me take that back, this time it is different. It is hard to walk around the city without running into an FCC shirt, hat, jersey, stickers, whatever. Maybe it is all down to a fantastic color combination. But what I think happed in 2016 is that our city has fallen in love with our team.
Last season was all about attendance records and tickets sold. And boy, how much fun was that? Stories from around the world were written about our fans, our passion, and our success as a well-run lower division club. And in a city that has loads of pride in itself, we sure did eat it up. And for good reason; in Cincinnati, we haven’t had much to root for on the sports front in quite a long time. The Reds are starting to look like the perpetual rebuilding team I grew up with, again. And the Bengals are, well, the Bengals, and everything that comes along with that baggage. So please excuse a city for patting itself on the back when it comes to a feel-good story surrounding our newest team.
And what a crazy offseason for the first year club, right? We saw the near collapse of the NASL with two refugee clubs joining the USL. We had the firing of US Soccer Hall of Famer John Harkes and the appointment of new head coach Alan Koch. Sean Okoli and Luke Spencer departing along with Djiby Fall and Daryl Fordyce arriving. An MLS expansion bid that included a top-secret plan for a soccer specific stadium somewhere in Cincinnati. For a city just getting used to being soccer fans, this has been an action packed few months.
But today we move beyond attendance numbers. Articles about surprising attendance trends and season ticket counts are now a thing of the past. Articles about mid-game formation shifts, overlapping backs, striker holdup play, and CDM work-rate will become the new normal. This year we focus on building a championship run. This year we beat an MLS club in the Open Cup. I will go ahead and call it here, for FCC it is USL Final or bust in 2017.
While the start has been less than ideal, the enthusiasm is palpable. This city is abuzz with the excitement surrounding the home opener. So forget about the attendance numbers, forget about the league politics, and forget about MLS aspirations. Today is all about having a blast with thousands of our closest friends, cheering for a team that has let a city have hope in sports once again.
See you at Nippert.