With FC Cincinnati on the eve of kicking off their first MLS campaign, it’s worth taking a look at what exactly will define success. Obviously winning silverware is one measure, Open Cup, MLS Cup, and Supporter Shield are up for grabs at this moment. But to be honest, those seem a bit unlikely. Well, the Open Cup would be a decent prize to go for actually. But they aren’t the only objectives a team can, or should, have.
So let’s set a few attainable goals. A few things that would define success for the franchise. Using these measuring sticks, we can track FC Cincinnati’s progress and adjust our outrage accordingly.
Making the Playoffs
Making the playoffs is probably the ultimate goal for this season, and it won’t be easy. Thankfully, it’s easier than it was last year. There are 12 teams in the Eastern Conference, and as that dumb Target shirt will tell you, that’s who we’re competing against, and only 7 of those teams are making the playoffs. Which means 5 teams are going to be left out. FC Cincinnati needs to be better than 5 teams in the East, and that is possible. Chicago, Toronto, New England, Orlando, Columbus, and Philadelphia are the likely suspects to be in the bottom of the conference. If FC Cincinnati’s defense heavy roster can prove to be impossible to score against, taking points off teams they have no business drawing, then the playoffs could become real. But they’re by no means the only measure.
At 37 points, FC Cincinnati will have had a better than average 1st season in MLS for expansion teams going back to 2010, adjusted for a 34 match season. And with a lock-down defense, drawing games instead of losing them will make this goal much more attainable. 40 points is generally the marker in MLS for having a “good” vs “bad” season, but getting 37 points or better would prove that FC Cincinnati is in the upper echelon of recent expansion teams.
44 Goal Scored, 52 Goals Conceded
Again, looking at the first year of expansion teams in MLS, the average team scored 43 goals and gave up 53, adjusted for a 34 match season. While FC Cincinnati has an unfortunate history of setting goal scoring records, this one is a little more attainable. The number that should be the main focus of this team though, is minimizing goals conceded. Being an above average expansion team maybe isn’t the highest honor in the world (it isn’t), but being better than average would prove more than a few MLS pundits wrong about the Queen City’s MLS roster.
There are two big games this season that ought to be in your calendar now, playing Columbus. A bummer of a season can be considered a success with a clean sweep of Columbus in the regular season. Seeing a sea of orange and blue at Mapfre stadium would be a dream come true. But I’m not just talking about Hell is Real, I’m talking about in the table. Finishing higher than Columbus would be a fantastic season, even if every other target was missed on this list. Keeping tabs on the table and seeing where we stack up against that giant suburb in the middle of the state will be a fun reminder that yes, we’ve made it to MLS and, ideally, we are indeed better than the Crew.
Being in MLS
Being in MLS is a victory for FC Cincinnati this year, and, hey, they did it! When MLS was expanding, they wanted the big TV markets, the attractive cities, the “cool” cities. They wanted Miami, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. They didn’t want Cincinnati. Cincinnati should never have been in the conversation. But we kept showing up, we proved to the world that there is a real appetite for soccer in our city. We could not be ignored. We were never supposed to be here. We shouldn’t have even been that good of a USL team. But here we are. We’re in MLS. Enjoy the ride.