Oh Boy, Here Comes the Open Cup
Oh Boy, Here Comes the Open Cup
This match preview is going to be a little different than the other previews I've written. This one has little to do with the nuts and bolts of the game, and more to do with the feelings surrounding the team. And boy are there some feelings around this game.
I get it, FC Cincinnati fans don't want to consider louisville our rivals anymore. It's funny to say that online, it riles up those weird cos-players down river, but we can admit to ourselves it's not really true. Whether we like it or not, louisville will always be a rival. Being in a different league doesn't change that. We still snipe at each other on twitter, exchange memes on r/USLPro, and ruin any attempt at civil dialogue in Facebook groups. FC Cincinnati became the small market with massive support, support that propelled it into MLS. Exactly what louisville was trying to be. louisville built a system of play that was virtually unplayable, racking up championships, exactly what FC Cincinnati was trying to do. Each can look at the other and say "We did it better than you". That's what makes a great rivalry. So despite the shit talking online, this is still a rivalry match. And I know it is, because there isn't a single FCC fan I've met that wanted to play louisville in the Open Cup. Actions speaking louder than words. Downplay it all you want, this is a rivalry match-up. Which is why playing them in this moment of weakness for Cincinnati sucks, so, much. The joy we all would have felt if we knew we could come into this match with our new super expensive squad and run roughshod over them would have been glorious. Instead, most fans have a gallows humor inspired pessimism about them. “Anyone but louisville” lets you know this game matters more than just a simple Open Cup match.
I'm not even sure what must-win means in this context. Must win or we'll fire the manager? Must win or we take Berding off of soccer decisions? Must win or we send under-performing players out on loan? Must win or we'll sign new players in the summer? We're already there. FC Cincinnati fans are experiencing rock bottom right now. This is about as bad as it gets. Well, ha! Almost, it turns out. Losing to louisville would be the bottom of rock bottom. If you thought the Bailey Facebook page was bad now, just wait until FCC loses tonight. Beating louisville would be the start of climbing back out of rock bottom. And while the good news for the club is they're already fixing the issues that brought us here. The bad news is we still have to play a rival while we're at our weakest. As a fan, it feels like watching a toddler play at the top of the stairs. There's a lot of anxiety around this match, as there should be, and all you can do is hope for the best.
If I let myself think happy thoughts for a second, I'd like to think an Open Cup run would be super beneficial to the organization and it is set up perfectly. With St. Louis knocking off Chicago Fire, the path before FCC is full of USL competition. If fans in Cincinnati were still hoping for some silverware this year (and who are you if you are?), there is a decent enough opening right now for this team. And while there is next to no one left from that 2017 Open Cup run still on the roster, its impact is still in the DNA of this team. Of course this will likely serve as another helping of crushing disappointment, but there is a decent enough path to the Open Cup final right now for Cincinnati. Let's go take it.
Predicting a lineup for this game is going to be next to impossible. On one hand, I want the team to go all-in on winning this game. No starters held back, throw everything we got out there and try to win 13-0. On the other hand, this entire team is hurt or playing with their national teams and I'm not even sure who is available.
As for a score? I'll go ahead and predict Cincinnati wins 3-1 because I hate myself and want to get my hopes up. I think FCC has what it takes to win, even with missing players. And this louisville team isn't the same since James O'Connor left, they are currently 5th in the Championship. This is a game Cincinnati ought to win.