*Editors Note, This was written by my good friend Garrett who lives in Cincinnati.
Over the next month I will be putting out a series of previews for MLS (not The) this season. I know you are all wondering why should I care about MLS, however here are a couple facts to get you going.
- Since 2007 the league has gone from 13 to 24 teams (and counting)
- Last year MLS added a new team in LA owned by Will Ferrell, Magic Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, and Mia Hamm!
- Soccer has the longest run time of the 4 major sports in 90 minutes, however because there’s no commercials the game only lasts 2 hours.
- Great players such as Josef Martinez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Vela, and many many more come to a tv near you every week!
- ESPN+ has made it very easy to find each game every week.
An original Cincinnati native, this team is the most intriguing team of the season. Not because it is the newest expansion team, but because there are so many unknowns about how different of an offseason from all other expansion teams. In recent years, NYCFC, Orlando, Minnesota,LAFC, and of course Atlanta, have all tried to build with that “splash” player or two and fill in the roster as needed. Some of those worked better than the others, and Minnesota tried it a little different by having plenty of players from their USL days. I will be explaining on how this team is just that much different from all the rest.
Owner: Carl H. Lindner III
Coach: Alan Koch
Previous Season Record: 23-8-3 1st in East (USL Standings)
U.S. Open Cup 2018: 4th Round
Top Scorer: Emmanuel Ledesma 16 goals *USL MVP
Stadium: Nippert Stadium (Currently building “West End Stadium”scheduled to open in 2021)
Starting back in 2015, this club has been on the fast track to the MLS. Making the playoffs in all three seasons during its time in the USL, there has been a lot of hope on and off the field for the city of Cincinnati. An unknown need for another sport in the Queen City was clearly looming over the heads of the longtime Cincinnati staples: Reds and Bengals. FCC regularly had 25,000 plus fans at regular season matches increasing that average every season since inception.
Though the team did manage to make the playoffs in each of their first three seasons, they did not manage to take home any championships. The team did manage, however, to grasp the shock of the soccer world in America during its 2017 U.S. Open Cup run. Managing to oust the in-state rival Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire, FCC was clearly no match for three MLS teams in a row being taken out of the miraculous run by NY Red Bulls. No non-MLS team had taken out an MLS team in the cup for eight years! And in the process of this incredible feat, the team now holds the second and third highest attendance records for any U.S. Open Cup match.
What a season it was for the Orange and Blue. Breaking so many records left and right. They now hold the USL record for most wins (23), points (77), and the longest regular season unbeaten match streak (22). The team was home to the Golden Glove winner (lowest goal-against average) in Evan Newton, Coach of the year in Alan Koch, Defender of the year in Forrest Lasso, and of course the MVP and assist leader in Emmanuel Ledesma. Much like Atlanta United in the MLS, the entire season just simply belonged to FC Cincinnati. Unfortunately, their seasons did not end in the same result after Cincinnati was upset in the Semifinals by New York Red Bulls II.
Sitting on pins and needles, Don Garber was deciding what teams would be added to the MLS as its 24 team. Cincinnati, Nashville, Sacramento, and Detroit were all vying for MLS expansion spots. FCC and Nashville SC were eventually chosen to be added to the MLS family, and it was only more of a celebration for the Queen City. After seasons end, it needed to divert all energy towards the MLS. During the season, we saw breakout stars with plenty of MLS talent in Lasso, Ledesma, Nazmi Albadawi, Emery Welshman, Spencer Richey, Jimmy McLaughlin, Corbin Bone, Blake Smith, Justin Hoyte, and in-season signings Fatai Alashe and Fanendo Adi.
Off Season Transactions
- As an expansion team, they were awarded five players in a draft format
- Received Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe in the 2018 season yet will still be added below
- Selected Kei Kamara in the expansion draft and immediately traded
- Kendall Waston is a great pickup and can make the defense better immediately.
As mentioned earlier in this post, this will be an extremely unique season comparatively to the other most recent expansion teams seasons. This team is comprised of 40% of a team who played on a very successful USL squad, and the other 60% from all over the world with all sorts of talents. If I had to take a guess, head coach Alan Koch wants a versatile team with the greatest threat to be the counter attack. A TON of holding midfielders, very solid and smart defenders, a seasoned keeper, speedy wingers, and it all hinges on the one time, and potential, future star in Fanendo Adi as the key striker. My favorite additions of the offseason have been a champion defender in Greg Garza, seasoned MLS veteran Kendall Waston, great Swiss midfielder Leonardo Bertone, and the great Polish keeper Przemyslaw Tyton. This busy offseason has created quite the buzz around the Queen City heading into the season. The team has made the Cincinnati Reds nervous about attendance by signing Yasiel Puig. Maybe he can join FCC on the pitch?
With the new players getting acclimated to a new city, all the players seem to be very excited to be apart of something different and special. No crazy stars. Just solid players at all positions who are wanting their shot to shine. The only bad news of the offseason for the team is losing Jimmy “Mac” McLaughlin to a leg injury. I was personally excited to have the league be introduced to his outstanding goal celebrations as the ultimate super-sub!
I could potentially see this team making some noise squeaking into the playoffs their first season. But in all reality, it is a lot to ask of the players, which is why I think that FC Cincinnati will just miss the playoffs but showing the league that attendance does not just have to come from big market teams.
Welcome to the MLS Futbol Club Cincinnati!