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Monday, May 27, 2019

FC Cincinnati - Lotsa People, No Soccer Team

Finding your way to where FC Cincinnati is playing on the University of Cincinnati campus is a bit of an adventure, but if you persist you can find decent parking within easy walking distance of the stadium.

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The local version of the soccer whackos. Not as enthusiastic as I expected. They died down well before the end on the first half.

A large, but not very engaged crowd.

The Red Bull's goalie playing dangerously.

The beautiful game.

Don't get him wet or feed him after midnight.

Okay, so we all know that I prefer going to the NWSL. It's THE top tier soccer league in the world and its fans are hard core and enthusiastic (and you don't see nearly as many flops; refs in the NWSL won't call anything short of an out-and-out mugging and it makes the game far better).

Nevertheless, every so often I go to an MLS game and they've generated some real buzz the last couple years. Some was badish (Save the Crew) while others were good (the Atlanta expansion, and the Cincinnati expansion). Since I have kin and kith in Cincy, I thought I'd go up and see FCC play. Yep, you read that right, FC Cincinnati seems to have resisted picking up an actual nickname; they just yell FCC during the game. I kept looking around for federal agents.

To get there I drove around the campus until I found an open parking garage which was a straight shot from the stadium and only cost $5. Who knows what costs are going to be when they get their new stadium up and running, but for now FC Cincinnati understands that reasonable prices are needed for good attendance. The stadium is UC's football stadium and the vast majority of seats are just plain bleachers. There were boxes and nicer seats above, but I didn't see many people there. The place was packed which means there were over 20,000 people there. Cincinnati is an amazing sports town with two teams in leagues that are top tier in the world (Reds & Bengals), one team in a US top tier league (FC Cincy), and even a hockey team (Cyclones).

The usual group of uber supporters marched in and took their seats at the far end of the stadium. Every soccer team has this and honestly, it's cliche. They all have one big team flag, one or two rainbow flags, and they sing songs while not paying attention to the game (note that they always react a beat or two after something happened). They also set off annoying smoke during the game although most are now limited to after goals. Why do they do this? Because the Euros do. Actually, I was kind of impressed when the Cincy uber supporters (they call themselves the Bailey) settled down pretty quickly and actually watched the game; there's hope for that lot.

The rest of the crowd was interesting. They were clearly watching the game, but there seemed to be a lot more detachment than I was expecting. You go to other sports in town and people are making a lot of noise, yelling, standing, etc. There wasn't much of that here. They were all wearing the colors, but they weren't enthused. It was like they were there because they felt like they were supposed to be there.

Of course, the fact that the Red Bulls were handily taking care of FCC didn't help much. They dominated and scored one in the second period and another in extra time. And it wasn't as close as that makes it sound. Cincy seemed to be playing back the entire game and maybe they were aiming for the tie. If so, it didn't work.

All-in-all, I leave Cincy with mixed feelings. This is a franchise that could blossom or could flop hard. Cincinnati has a strong record of supporting teams that lose a lot, but the Reds and Bengals have been around for a while and have histories with bright moments. This soccer team hasn't got that advantage. If I had to guess, I think it will succeed. It was a second level team in the USL (making playoffs, but never getting anywhere) and it had strong support. Now it's got a boost from the move to the MLS. In a year or two it'll get a boost from it's new stadium. It won't really have to succeed from its product (winning games on the field) for maybe five years. Hopefully, by then they'll have it figured out.

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