The United Soccer League announced the schedule for the upcoming 2018 season this afternoon. In addition to the 3 previously scheduled matches announced last week, FC Cincinnati introduced their entire slate of 34 matches, 2 more than last season. With Nippert under construction, the club will start on the road for their first 2 matches before their home opener on 4/7 against their Dirty River Derby rival, Louisville City FC.
With 16 Eastern Conference clubs, FCC will have to face four teams three times. Pittsburgh and Louisville will come to the Queen City twice while playing two matches away to Indianapolis and Nashville. FCC will also have to deal with being on the road for 7 of their final 10 matches due to the unavailability of Nippert when UC football starts. To make up for it, the club will host 9 home matches from June 13th to August 18th. The regular season will conclude on October 13th when the Orange & Blue visit Nashville SC.
Matches to Watch
3/31- at Indy Eleven
The first official match in the Battle of I-74 is scheduled for Saturday, March 31st. Not only will it be the first match between the two clubs but it will be the home opener for Indy. There is the potential to have two of the largest fanbases in US DII soccer pack Lucas Oil Stadium (TBD) and set another attendance record for the former NASL club. Former Vancouver Whitecaps manager Martin Rennie was named this week to lead the squad. Rennie has a large task ahead of him to assemble a full squad and have them ready for the start of the season less than 2 months away.
5/5- vs. Atlanta United 2
This match falls under one to watch for the possible return of Mitch Hildebrandt to the Queen City. Hildebrandt signed with the MLS club this offseason but it is realistic to expect that he will spend some time with the “2” club this season. He’ll need to try and remain sharp and could rotate with other keepers behind Atlanta’s expected #1 in US international Brad Guzan. While only in their 2nd season, Atlanta is already pumping out talented players and could pose a challenge in the East. We could see U-17 USMNT World Cup players Chris Goslin & Andrew Carleton, who are expected to star one day the senior national team.
8/4- vs. Nashville SC
As stated above, Nashville will be a team to reckon with near the top of the East. In addition to facing a top club, this matchup could have more significance if FC Cincinnati was to get the next MLS Expansion bid in the coming weeks. While the Music City has already received a bid and will pay a visit to Cincy in the preseason, this will be a chance for the broader FCC fan base to lay eyes on a potential new rival. Coach Gary Smith won the 2010 MLS Cup with Colorado and has put together quite the squad so far. They are headlined by former MLS and Tampa Bay Rowdies GK Matt Pickens. Defender Kosuke Kimura has made over 170 appearances in MLS and should help stabilize the new defense along with Pickens as it comes together.
9/8- at Louisville City FC
The match at Louisville will be the first match between the clubs since the infamous “StreamerGate” match where LCFC officials kicked out the entire first row of FC Cincinnati fans with 5 minutes remaining in the match. Even with the bad taste in FCC supporters mouth’s, you can expect another large contingent of the Orange & Blue faithful to travel down I-71 to the match. Coach James “Beekeeper” O’Conner has proved to be an excellent tactician and returns 16 players from the 2017 USL Championship squad. With so many returning players, LCFC has been quiet for most of this offseason adding 4 players including former FC Cincinnati right back in Pat McMahon. Expect to see Louisville near the top of the Eastern Conference. It won’t be easy with improved squads such as FCC and Tampa Bay along with the addition of Nashville SC and O’Conner will have to make sure his club doesn’t get passed by.