Wait is over: FC Cincinnati fans return as spectators

Unable to attend FC Cincinnati matches for more than a year, some fans decided not to wait for the West End opener and drove to Nashville for Saturday’s match.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Miller

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It will be a few more weeks before FC Cincinnati fans will be able to see their team play at the new West End Stadium, which is set to open May 16 with a match against Inter Miami.

But with three road games to begin the season, many fans decided not to wait.

There was a hint of Orange and Blue outside the gates of Nissan Stadium on Saturday night a couple hours before kickoff for the 2021 season opener between FCC and rivals Nashville SC.

For most of them, it was the first sporting event they have attended since the COVID-19 pandemic limited the number of fans allowed in stadiums, or in FCC’s case last season, prohibited them from coming altogether.

Krista Doerflein and her husband Dave drove to Nashville from Liberty Township early on Saturday morning as a surprise trip for their son Alex, who recently turned 10. Alex, like the rest of the Doerflein family, is an avid FCC supporter.

“We are super excited,” Krista Doerflein said.

Saturday’s match carried additional significance for Charles Bowen, a Cincinnati native who now resides in Asheville, N.C. He traveled to the Music City with his wife, Charlene, who both ditched their loyalty to Orlando City and now bleed Orange and Blue.

“This is our first FC Cincinnati match,” Charles said.

FC Cincinnati fans were not only eager to see their team play in person, they also are excited by a couple key additions to the roster in Brazilian striker Brenner and MLS veteran Luciano Acosta, hoping to revive an attack that scored a paltry 12 goals last season.

“We’re hoping that the players that they’ve recruited will do the job for us, and score lots of goals,” Krista Doerflein said.

For Scott and Gail Finke, who live in College Hill and work in the city, the opening of West End Stadium is tantalizingly close. Gail Finke passes the structure to and from work and has watched the construction progress.

“I work near the new stadium, and I can’t wait to walk inside of it,” she said, waiting to enter the gates of Nissan Stadium on a comfortable spring evening in Nashville.

Scott Finke watched every FC Cincinnati game last season, but he says it felt more like preseason because he wasn’t able to attend any matches.

“It’s been a year and a half since we’ve seen them play,” he said. “Last year was an unreal season for me. It seems like it never happened.”

But it is happening, for real. And FC Cincinnati fans can witness it in person for the first time since March in the 2020 season.

“I think our new offense is going to be great,” Scott Finke said. “I’m really excited. We’re going to be pressing and exciting to watch. I think it’s going to be fun.”

Meanwhile, Gail Finke was counting the seconds until the gates of Nissan Stadium opened on Saturday night.

“I’m so excited to walk into this one, with real people and real fans and the players right in front of us,” she said. “It’s just the best. We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

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