Another week at TQL, another victory! It is so nice to see FCC finally enjoying the benefits of home cooking.
Not that fans should have been worried. Portland remains one of two teams in MLS that have never beaten FC Cincinnati, as they hold a 2-0-1 record all-time against the Western Conference side. Maybe it wasn’t as special as the 3-0 victory when Portland came to Cincy the first time, but they were able to keep the Timbers at bay when the game tightened up over the last 20 minutes.
But we all know what happened here, so let’s look around to see what is happening around the league.
At Bat: April 26th – Louisville City; 13 pts, 3rd in USL Championship East
I am sure if you are here, you are most likely aware of the U.S. Open Cu, and what it is. But for those who aren’t, welcome to the best tournament in American soccer!
To put it simply, the U.S. Open Cup is the NCAA basketball tournament of soccer. A single elimination bracket that includes teams from every professional league in the U.S. In the same way where you may see a Big 12 team play someone from the MAC in the NCAA tournament, you can see cases of MLS teams playing teams from the USL.
For long-time FCC fans, you will likely remember the 2017 Open Cup run to the Semifinals, with huge upsets of Columbus and Chicago, but what may be forgotten is that the run started with a 1-0 victory over Louisville thanks to a Djiby Fall goal early in the second half. Now, I’m not saying we need to sign Djiby to a one-game contract to again not bite a Louisville player, but I hope the team comes out with an expectation to make a long run in the Open Cup starting with their game on Wednesday.
On Deck: April 29th – New England Revolution; 17 pts, T-1st in the East
I could give you a recap as to what happened in the Rev’s 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City which featured a pair of goals from DP striker Giacomo Vrioni. Or I could link you to Sporting Kansas City superfan Keviñcho living through the game.
Ultimately, this is another early season game against a top-of-the-table side for Cincy, and one with the most unlikely outcome as New England manager Bruce Arena has an all-time winning record against FCCs coaching staff (2-1-0 vs Pat Noonan, 11-3-7 vs Dom Kinnear). Hopefully, they are able to manage the squad with a midweek game and buck the trend this upcoming weekend.
In the Hole: May 6th – DC United; 11 pts, 8th in the East
DC pulled off an unlikely upset as Wayne Rooney’s team triumphed over Orlando City 3-1 in Audi Field. DC got goals from DP midfielder Taxi Fountas, defender Donovan Pines and Belgian striker Christian Benteke, whose sultry goal was the highlight of the night. DC continues to plod along, picking up points against fellow midtable teams, but may lack the firepower to challenge teams at the top of the table (0-4-0 vs Top 5 teams, 3-0-2 vs everyone else).
Despite the possibly worrying trend, it won’t bother fans of DC, as they continue to be a thorn in the side of Orlando and have a winning record against them with Wayne Rooney, which includes the best goal scored in DC United history thanks to Lucho Acosta.
Checking in on the West
And then there was one! Sporting Kansas City remains the last team in MLS to not have a win in 2023. The good news for SKC is they did score which meant they were able to brag about having more goals than red cards. The bad news is they received a red card seven minutes after their goal to tie things back up at three apiece. We’ve already highlighted how Sporting fans are handling the team’s performance, but New England’s admins don’t have to punch them while they are down as well.
At the top of the West, both LAFC and St Louis dropped points in a pair of 1-1 draws, but Seattle was able to pull off a 1-0 win, meaning the top three have pulled within one point of each other. They continue to pull away from the other Western Conference contenders, as fourth and fifth-place FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes both fell 3-1 over the weekend. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season shapes up and if the top three can continue to pull away from the conference as true contenders, or if any of the chasing teams can emerge as a real threat to those currently sitting at the top of the table.
Best of the Weekend
While MLS has historically had one of the largest disparities in Home vs Away splits in the world, FCC has struggled to reflect that success. Obviously, spoon-winning teams are going to struggle, but traditionally MLS teams win 53 percent of home games, whereas Cincy has only won 19 percent of games both in MLS and at TQL Stadium. Their top season, 2022, still fell well short of the MLS average, as they won only 33 percent of games at home.
So for FCC to start out 5-0-0 in 2023, they are massively bucking a trend that has been an albatross around the neck of the club. The fans are forgetting what it feels like to lose and the Bailey is seeing some of those old USL performances where even the casuals were joining in on the cheers. It has been refreshing to have a calmness around the fans during a game, instead of the nervy energy that accompanied any lead last season.
However, I must confess I am greedy, and if this winning streak comes to an end this week, I will consider it all for naught. The team has been able to grind out wins, overcome sloppy performances and put a team in a stranglehold as they finished out a game. These are all great indicators of a team always wanting to win. But it also means you don’t give it all away when you are a clear favorite.
I want this run to not be a bucking of a trend, but of an expectation of the performances in the city. I want this streak to be an expectation for the team to come out hungry for a win, not wanting to give up our streak to our oldest rival. I want this streak to continue, because at the end of the day, we play in Wincinnati, not Loserville.