Sometimes I find myself remembering Cincinnati as the dominant USL side that earned a reputation for strong supporters, won a USL Shield, won two MVPs, a Defender of the Year and a Goalkeeper of the Year. Then I think of them as the team that took so many Wooden Spoons in MLS that the award should be renamed after their weird chili.
But Cincinnati is good now. Former Sounder Pat Noonan has them running with high expectations. MLS moving to a much more regional schedule might mean you think of Cincy as the team the Sounders beat 4-1 on March 2, 2019 and not the team that drew Seattle 1-1 last year.
I have questions, so I reached out to Cincinnati Soccer Talk. Justin answers Three Questions.
SaH: Sounders fans may think of Cincinnati as a bad team that they’ve rarely seen, but they’ve been good recently. What were the big changes that brought FCC out of the spoon hunt into respectability?
CST: Sounders fans would be right more often than not. Three-time wooden spoon winners doesn’t warrant much respect or attention. But you are correct, FC Cincinnati have turned a new chapter in its young MLS story. In 2022, FCC propelled themselves into the MLS playoffs and even advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals. What changed this club was sensible leadership from Head Coach Pat Noonan and General Manager Chris Albright. Due to some irresponsible contracts from the previous regime, FCC’s roster was relatively unchanged coming into last season. Pat Noonan and his assistant coaches deserve a lot of credit for picking up the pieces and better defining their roles on the team. They switched the formation early in 2022 to a 3-5-2 and the team immediately responded. Off the training pitch, Chris Albright and staff went to work plugging major holes in FC Cincinnati’s line up such as CB, Midfielders and Goalkeeper. But more importantly, they didn’t bring in guys as knee-jerk reaction to results on the pitch. All this was a recipe for success not only in 2022 but for the continued growth of the club.
SaH: Which player are you most confident in carrying Cincy against the Sounders?
CST: Seattle is a fantastic club and they are coming in with great form. FC Cincinnati is sort of easing into the season. The big three (Acosta, Brenner, Vazquez) aren’t exactly making a splash into the 2023 season. Despite solid chances, neither have contributed to a goal thus far. So I expect FCC will need someone else to step up and steady the ship in this match. I would offer Obinna Nwobodo. The CDM has been a disrupter and safety valve for FCC when grinding out points. In the September 2022 matchup between these two clubs, Obinna really smoothed over times that FCC were careless in possession.
SaH: How has the home atmosphere been? Are the Orange & Blue able to count on the fans for support?
CST: It has been an arduous journey in the MLS for FC Cincinnati fans, but this fanbase is resilient. Fans have been passionately standing by our club and showing up to make FCC one of the hardest road games in the MLS for the opposition. With an average 2022 attendance of 22,487 and a 2023 home opener attendance of 25,513, I have little doubt that TQL Stadium will be packed Saturday night. Add the excitement of playing quality side like the Seattle Sounders and you have the makings of an electric atmosphere come kickoff.
Check out their preview and podcasts at Cincinnati Soccer Talk. Jeremiah appears on one of their preview podcasts. You can call that the Reverse ;)