FC Cincinnati: A season of change and rebuilding

photo courtesy of fccincinnati.com

For Cincinnati sports fans, hopelessness is a feeling all too familiar. After a 3-1 loss to FC Dallas last week, FC Cincinnati was officially eliminated from postseason contention.

FC Cincinnati sits in the basement of the Major League Soccer (MLS) standings with a record of 5-21-3. This marks a drastic contrast from the results of last season and the mission of the club earlier this season.

You might ask, why is there such a drastic difference in the Orange and Blue’s fortunes? If you aren’t familiar with the story, a lot has changed since last season.

Last year, the team set several attendance records for soccer games in the United Soccer League (USL), the equivalent to a minor league team to the MLS.

Coming into this season, FC Cincinnati received a promotion to the MLS, the top league in the country.

After reconstructing its roster during the offseason, the team came out with a clear goal: Contend for the playoffs in year one, and fight for Cincinnati, which is “often written off as fly-over country” according to Jeff Berding, the team president.

Four weeks into the season, things were going fairly well for the team as it sat pretty in second place, coming off consecutive wins. From there, the season progressively got worse.

After going without a win in seven straight games, FC Cincinnati fired its coach, Alan Koch.

It was during this stretch that FC Cincinnati didn’t score a goal for 528 straight minutes — nearly six whole games without scoring once.

That was the sixth-longest goalless streak in MLS history. But this soccer team wasn’t just bad, it was historically bad, and things were going to get much worse for the faithful fans.

A whole host of changes accompanied the departure of Koch, including another managerial change when Ron Jans was brought in to replace interim head coach Yoann Damet, who is now an assistant coach.

Gerard Nijkamp, who was hired as the team’s general manager back in May, acquired Andrew Gutman and Derrick Etienne, Jr., from loans and signed both Maikel van der Werff and Joseph-Claude Gyau. 

Despite restructuring the management of the team and acquiring four new players for the squad, the team is trapped in yet another low point in the season amid a 3-10-1 record at home with no mathematical chance at making the playoffs.

Still, at times throughout the season, there was still a glimmer of hope lingering.

Now eliminated from the playoff contention and with no rivalry game against the Columbus Crew to look forward to, what is left this season? There are a few things.

First, after the failure that was this season, the team will be looking to make some major roster changes.

Upon his arrival, Jans implemented a more offensive-minded system than what the team is accustomed to — and one that doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of the current roster.

Therefore, it is likely that there will be a lot of changes to the roster.

If players want to prove they belong here, they’re going to be playing as well as they can in these last few weeks to secure their spot on next year’s squad.

Furthermore, Jans has said that he will be giving opportunities for game time to some younger players, such as rookies Tommy McCabe and Rashawn Dally, who both started in the team’s last match against Toronto FC.

Speaking of young players, 18-year-old Frankie Amaya, the number one draft pick in the MLS Superdraft this year, is a must-see talent.

On top of these young players getting an opportunity to shine in the upcoming matches, there are a few of FC Cincinnati’s better players who are finally returning to the team from long injury breaks, including defender Greg Garza, who last played in May before finally appearing for the Orange and Blue on Saturday at Dallas.

Also returning from injury are midfielders Fatai Alashe and Leonardo Bertone.

There will be plenty of moments for many players to shine in these last few games.

By hunter Ellis | Guest Writer