No Brights Lights for FC Cincinnati

Thoughts at the MLS All-Star Break, while waiting for FCC’s new head coach to be announced.
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We’re in a bit of an awkward spot this week when it comes to FC Cincinnati. The team reportedly has its new coach: Ron Jans, a former Dutch player and coach whose potential hiring falls in lock step with FCC’s complete Netherlands buy-in. But whether Jans’ work visa isn’t finalized or MLS asked FC Cincinnati to sit on the announcement to avoid overlapping with Wednesday night’s All-Star Game or FCC is simply delaying the announcement, the hiring isn’t official yet. So we’ll (most likely) dig deep on Jans in next week’s column.

 

For now, here’s a collection of FC Cincinnati-related thoughts:

FC Cincinnati was one of seven teams sans an All-Star representative in Orlando, which on the surface sounds like a jab, but nearly one-third of the league’s squads failed to send anyone to the All-Star Game. I have to say, I respect MLS’s decision to not follow the path of Major League Baseball and ensure that every team is represented, a strategy that often gifts roster spots to undeserving players. Admittedly, this task would be nearly impossible for MLS anyway because of the difference in roster size. But seriously, check out this FiveThirtyEight piece on the worst MLB All-Stars since 2002; Royals pitcher Mark Redman made the Mid-Summer Classic in 2006 despite having an ERA of 5.35 through June. That’s criminal.

The MLS All-Star Game has a bit of a twist. The league recruits a European power—many of whom regularly embark on preseason tours of the U.S. anyway—to face off against its stars in the match. Over the past nine years, fans have been treated to Manchester United (twice), Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Arsenal, Real Madrid, and Juventus. This year’s opponent was Atletico Madrid, which is one of La Liga’s three perennial powers, along with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The MLS All-Stars featured a handful of still productive but past-their-prime European talents: Zlatan Ibrahimović, Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Nani. Ibrahimović is third in goals; Rooney (11 goals, 7 assists) and Nani (8 goals, 8 assists) have displayed their all-around creative talents; and Schweinsteiger has displayed, well, his eagerness to foul opponents (he leads MLS in yellow cards).

Atletico elected to sit just about all of their stars in the first half, but Jan Oblak (a top-three goalkeeper in the world), Diego Costa (a striker in a tight end’s body), and João Félix (one of the best teenage players on the globe) all played in the second half. Those three studs taking the field—along with strong secondary players like Saúl Ñíguez, Koke, Thomas Lemar, and Kieran Trippier—was a just reward for fans who struck around through the pre-match rain delay and a water-logged night in general.

Another storyline to emerge from Orlando was expansion. MLS added FC Cincinnati as its 24th franchise for the 2019 season. Inter Miami (David Beckham’s club) and Nashville SC join next season, and Austin FC is scheduled for a 2021 arrival. The league is on the record saying it wants to expand to 30 teams, and St. Louis appears to be next in line to be franchise No. 28. That’s great news for FC Cincinnati, as it could add another potential rival within driving range for its supporters.

FC Cincinnati acquired the rights to Andrew Gutman this week, a Celtic left back via the Chicago Fire. FCC paid a decent-sized price for a player who could conceivably never play for them, but it seems unlikely that GM Gerard Nijkamp would complete this deal without thinking that Gutman will eventually play with the Orange and Blue.

FC Cincinnati, sitting on 17 points for nearly three weeks now, returns home for a Saturday evening match vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps. Vancouver is enduring a tough season of its own, sitting second to last in the Western Conference with 21 points. A week from Saturday, FCC travels to Columbus for the first “Hell Is Real” derby, which has certainly lost some of its luster given the struggles of both teams—Columbus has just 24 points on the season. The Crew return the trip on August 25.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the associate editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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