FC Cincinnati entered 2017 with high aspirations after last season’s success. Their off-season efforts built on a team that finished third overall in points last season, and led USL at the turnstiles. They bolstered their squad with eleven new signings, including high profile acquisitions like Djiby Fall and Justin Hoyte. Not surprisingly, expectations with the Cincinnati fan base soared, especially in light of the excitement around January’s MLS application.
The first three games of the season, all road matches, haven’t exactly gone to script however. They’ve lost two out of three, and won the third by a narrow margin against a ten-man Pittsburgh Riverhounds side. FC Cincinnati returns to a Nippert Stadium on Saturday for its fourth game, and aims to get their season on track against Saint Louis FC.
FC Cincinnati Looks to Correct Course in Home Opener
Injuries have been an immediate problem for the second year club. Center back Austin Berry recovered from a preseason arm injury to play in FC Cincinnati’s opening match, but was quickly sent back to the sidelines with a concussion in game two. Shiny new signing Justin Hoyte started his first match last Sunday, but played only 13 minutes before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. Further, attacking midfielder Daryl Fordyce missed two of the three games with a calf strain.
Things also don’t seem to be gelling quickly for FC Cincinnati this season, and maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. Between the new coaching staff and 11 new players, there are a lot of new pieces to fit together. The individual talent on this team in undeniable. Getting all of that talent to play together as a cohesive unit is proving a challenge early in the season.
Moments define matches, and FC Cincinnati has also had a few moments to forget in its opening three games. In particular, they conceded costly penalty kicks in the first and third games that had a major impact on the losing outcome.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The club is just three games into a 32 game season. They already have one win and a clean sheet under their belt. There also seems to be a budding offensive relationship between Andrew Wiedeman and Djiby Fall. Djiby has scored both of FC Cincinnati’s goals this season, and both times was assisted by Wiedeman. Furthermore, they now have that early three-game road trip behind them. Once they’re back in the comfy confines of Nippert Stadium, results should theoretically be easier to come by.
Will it truly be easier to win now that they’re at home? Maybe not right right away. FC Cincinnati faces stiff competition over the next three matches at Nippert. In an eight day period they will play Saint Louis FC, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and rival Louisville City FC. Those are currently the top three teams in USL’s Eastern Conference. All three are undefeated and have a combined total of seven wins and two draws in nine matches played. If FC Cincinnati wants to prove that they are one of the top teams in the East, they’ll have a great chance to do it. The current form of the opposition makes that task look daunting however.
Big Crowd Expected
Success at the turnstiles was a large part of the 2016 narrative for FC Cincinnati. They hope to add to that storyline on Saturday by hosting another big crowd. The team has already sold over 15,000 tickets and is expecting good walk up numbers given the favorable weather forecast.
We’re officially over the 15k mark for #STLvCIN this Saturday!
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) April 10, 2017
Last season’s home opener at Nippert boasted 14,658 fans, so they’ve already topped that total. They targeting over 20K, a total they were able to beat at four separate occasions during the 2016 season.
FC Cincinnati takes on Saint Louis FC at 7pm Eastern on Saturday, April 15th, in an attempt to erase their early season struggles.
Photo credit: Orange and Blue Press