FC Cincinnati: Midseason Pause, Wildebeest Migration, and the Wooden Spoon

Image: Joe Craven

As we enter the CONCACAF Gold Cup break and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth-round action, FC Cincinnati looks to regroup on a challenging inaugural MLS season. Through 16 matches, just under the midpoint mark, FCC has only 11 points. Since starting the season with two promising wins and a draw in the first four matches, they are presently on a 1-10-1 skid.

Insert any metaphorical phrase you’d like—the train is off the tracks, the wheels have come off the wagon, and so on. What comes to mind for me is a a circle-of-life moment my family and I experienced two years ago this month —the great Wildebeest Migration across the Mara River on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. Over two million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles move through the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems in search of green pasture in an annual pattern.

Although we knew the likely outcome, our eyes were still fixed upon the famished crocodiles picking off the weakest wildebeest and zebras migrating the river. Now, this may seem a bit graphic of an analogy to the Orange & Blue’s 2019 season. However, the search for greener pasture is clearly where this team sits mid-season. The question remains how and if the team can navigate the remainder of the season without further peril. Possibly the Dirty River Derby Wednesday is an opportunity to jump-start the team like 2017?

The original plan for this mid-season piece was to share how close our local squad was to chasing their preseason goal—an Eastern Conference playoff spot. As FCC has not been mathematically eliminated yet, we’ll still bring you the playoff goods and throw in a spoon for good measure.

Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

Earlier this season we highlighted the marks FCC need to hit to reach the MLS postseason. Based on recent historical trends, the playoff waterline mark (seventh place) is likely 1.30 points per game (PPG), or 44 total points.

Looking at the current Eastern Conference standings below, this playoff waterline is right on target with Toronto FC currently sitting in seventh place on 1.27 PPG (as is the last playoff team in the West, currently).

Eastern Conference Standings

Sitting in last place, FCC has a wide and deep river to cross to reach the 2019 playoffs. With eighteen matches remaining, they will need to earn a points clip of 1.83 PPG (a rate that’s higher than any Eastern team currently has this season), or roughly 33 more points. This translates to a second-half record of 9-3-6 or similar. It will certainly help playing 11 of these final 18 games at Nippert.

Realistically though, it’s highly unlikely that FC Cincinnati can overcome the statistical odds and make the 2019 MLS playoffs. Therefore, we will wade into the waters of a different type of competition.

The Wooden Spoon

The “Wooden Spoon” is a prize for finishing last in a sporting event or other competition. It derives from a Cambridge University custom of presenting such a spoon to the person that finished last in the annual Faculty of Mathematics course.

The MLS version was created in 2015 by the Independent Supporter’s Council of MLS.  It is a satirical trophy and ignominious distinction given to the supporter’s group of the club that finishes last in the Supporters’ Shield (full league table) race.

Here are the most recent winners of the Wooden Spoon award—or should we say last-place losers—of the of the 2015-2018 MLS Supporter’s Shield races.

At present, the 2019 Wooden Spoon appears to have a slight Orange & Blue hue. The “fight for the spoon” standings below include the nine MLS teams currently with a 1.2 PPG or worse record.

Wooden Spoon Standings

The recent loss at Colorado certainly did not help matters out. However, if there is a glimpse of hope, FCC plays six of their remaining 18 matches against Orlando City, Chicago, Columbus, and the Bruce Arena-led Revolution. The 2019 version of the “Hell is Real” Derby may have inauspicious hardware implications.

Also of note, the last three Wooden Spoon recipients have either gone on to make the playoffs the following season (Chicago in 2017) or were in the hunt for the last playoff spot in their conference (Galaxy in 2018 and Earthquakes this season). There is hope, Orange & Blue fans!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for all your Wooden Spoon updates and FC Cincinnati coverage.

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