Photos: FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 Portland Timbers

Images of FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in their MLS home opener on Sunday, March 17, 2019

Here are images of FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in their MLS home opener on Sunday, March 17, 2019. Captain Kendall Waston scored the opener in the 15th minute. Second half goals by Allan Cruz and Mathieu Deplagne sealed the victory.

When browsing the gallery below, for any given image, a high-resolution version can be found by scrolling down and clicking “View Full Size.” All images are courtesy of Ryan Meyer and Joe Craven.

All images are copyright protected to safeguard the creative rights of our photographers. We’re very open to sharing our work with those who want to show support for FC Cincinnati. We simply request that you ask (via DM on Twitter or email) and give credit where it’s due. Thanks!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS season.

2018 Match Program Covers

With FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season now in the books, we wanted to share a consolidated view of the Orange & Blue Press’ Match Program covers from this season

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With FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season now in the books, we wanted to share a consolidated view of the Orange & Blue Press Match Program covers from this season. CSDIV put a tremendous amount of work into these graphics over 36 matches and we were extremely happy with the result. Thank you. As always, a special thanks to Ryan Meyer, Joe Schmuck, and Joe Craven for the photography that serves as the centerpiece for these graphics.

The Orange & Blue Press Match Program series is a fresh take on the “Cheat Sheet” infographic that we published to preview FC Cincinnati’s matches in 2017. This season we simplified the information graphic and added custom cover art for each match that highlighted our photography. Those elements were then combined with a write-up and fast facts to get you ready for match day. Again, thanks to the photographers, writers, and CSDIV for the effort they put into these this season.

For more information on the English match programmes that were the inspiration for these previews, check out the information below.


Orange & Blue Press 2018 Match Programs – Special Edition Covers

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for coverage of FC Cincinnati’s offseason and 2019 MLS preparations.

Players I’m Going to Miss – Harrison Delbridge

With his return to his homeland still fresh, let’s take a look back at the two solid years FCC’s gotten from Harrison Delbridge.

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With the preseason opener just days away, Orange & Blue Press is following the turnover in personnel by covering players who have left the squad for greener pastures. While Mitch Hildebrandt is the only player who left for the MLS, one more player from 2017 has found work in a top tier…

Harrison Delbridge.

It’s easy to forget that some of the more important players from the inaugural 2016 FC Cincinnati season were not amongst the first eleven who were signed. Solid soon-to-be offensive mainstays like Omar Cummings and Jimmy McLaughlin were signed weeks after the first squad, while USL MVP Sean Okoli arrived only days before the preseason began. One of those later signings proved to be one of the biggest assets to the defensive line. He created a solid base that made FCC a difficult team to score on.

Is it any wonder that “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!” became one of our favorite calls from the Bailey when Harrison Delbridge reversed the flow of the game?

Sixteen months removed from winning a USL title with Sacramento, Delbridge was signed in 2016 as a defenseman with plenty of height and a building resume. Having played a little over half the season at Portland Timbers 2 in 2015, Delbo became an instant name for FC Cincinnati in his third season. He gave FCC two extraordinary seasons as a keystone to the back line, as a workhorse who provided boatloads of minutes, and as a player who could switch the field quickly.

Photos courtesy Ryan MeyerJoe Schmuck, and Joe Craven

Delbridge grabbed end-of-the-year accolades as a member of the All-League First Team in both 2016 and 2017 for FCC. The 6’4” Sydney native was an ironman on the pitch—of all non-goalkeeper players, Delbo ranked in the Top 10 for minutes played and only missed 4 of 64 games over the past two seasons. Delbridge scored four goals and three assists in his FCC career. But he was known much more for his sweeping slide tackles and ability to reverse course, leading the USL in 2017 with 120 interceptions.

Favorite Moments

All of the goals from Delbridge were fun to watch. His lone goal in 2016 was a perfect receiving cross from McLaughlin to knot the score against FC Montreal. It turned the tide for a comeback win and provided a celebratory pose that graced the season-ticket booklets in 2017.

While most of his moves were aerial or sliding along the ground, Delbo’s dribbles up the pitch were often understated, as he tended to be more of a weaver than a straight bomber. However, his goal against New York Red Bulls II in 2017 was straight champagne and caviar.

Which defensive play stands out from Delbo? How about this masterful clearance off the line against Ottawa?

However, the first indelible moment that made Delbridge a fan favorite may have been from back in May 2016. Going up for an aerial challenge in a close game versus Harrisburg, Delbo caught a solid elbow just under the right eye that split him open like an overripe tomato.

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Credit: USL

After getting patched up, Delbo stuck it out for the rest of the ninety minutes, laying the first brick in an impressive career as FCC’s wall.

The Bad News (and the Good News)

After the final whistle of 2017, a lot of fans felt we had seen the last of Delbridge at FC Cincinnati. After gaining first-team honors for two straight years, MLS had to have noticed the Aussie’s heart and head, right? There was no way that a first-tier team would ignore all the minutes he had compiled.

But while MLS dawdled on making the call, a team from Harrison’s home country picked up the phone. Melbourne City FC from the Australian A-League swooped in to seal the deal, signing Delbridge to a three-year contract. It may be odd seeing Delbo in an Etihad Airways jersey, but it’s great to see him get his shot at a first-division team. Perhaps there’s room in Australia’s World Cup squad?

Who Can Replace Him?

So how do you replace someone who was such an anchor in the FC Cincinnati D-line?
There’s a good guess that Austin Berry’s captaincy will be replaced with Dekel Keinan’s deep experience in the Israeli Premier League, so it makes sense to fill the space next to him with a tall, physical presence who has a knack for clutch goals.

Forrest Lasso seems to be that natural replacement for Delbridge. Lasso’s age and height are comparable to Delbridge’s. While he may not have put in as much time as Delbo, Lasso put six USL and two USOC goals in the net in 2017, contributing quite a bit to Charleston’s +20 goal differential (5th in the USL). His performances in 2017 also put him on the USL All-League First Team with Delbridge. Lasso’s online presence and apparent desire to constantly improve himself should make him a quick fan favorite, but his nine yellow cards in 2017 could be a demerit.

If Koch wishes to give Lasso a rest, he could easily insert Paddy Barrett for defensive stability or Sem De Wit for familiarity with Koch’s system, but this should be Lasso’s position for the 2018 season. If he’s able to give us performances like the ladder he climbed in the 2015 playoffs (or the two goals he scored on FC Cincinnati last year), he should be a perfect fit.

Good On Ya, Harry!

When trivia questions are ultimately written about the Orange and Blue in a future Cincinnati version of Trivial Pursuit, people should store this choice piece of information in their brains—the first-ever game-winning goal for FC Cincinnati was scored by Delbridge in the 2016 preseason against NYCFC. Sure, it doesn’t count in the standings, but it speaks volumes about the type of player Harrison was for FCC.

We’re going to miss Delbo’s unselfish play, his counterattacking ability, and perhaps that slotted PK against Chicago. Heart is something that is difficult to quantify, but as far as we can tell, Harry’s got loads of it.

Take it easy, mate, and good luck in the A-League!

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the FC Cincinnati 2018 season.

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Players I’m Going to Miss – Mitch Hildebrandt

2016 USL Goalkeeper of the year. The “Mitch Says No!” chant. The Chicago Fire PK shootout. A stroll down memory lane and a look at how FCC will cope without Mitch Hildebrandt in 2018.

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Before the preseason begins, Orange & Blue Press is covering some of the players who have moved away from the squad in efforts to further themselves either on or off the pitch. While some have retired, others have moved to bigger athletic challenges…

When the first Starting XI for FC Cincinnati was announced with Mitch Hildebrandt as the goalkeeper, there were admittedly some big gloves to fill from the onset. However, people that did their homework understood that Mitch had been slowly gaining confidence since turning pro in 2012, playing half the games for Minnesota United in the 2015 season.

Little did people in the Queen City realize that a team-building legend was being born in the process.

While it took a few weeks before the communication between defensive line and keeper stabilized, Hildebrandt became a bedrock for the 2016 FC Cincinnati season and a keystone that bridged the span between team and supporters. Mitch’s double-save effort against Toronto FC II in April 2016 gave FC Cincy its second SportsCenter Top 10 mention in three weeks, and his performances steamrolled from there.

Photos courtesy Ryan MeyerJoe Schmuck, and Joe Craven

Hildebrandt may not have burned down the record books in 2016, but considering he played in every game during the regular season, he put up iron-man numbers, playing the most minutes of any goalkeeper in the USL while giving up only 25 goals in the process (0.86 GPG). While the clean sheets were not as plentiful in 2017, Hildebrandt still played over 2,800 minutes and made 105 saves over 32 games.

Favorite Moments

Call it cliché to focus on the 2017 US Open Cup for most of Mitch’s work, but the other three games of Hildebrandt’s four-game clean-sheet run against Louisville, Columbus, and Miami often go forgotten in comparison to his incredible performance versus the Fire. Surprisingly, all of Hildebrandt’s 10 saves came after halftime. Of course, you all know what came next once PKs had started…

Even if you leave out the heroics from the US Open Cup run, the calls of “Mitch Says No!” were still quite loud from his performances during regular-season penalty kicks. The opposite hand sprawl save vs. Rochester was a defining moment of the 2016 season, while his last-second “three-point save” against Charlotte likely lifted the team into the 2017 playoffs.

The clutch saves from Hildebrandt often led to his celebratory claps with the Bailey after a home win, something that’s going to be hard to replace now that he’s moved down to Atlanta.

The Bad News (and the Good News)

Mitch absorbed a lot of punishment down the stretch in 2017 from a deteriorating defense, and after the crushing playoff exit against Tampa Bay, it appeared that he would have to compete to get his starting spot in net. Perhaps that was the writing on the wall, as Hildebrandt signed with Atlanta soon after the season ended, trading in one mesmerizing fan atmosphere for another.

However, while the cords sometimes get severed when a popular player leaves the squad, Hildebrandt was courteous and humble in his departure. He returned shortly after the announcement to help auction off his gear for charity and worked closely with Listermann Brewing to create a series of beers to honor military veterans and his late father.

There may end up being a complex silver lining in the end. Since the signing, Atlanta has announced their own “United 2” USL team, so if Hildebrandt isn’t able to ascend the ladder to get a place on the MLS squad, there’s an awfully good chance that Mitch will come back to Cincinnati on May 5th to say “No!” once again at Nippert Stadium. (Granted, it will be for the other team, so that’s a bittersweet pill to swallow.)

Who Can Replace Him?

FC Cincinnati finds themselves in a position they were in two years ago, as all three goalkeepers from last season are no longer with the team. This has forced Coach Koch to seek out another batch of net-minders to protect the pipes, and in the process, he’s brought in Jack Stern, FCC’s third goalkeeper coach in three years. Stern’s work with West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League and Montreal Impact in the MLS could be the kick needed to keep the level of goalkeeper play high despite the turnover.

FC Cincinnati managed to sign three capable keepers who all could likely fill the role left by Hildebrandt. In terms of USL seniority and capacity, Evan Newton is likely the first name to be circled. The 29-year-old Newton took the starting GK role in 2017 at Sacramento and played very admirably, making 73 saves and gathering 7 clean sheets in 26 starts (2,370 minutes). While Hildebrandt’s PK performance against Chicago was impressive, Newton himself was a wall in the 2017 playoffs—facing the #1 seed Real Monarchs in the first round, Newton stymied the Monarchs in PKs, saving two of the four shots he faced. His experience could be the decider for the starting position.

If FCC opts to trust youth and MLS experience, they could put their stock in Spencer Richey, who is on loan from the Vancouver Whitecaps. The 25-year-old Richey played most of the games with the Vancouver USL affiliate over the past three years, meaning that he has worked quite a bit with Koch as his head coach. While his USL numbers (3 clean sheets, 1.29 GPG) have been average, he performed well for the Vancouver MLS side early last season in the Canadian Championship semifinal and CONCACAF Champions League.

The longest shot to start is Mark Village, who also played for Vancouver Whitecaps 2 over the past few years. Unlike Newton and Richey, the 25-year-old Village has only one professional game under his belt, picking up 4 saves in a 1-1 tie against Real Monarchs late last season. (He did get USL October Save of the Month in that one game, denying now-teammate Daniel Haber in the process.)

The other big consideration is the distribution of minutes for all three goalkeepers. Hildebrandt’s star status in Cincinnati meant that he played an incredibly high number of minutes, topping the USL in that category the past two years. An argument could be made that Hildebrandt burned out late last season from overuse, while backups Dallas Jaye and Dan Williams were saved more for US Open Cup and friendly matchups. Coach Koch may have to be flexible with his new three-man squad, and Cincinnati fans will have to think of new chants for their keepers.

Even “Mitch-A-Palooza” Must End

It was quite likely that all of Cincinnati knew Hildebrandt would be in high demand after his USOC performances against Columbus and Chicago. While there may be a low probability Mitch gets the starting nod over Brad Guzan in net, it is wonderful to see him get his shot as the next FCC original to make the step to the MLS.

That doesn’t make the parting that much easier. We owe a lot to Mitch for making our Orange & Blue so much fun to cheer for, and it will be difficult to fill the void when the first big save of 2018 is made. We are gracious for every sprawl, catch, and victory clap you gave us in the Queen City, Mitch—while this isn’t a permanent goodbye, here’s hoping that there are many more times you say “no” in the future.

Thank you.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.

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Players I’m Going to Miss – Andrew Wiedeman

Andrew Wiedeman is one of the most popular players in FC Cincinnati’s short history. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and discuss how the Orange and Blue will cope without him.

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We’re continuing our series that looks back at the players we won’t see suit up in Orange and Blue this season, and discuss how we’ll cope without them. Next up…

Andrew Wiedeman.

He’s possibly the most popular player to ever put on an Orange and Blue jersey, and he made contributions both on and off the field that will be hard to replicate. He was our second-leading goalscorer in 2016, behind Golden Boot winner Sean Okoli. That hair too, …amazing hair. He’s an “inaugural” and he will surely be missed.

Photos courtesy Ryan Meyer, Joe Schmuck, and Joe Craven

Favorite Moments

“Wieda” scored the first goal in franchise history* in 2016 against Bethlehem Steel FC. He also scored a perfectly good onside goal in extra-time that could have won the US Open Cup match against the Chicago Fire, but was sadly disallowed.

He scored a number of memorable goals but none were more impressive than this individual effort against the Charleston Battery. It was one of the top 10 goals of the USL’s 2017 season.

Where’s He Going

After FC Cincinnati’s 2017 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, he told traveling fans about his plans to retire. He confirmed that news last Wednesday via Twitter and the FC Cincinnati press release that followed.

Many hoped Wiedeman might pursue a coaching role or continue playing and accept a locker room leadership role like the one Omar Cummings performed in 2017. Alas, it was not to be. He recently married in his native California and is planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of California – Berkeley, where he played college soccer.

Who Can Replace Him?

Wiedeman spent most of his on-field time positioned in an attacking role on the right flank. He tucked inside frequently, and at times operated in a playmaking capacity behind the forwards.

The replacement for him is not immediately clear because we don’t yet know Koch’s preferred formation. It’s not clear if wingers will play as prominent of a role in this year’s setup as they have the past two seasons. So we’ll look at both playmakers and right-footed attackers that could replace the roles filled by FC Cincinnati’s #23.

In terms of playmaking ability, Alan Koch added talent in that category superior to what this team has seen in the past. Emmanuel Ledesma is a right-footed forward that has playmaking ability in buckets. His 73 chances-created in 2017 led the NASL by a large margin. The Argentine also accumulated 10 goals and six assists in only 17 starts. Ledesma could certainly set up on the right and drift inside to attack and create for others. He is likely to start and should be a treat to watch in 2018.

One can also look to Nazmi Albadawi as a talent that can replace the playmaking work that Weideman contributed. He’s more of a midfielder than a forward though and one would expect him to contribute to the team in that capacity. He’ll also likely play more centrally than Wiedeman typically did.

Jimmy McLaughlin has almost always featured on the left, but could flip to the right, and play the same role. Daniel Haber is also a natural right winger. The 25-year-old Toronto native has 14 goals and 5 assists over the past two seasons with Whitecaps 2 and Real Monarchs. Emery Welshman is also a righty, and a forward whose speed could be an asset on the wing. The Guyana native accumulated 11 goals between his time at Real Monarchs and Puerto Rico FC between 2015 and 2017. Welshman has a lot of potential, but we’ll see whether he can break into the first team on this loaded roster.

FC Cincinnati’s preseason slate of games should give us more clues as to exactly how Wiedeman’s role will be filled with this new cast of characters. Regardless of who does the job, the Orange and Blue shouldn’t be short on attacking prowess in 2018.

“Wieds was fanstastic”

Alan Koch had the following to say about Wiedeman’s retirement after the first session of preseason training.

Wieds was fanstastic, an unbelievable guy, not just with our group but in the community, he had a great career as a player and obviously we wish him nothing but the best moving forward…, but he was a huge member of the club for the past two years and we’ve obviously had to identify guys to come in and replace him.”

It’s clear that Andrew Wiedeman’s play, his spirit, and his humor made a connection with the Cincinnati community. He’s an Orange and Blue legend and he will be missed. Thanks Wieda and good luck in the next chapter.

It’s going to be hard to replace this.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.
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*regular season USL goal, excludes 2016 preseason

Thoughts On Harkes’ Departure

In the aftermath of the dismissal of coach John Harkes, FC Cincinnati fans are left to speculate about what went wrong and where FC Cincinnati goes from here.

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A day after the dismissal of John Harkes as head coach of FC Cincinnati, there’s no additional information about the circumstances of his departure. I’m sure the club prefers not to air its laundry any more than is necessary and wants to refocus attention on the team and the season ahead. Time will tell whether Harkes comes forward with more information about what actually transpired. Until that happens or some inside information leaks, any analysis of the reason for his dismissal is just speculation.

People are going to speculate. It’s human nature to speculate whether it’s helpful or not. Without a clear understanding of what happened and why, speculation will result.

John Harkes, both as a name and as a man, brought excitement and passion to the club. He also presented himself as a genuine guy that cared about the city, the club, its supporters and its success. He brought a sense of humor to most of his interactions that many appreciated. Just last Monday, I brought my two young daughters to a book signing and he was there at the end of a two hour session, happily engaging with them in a fun and genuine way. People connected with that and will miss it.

It’s ok for fans to be shocked and angry about the change. Supporters need time to react, have their say, think about what it means, and get over it to whatever extent they need to. People adjust to change and bad news differently, and at different speeds. What seems certain though is that Harkes isn’t coming back, so let’s get that process started.

The firing is significant and shocking because of the weight of the Harkes name, and the perceived success of the first season. He is a U.S. soccer legend. It was clearly a successful 2016 season. There must have been a very good reason to change the recipe so significantly just before the start of this year’s campaign.

The dismissal is also significant and shocking because of the unusual timing of the event. Coaches and players come and go. Their time with any particular club is often no more than a few years. They usually go as the result of clearer circumstances such as poor results or another opportunity elsewhere. Neither applies in this case.

This portion of yesterday’s press release is interesting. It describes new head coach Alan Koch as follows, “Alan leads by example, is a strong communicator and has established very clear expectations for himself and the players. We feel his disciplined approach will be key for a successful season.” It could be just wording but the words imply that Koch brings a level of discipline and organization that was perhaps not there before. Again, this is speculation.

Alan Koch is certainly an impressive soccer professional and qualified to lead this club forward. Orange and Blue Press recently interviewed Koch about his role with the club. While his role is much larger now as head coach, check out the segment (which includes audio) for more background on the new man in charge. There’s a lot more to be said about Koch but we have the rest of the season to do that.

No coach or player is bigger than the club, even with a club this young. FC Cincinnati will move forward and still has the ability to continue its rapid growth and have a successful 2017 season. The talent and depth on this squad is better than most in USL. As long as Koch can get his players refocused quickly, favorable results should follow.

Well that was all a bit too serious wasn’t it? The one certain cure for all this drama is some football. That football arrives tomorrow at 3:30pm when FC Cincinnati takes on OKC Energy in the team’s first preseason match.

What do you think? Air your grievances in the comments section.

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Rise Together Book Signing

FC Cincinnati closed out the week with a training session at UC. Season ticket holders were invited to watch and then participate in a book signing event.

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Coach John Harkes greets the fans that came out for the Rise Together book signing.

FC Cincinnati closed out this week with another preseason training session at Sheakley Athletics Center on Saturday. Season ticket holders were invited to watch the last half-hour of practice and then participate in a book signing event. FC Cincinnati recently released Rise Together: Celebrating FC Cincinnati’s Inaugural Season which documents last year’s historic campaign.

You can get a copy of the book by visiting the FC Cincinnati website here. Stay tuned to FC Cincinnati for information on additional book signing events. There will be one specifically for those who preordered the book. There will also be a public book signing at Joseph Beth in Hyde Park on Monday, February 13, from 5:00-7:30 p.m.

Saturday Practice

Photos courtesy of JES Photography/Joe Schmuck.

Book Signing

FC Cincinnati plays the first of six preseason games against OKC Energy on February 19th in Bradenton, Florida. Stay tuned to Orange and Blue press for more coverage and color commentary of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.

FC Cincinnati’s Five Must-See Home Matches

FC Cincinnati released the full schedule for its second season on Tuesday. There are five home matches that stand out from the rest and are must-see events.

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FC Cincinnati released its long-awaited 2017 schedule on Tuesday afternoon. The USL calendar was delayed by several weeks waiting for US Soccer to make a decision on division two sanctioning. The USL received division two status and now, less than two months before the season begins, the full schedule is available.

FC Cincinnati begins the season with a challenging three game road trip. They face the Charleston Battery, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and Bethlehem Steel on three consecutive weekends starting on March 25th. Orange and Blue Press highly recommends taking in these games with the team’s most passionate supporters at Rhinehaus OTR, Molly Malone’s Covington, or one of FC Cincinnati’s pub partners.

All of the home matches at Nippert Stadium are, of course, worth your while. But the five matches listed below are must-see events. Mark your calendars, change your plans, take a day off, get a dog-sitter, cancel your vacation. Do what you have to do to support the Orange and Blue.

April 15th – Saint Louis FC (Home Opener) –  Get your taxes done early so you can see FC Cincinnati return to Nippert after a six month respite. The release of the pent-up Bailey energy on April 15th will be something to behold. Saint Louis FC is a new member of the Eastern conference, migrating from the USL’s West to balance the two conferences. FC Cincinnati played Saint Louis twice and beat them twice in 2016. A revamped Saint Louis FC, led by former US international Preki, will be looking for revenge. This early season game will also carry the weight of an MLS expansion rivalry.

April 22nd – Louisville City FC – The home leg of Dirty River Derby (a.k.a. River Cities Cup) is the #1 match of the season. It’s that simple. Take into account that FC Cincinnati has signed away not one but two LCFC players, including their captain. This match is going to be nasty and will feature a loud traveling contingent from Louisville. FC Cincinnati travels to Louisville for the second and third legs of this three games series. Mark July 15th and August 12th as travel dates on your calendar.

June 17th – Charleston Battery  – If FC Cincinnati has a bogey team this early in its existence, it’s the Charleston Battery. They’re 0-2-1 against the Battery, including the home playoff loss that ended FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season. This will be a revenge match against the old guard of a very new-look USL. They came into our house twice last year and took four points. That can’t happen in 2017.

August 23rd – Ottawa Fury – Two teams, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Ottawa Fury, defected from the troubled NASL to the USL’s Eastern Conference this offseason. Some may argue that Tampa is the more interesting matchup, considering our history and the competition over MLS expansion. However, the Tampa game is on a Wednesday and is sandwiched between two other must-see games. So Ottawa may be the game you earmark if you can only check out one of the two former NASL clubs this season.

September 16th – New York Red Bulls II  – The Baby Bulls were the class of the league last season, winning both the regular season and the USL Cup. FC Cincinnati lost to them twice last year, and both games were haunted by questionable refereeing decisions. The Orange and Blue will try to prove that they are the best of the East in the last home game of the regular season. Top playoff seeding will likely be on the line.

Honorable mention: September 2nd – Pittsburgh Riverhounds: What can you say, it’s Pittsburgh. The Riverhounds struggled in 2016 and all three matches the Orange and Blue played against them were, shall we say, tepid. It is Pittsburgh though. If you have Bengals baggage, this is the day to deal with it.

The full 2017 FC Cincinnati schedule can be found here. Times for all matches will be announced at a later date.

What do you think?  Which games are you most looking forward to seeing? Leave a comment below.

If you don’t have season tickets already, right now would be a stellar time to lock some up. Over 9,000 season tickets have been sold already.

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MLS Expansion News – Five Markets, Part Two

MLS expansion news from five more markets including recent updates from Cincinnati, Saint Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa / St. Petersburg.

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On Sunday, Orange and Blue Press released an article that covered MLS expansion updates for Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh, and Sacramento. This article will cover updates from the remaining five expansion markets, including Cincinnati.

Looking for more information on the basics of MLS expansion? Check out MLS Expansion 101.

For each market, the TV market size, existing team, venue, and investment group are listed along with a summary of recent developments. This information is followed by links to relevant news articles and resources. It’s important to note that the existing team in a market does not necessarily become the MLS team if a bid is granted, particularly if the team’s ownership is not part of the MLS bid.


Saint Louis

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Saint Louis, Missouri

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #21*
Team: Saint Louis FC – USL
Venue: A proposed $200M 20,000 seat stadium relying partially on public funds to be built near historic Union Station
Money: The SC STL investment group led by Paul Edgerley (Bain Capitol) and Jim Kavanaugh (Worldwide Technology / Saint Louis FC)
Summary: St. Louis’ bid has been regarded as an expansion frontrunner for some time, but has run into problems recently with a stadium proposal that relies partially on public funding.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 11/18 – St. Louis stadium proposal is revealed. [Fox 2]
  • 12/19 – Missouri’s governor elect Greitens is critical of the stadium proposal calling the public funding requested “welfare for millionaires.” [SI]
  • 12/23 – Saint Louis MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/5 – Counterpoint to “welfare for millionaires” [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/10 – Saint Louis Stadium public funding bill is thought to be dead [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/18 – Revived stadium bill calls for less tax money but more state-granted land. The decision on whether to put on April ballot has been postponed. [KSDK]

San Antonio

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San Antonio, Texas

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #31*
Team: San Antonio FC – USL
Venue: Toyota Field would be expanded to at least 18,000 seats, possibly larger (plans not yet public). The stadium was originally built for NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions (dissolved), and is now owned by the city of San Antonio. Expansion would be funded publicly by San Antonio and Bexar County.
Money: SSE (Spurs Sports & Entertainment), ownership group of the San Antonio Spurs
Summary: If the stadium expansion funding is approved, this bid has several pieces in place including a top notch ownership group and a USL team with solid first year fan support. SSE plays their cards extremely close to the vest, so it’s difficult to say what’s going on behind the scenes. The vote to approve funding for stadium expansion will not occur until November at the earliest. It’s difficult to see how that fits with MLS’ decision time frame, especially for expansion spots 25 and 26. Spots 27 or 28 are more likely targets for this bid.

Recent News & Resources: 

  • 10/3 – San Antonio FC’s successful first season in USL. [Soccer Stadium Digest]
  • 12/15 – Bexar County is exploring funding for Toyota Stadium expansion. [Business Journal]
  • 1/15 – Report that discusses the implications of the San Diego Chargers move on San Antonio and questions the price tag of public funding for the stadium expansion. [Rivard]

San Diego

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San Diego, California

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #28*
Team: Albion Pros – NPSL – Both USL and NASL are rapidly trying to stand up franchises in SD.
Venue: A proposed $200M stadium that could be shared with San Diego State University at the site of the existing Qualcomm Stadium
Money: Investment group led by Mike Stone (FS Investors) and Steve Altman (formerly Qualcomm)
Summary: Although the San Diego bid is behind others in terms of organization, the departure of the Chargers leaves a sports void that some believe is a game changer for the expansion picture in the West. Today the investment group announced their plans, a stadium rendering, and an aggressive timeline.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/6 – USL and NASL rumored to be starting franchises in San Diego [Soccer Nation]
  • 1/12 – San Diego Chargers leave for Los Angles, leaving void in San Diego sports market. [S.D. Union Tribune]
  • 1/13 – Garber speaks to San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer about expansion after departure of the Chargers [MLS]
  • 1/15 – Not everyone in San Diego wants MLS…”soccer is never, ever going to be the answer. It’s soccer.” [S.D. Union Tribune]
  • 1/23 – The ownership group (previously unnamed) was confirmed and they report plans to build a privately funded $1B multi-use complex, with a $200M stadium that an MLS team could share with San Diego State University.  [San Diego Tribune]
  • 1/23 – The investors would purchase the land at market value from the city and the city would agree to share maintenance costs. An urgent adoption of the plan by the city is requested by January 31st. [NBC7 SD]

Tampa / St. Petersburg

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St. Petersburg, Florida

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #11*
Team: Tampa Bay Rowdies – NASL
Venue: The Rowdies current venue, publicly owned Al Lang stadium, would be expanded from 7,800 to 18,000 seats and renovated with private funds. The city would then pay infrastructure costs and continue to lease the waterfront stadium to the Rowdies.
Money: Investment group led by Bill Edwards (Tampa Bay Rowdies owner, former real estate executive)
Summary: Tampa’s bid is strong because they are the largest TV market of the ten and their stadium plan is simple relative to other bids. The Tampa City Council will vote on the plan on May 2.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 12/6 – Tampa / St. Pete Announces MLS bid and stadium expansion plans [WFLA]
  • 1/4 – Tampa Bay City Council Meets to discuss stadium renovation proposal. [Tampa Bay Times]
  • 1/4 – Cincinnati Enquirer’s Pat Brennan explores Tampa Bay’s Al Lang stadium and bid for MLS expansion, labeling them “silent assasins.” [Cincinnati Enquirer]
  • 1/9 – Tampa Bay / St. Pete MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/10 – St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce is creating a special council to promote the Tampa bid. [Tampa Business Journal]

Cincinnati

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Cincinnati, Ohio

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #36*
Team: FC Cincinnati – USL
Venue: Currently sharing the 35,000 seat Nippert Stadium with the University of Cincinnati, but are looking to secure a site for a soccer specific stadium
Money: Investment group led by Carl Lindner III (Great American Insurance)
Summary: Garber’s visit in late November bolstered local hopes for an MLS future. Cincinnati’s bid has been quiet relative to many since the December MLS announcement though. Ownership and management are believed to be working hard behind the scenes on a privately funded stadium plan, but details are sparse.
Recent News & Resources:

  • 11/29 – Don Garber visits Cincinnati for Town Hall [O&B Press]
  • 12/15 – FC Cincinnati GM Berding says team is looking for 20 acre stadium site between Ohio river and University of Cincinnati [Cincinnati Enquirer]
  • 12/23 – Columbus article sites Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt’s possible reluctance (in July) over competing with another Ohio team. Precourt is one of a five member MLS expansion decision committee. [Columbus Dispatch]
  • 1/19 – Brief update on MLS expansion from FC Cincinnati GM Jeff Berding (VIDEO) –  [Local 12]

Summary

Cincinnati’s bid continues to be strong. A convincing plan for a privately-funded soccer specific stadium is the missing piece of the puzzle. That plan, combined with the current ownership, management, team, and fan support would give the plan credentials to compete with the best bids in the nation.

A few things become clear when looking at expansion updates from other markets.

First, the competition is strong and there is a lot of it. As Alexi Lalas stated in an Enquirer interview, “this is a gold rush”, with many of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen trying to stake a claim. Almost every bid has a billionaire level ownership group with professional sports expertise on staff. Each bid is looking for areas where it can differentiate itself.

Second, getting a stadium deal done is difficult and time consuming, especially if you are looking for help from the local public. The red tape and decision timeframes involved with public funding could be the demise of some of these bids.

Finally, the landscape of the expansion race can change very quickly. The Chargers left San Diego in early January, and overnight that market became dramatically more attractive. San Diego is the MLS expansion darling this week. Who will be next?

Expansion applications for all ten markets are due on January 31st. A decision on who gets the next two expansion slots is expected in the third fiscal quarter of 2017. A lot can change between now and then. Buckle up, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.

*NOTE: Nielsen DMAs are referenced in this article for TV market size information. DMAs seem most relevant to television advertising, but which market size ranking to use is debatable. Some argue that these markets could be combined with other nearby markets to create a larger market (i.e.: Cincinnati/Dayton). Because DMA’s combine surrounding areas already and there is no clear evidence that MLS is evaluating any markets as combined, this series of articles will not do so.

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USL D2 Sanctioning Matters to the Average FC Cincinnati Fan

The US Soccer Federation elevated USL to division two status along side the NASL. The decision is significant for the USL, FC Cincinnati, AND the average fan.

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As the dust settles on US Soccer’s decision to elevate USL from division three to division two status, the average FC Cincinnati supporter is asking “why should I care?”

When the season kicks off in March, it’s true that not much will look different (except for the recently widened Nippert field…nice!). FCC will play in USL, a lower tier of American soccer. NASL remains an independent league at the same division two level, so there will be no consolidation of leagues. Because of that, it’s likely that the USL will be structured the same with an Eastern and Western Conference. A few teams have come, a few have gone, but the names on the opposite side of the scoreboard will largely look the same. Not much different right?

From the USL’s perspective and the club’s perspective, this decision is clearly significant. The decision is a recognition by US Soccer of the success of the USL’s business and recent aggressive expansion. It’s a validation of their business model and a league structure that combines independent clubs, like FC Cincinnati, with MLS2 teams and affiliates. The elevated division status will make it easier for USL clubs to strike better advertising, sponsorship, TV, and radio deals. D2 status should equal increased revenue.

Although it means much more to many of its supporters, professional soccer is by definition a business. If FC Cincinnati and other USL clubs can capitalize financially on their elevated status and increase revenue, they will have more money to invest in the club, spend on players, improve training facilities, develop academy programs, build/improve stadiums, etc. Increased revenue, assuming that it is balanced with effective cost management, will also produce better year end statements validating USL clubs as a businesses. Owners make money, justifying their initial investment, clubs are worth more and can better attract additional investment if necessary. Soccer grows, from a business perspective.

So no, we won’t see a big difference at this year’s home opener at Nippert, but division two status should impact the product on display and the financial health of the club in the long term. How much more revenue will there be at division two than division three? That’s debatable.

Disagree? Good, it’s all about dialogue. Tell us why in the comments section.

It’s important to note that US Soccer’s decision is provisional. USL has work to do to secure this status going forward. It should also be mentioned that both USL and NASL have had their fair share of up and downs. The lower divisions of American soccer continue to be very dynamic, and sometimes not in a good way. Good business needs to continue and supporters need to support, or a lot can change very quickly.

Sympathy for NASL Supporters

It’s likely that very few NASL supporters want sympathy from FC Cincinnati fans, but they deserve it. US Soccer’s decision gives the NASL a life line, but a lot has to be done to restore that league to full health. Many dedicated fans in those cities are looking on with uncertainty as their club’s future hangs in the balance. These supporters are the fabric of American soccer culture and are the same as you and me in everything but geography.

Well all that crap was quite serious right, how about something lighter?

The best part of this mess was Friday’s social media meltdown as reporters, supporters, and the clubs themselves waited well into the evening for the repeatedly delayed decision. The announcement was expected in the afternoon but didn’t come until 9:10pm Eastern.

Fortunately, the soccer community entertained each other with four jokes on repeat for about six hours. Here’s a statistically accurate breakdown of that humor.

59% Comparing US Soccer’s decision making process to a soccer game going to penalty kicks

22% Comparing US Soccer’s decision making process to  a papal election ceremony (white smoke, etc.)

11% A Russian hacking attack has the meeting in disarray. Systems down!

6% Jill Stein requested a recount

2% Sunil Gulati dick jokes

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more color leading up to the 2017 season. With this decision out of the way, a USL season schedule should be forthcoming.