Lindsay Patterson and Pat Brennan discuss FC Cincinnati’s MLS home-opener against Portland Timbers FC.
At some point, all this soccer magic will cease, or at least ebb a bit. Things will go well, but not perfectly. We are Cincinnati, after all. Sports magic is not something we’re good at.
On the true St. Patrick’s Day, FCC once again was the franchise holding the four-leaf clovers. The lads dispatched the visiting Portland Timbers and the Nippert stands were full (the first local pro sellout since the Reds’ Opening Day game last year). The MLS commissioner said Cincinnati was partly responsible for igniting the pro soccer explosion in America.
Excuse us for believing we inhabit some sort of parallel Fußßball universe.
“I’m convinced that soccer can be successful in any market in this country at the MLS level,” said Don Garber, the MLS commissioner, who made an appearance at halftime. “I am 100 percent sure there isn’t a market MLS wouldn’t succeed in if we have the right owner and stadium plan.”
Sounds like us.
“(Cincinnati) was a good part of it,” Garber said. “I never really thought of Cincinnati as a real soccer city. To see them stand for the first 45 minutes … it’s a heartwarming day.”
I’m getting worn out with all the FC Cincy gush-praise, honestly. I’m not a club employee and I’ve got a grinch-rep to maintain. But c’mon. “As good as any opening we’ve had,” Garber called Sunday’s event. “I’m sure I’ll say that when I go to Nashville and Austin and …” wherever else MLS plants its boot.
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About the win over Portland, the defending Western Conference champs: All the right moves aren’t limited to those made by management and ownership.
In the 15th minute (14:28 into the game, to be accurate for posterity’s sake) defender Kendall Waston’s header wrinkled the Portland net just behind goalie Jeff Attinella’s right shoulder. The assembled fanatics screamed out their larynxes. Blue and orange smoke poured from The Bailey. The first home goal, ever, was scored by a 31-year-old center back from Costa Rica.
Then in the 61st minute, Allan Cruz, another Costa Rican, back-heeled a goal past Attinella. Cruz gathered in a deflected shot by Roland Lamah that had Attinella leaning the wrong way. Cruz’s shot had the speed of a canoe in tranquil water, but the footwork was sublime.
Two minutes later, Mathieu Deplagne from France, made it 3-0 on an assist by Darren Mattocks, a Jamaican.
There could be a pattern here.
I asked Garber if the MLS had made it easier on its expansion teams than any of the major pro sports in the U.S. If you are of a certain age, you might remember the 1962 Mets. Or the ’69 Montreal Expos (52-110) or the ’76 Tampa Bay Bucs (0-14).
Garber said MLS’ “product strategy committee” discussed this a few weeks ago. Owners, Garber said, “are beginning to think they’re making it too easy on the new clubs. I remind them that it is an international market.
“The core of many teams are players coming from outside the league. If you’re smart, you hire a good technical general manager, you hire a good coach and you understand the business, you can be successful. It’s a global game.”
That explains how FC Cincinnati won with two goals from Costa Ricans, one from a Frenchman and an assist from a Jamaican. “We’re not in a closed market. If you’re expanding in a traditional league, there’s only a certain number of American football players available. You add more teams, you’re just diluting your existing player pool,’’ Garber said.
The world’s game has no shortage of talent. And judging from Sunday’s two-hour howl-a-palooza, no shortage of passion.
The first home game was never going to be merely a game, but rather a historic local artifact. One for the time capsule, same as that 58-yard TD pass John Stofa threw to Bob Trumpy on Sept. 15, 1968, for the Bengals’ first home-field touchdown. (Also at Nippert Stadium. The more things change …)
At a time when our “small market’’ teams are flailing, partly for financial reasons, the Tristate is still big-time enough to go pro in a third major league sport. A visiting TV guy from Fox Sports, John Strong, said it best on Saturday.
“That’s the opportunity that’s here,” said Strong. “For people to go, ‘holy smokes, Cincinnati’.”
Holy smokes, indeed. The next false step will be the first.