FC Cincinnati burst onto the North American soccer scene, breaking attendance records, winning titles and becoming a lower-division Cinderella in the U.S. Open Cup. Their move to MLS could hardly could have gone worse. Through two seasons, they’ve been among the worst expansion teams ever and have changed head coaches four times. But they seem to have turned over a new stone this year, moving into their own stadium and spending gobs of money over the offseason.
2020 record: 4-15-4, 14th Eastern Conference, Playoffs: N/A)
Head coach: Jaap Staam
Key additions: Brenner, Lucho Acosta
Key losses: Kendall Waston
Projected Best XI
Best offseason move: Brenner’s move to Cincinnati was by far the biggest, most expensive move this offseason in MLS. Indeed, at $13 million, it’s not far off from some of the biggest moves in the world. FC Cincinnati needed to figure out who would score goals after a poor 2020 and they decided the solution was to be as ambitious as possible. They went and got the hottest young striker straight out of Brazil. At just 21 years old, Brenner doesn’t yet have a lot of experience. But what experience he does have indicates quality, with 22 goals for São Paulo last year.
Reasons to be worried about FC Cincinnati: To be a Cincinnati sports fan means to be worried about everything. Somehow, no matter what sport nor how good the team is, things just always seem to fall apart for the city’s teams. And that’s maybe especially true for FC Cincinnati. On the field, the club’s struggled, finishing dead last two years in a row. That first year, the team couldn’t defend whatsoever, letting in a historic number of goals. Last year, the team cleaned up its defense a bit, but then completely lost their ability to attack. To address that issue, FC Cincy’s brought in new players,almost completely replacing the roster from that disastrous inaugural season. But there’s that worry that all the pieces won’t quite fit. The big concern is that the team won’t be able to get past those problems of past years, and that we’ll see the problems in defense or attack pop right back up.
Why FC Cincinnati are worth watching: FC Cincinnati has got just about everything you need for an entertaining season. They’ve got some of the biggest crowds in the league, passionate and loud fans willing their team on. They’ve got a brand new home with the team opening up their very own stadium in the historic West End neighborhood in the center of the city. The club’s got some of the flashiest and most expensive attacking talent in the league in the likes of Brenner and Lucho Acosta. And, finally FC Cincyi has that bit of dysfunction that you need to keep everybody on their toes. Look, the team’s got the talent potential to legitimately be a good team in MLS. But that’s only come with the team’s own self-inflicted hardships. That means that, while it’s hard to make predictions, it’s definitely safe to say that the club is going to have its ups and downs. Success will come down to whether the team can make that dance on that precarious line between success and catastrophe. Fans will certainly be hoping the team lands on the right side of that line. But however it ends, it’s going to be quite the trip.