Saturday was a beautiful day, the kind that makes you think Spring has finally arrived in Cincinnati. Down in South Carolina though, the weather was a stark contrast to the blue skies of the Queen City. Thunderstorms were rolling in over Charleston, a ten hour drive from the packed confines of Rhinehaus. Once the weather delay passed, the stream kicked in, the teams started taking the field, and the bar erupted in joy.
The 2016 regular season, FC Cincinnati's first, was beginning.
By now, you already know the result: a 1-0 loss via a late Charleston goal in the 94th minute. When it all ended, I honestly can't say I felt disappointment. At least not in the way I've felt it as a Cincinnati sports fan before.
I was there when the Reds went down in that lone 2010 home playoff game against the Phillies. I fell into sorrow when they dropped the playoffs to the Giants in 2012. I nearly wept after that disastrous play-in game at Pittsburgh in 2013. I've watched The Bengals blow playoff games with regularity and just a few months ago, I sat in the rain at Paul Brown Stadium as our NFL team continued their trend. In the wake of FCC's regular season opening loss, I've heard a lot of opinions amounting to: "well, that's Cincinnati sports for you." I don't buy into that.
Would a win have been nice? Absolutely.
Would it have made a statement? Certainly.
However, things looked pretty good for an expansion team still starting to gel.
Maybe the game would've been different had the rain held off. Several attempts looked promising only to end in players falling and throwing up splashes of water as the barroom crowd exhaled in disappointment. It's on to Bethlehem from here.
What made the night great in spite of defeat was how things came together. The real season had begun, the team we've been rallying around was taking the field. We came together as supporters for something other than a preseason friendly. We stood together, shoulder to shoulder, eyes glued to the projector screen as we chanted, cheered, and raised our glasses. That moment when the game started: it was fantastic. Fantastic to be there in the heart of the city. Fantastic to be there supporting something in unity. As a Cincinnati sports fan, it was a moment to remember.
I asked on social media: how did everyone else take in the game? @theliammalone reported via Twitter that Molly Malone's in Covington was just as packed with fans viewing the game on almost every screen. Others journeyed to places like Fifty West. Bob Brumberg remarked: "Finally, here we go," while catching the last twenty minutes on his phone. My buddy Matt Wilkes opted to stay in for the night, watching the stream from home with a cold beer. Tyler Hoefinghoff watched from his dorm room at Ohio State. Casey Grady may have been the farthest reaching fan as he streamed the game on his phone all the way in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Some saw it in person.
Welcomed by The Regiment, a Charleston Battery supporters group, a few Die Innenstadt members made the 600+ mile journey to the game itself. Ryan, Jocelyn, and Justin joined The Pride on the road. They stopped in Asheville, NC along the way to break up the drive by visiting breweries and eating delicious food. In Charleston they prepared with rain ponchos and beer, joining The Regiment for a tailgate at MUSC Stadium, one of the first soccer specific stadiums in the country. Among the typical tailgate offerings, Battery supporters inserted some local flair with blue crab and Frogmore Stew: a boiled concoction of shrimp, corn, potatoes, and sausage.
According to those on the trip, "The Battery fans were extremely friendly" and couldn't have been a better group to "welcome us into the USL." Despite Charleston donning black and gold, colors found to be vile amongst most Cincinnati sport fans, the fine folks down there were kind enough to invite FCC supporter's to the Three Lion's Club after the match.
Back in Cincinnati, we cheered when catching a glimpse of our fellow members on screen:
It's a solid start to the season despite the outcome. The boys travel to Bethlehem for a match this Sunday. They'll take on another expansion side who just opened the season in Montreal, winning 1-0. FCC might not have been able to start the regular season with a win, but maybe this Sunday they'll be able to rout Bethlehem in the Steel’s first ever regular season home match. When it all goes down, we'll be back at Rhinehaus.
...then it's on to Nippert.