The IMG Suncoast Preseason is behind us and FC Cincinnati emerged as the tournament's champions. Although not part of the regular season, the club drew against against Icelandic outfit KR Reykjavik while defeating HB Koge of Denmark and NYCFC of MLS. Looking forward, FCC will be playing Xavier University in a local friendly on March 18th at the University's field. For many, it will be our first chance to see the team play in person. We're hosting a gathering at Listerman's down the street beforehand. The club then opens up the regular season on the road in Charleston followed by a match in Pennsylvania against another expansion side, Bethlehem Steel. They'll return home for another college team friendly, playing against the University of Dayton at Nippert Stadium, and then a few days later host their first home league match against Charlotte Independence.
The next matchup after that, though, will be an interesting one. On April 16th FCC will meet downriver rivals Louisville City FC for the first time. The Coopers, an LCFC supporters group, recently posted up a preview of what this Eastern Conference matchup looks like on their end. We enjoyed it, but wanted to offer up our perspective of the impending rivalry as well.
Eastern Conference Preview: Louisville City FC
While affectionately known as "the world's game," soccer was invented in Louisville. About an hour and a half down I-71 from Cincinnati, Louisville City FC is one of the longest tenured clubs in the history of the sport. Although they've (to borrow a quote from The Coopers) "decided they're too good for our league," LCFC is a storied franchise donning a corporate “health and well-being company” sponsor on their kits. They play their games at the soccer specific Slugger Field, where they're also kind enough to share it with a minor league baseball team. 8,000 tickets constitutes a sellout. FCC is nearing half that number in season ticket holders alone.
Like many USL clubs that don't have a "2" at the end of their name, LCFC's roster is lined with a couple of players who (to quote the Coopers) "couldn't hack it in MLS." Chandler Hoffman, a forward, joined Louisville this past December after stints with MLS' Philadelphia Union, LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo. Defender Ben Newman appeared with the Colorado Rapids in one match and is also new to LCFC this year. Midfielder Andrew Lubhan appeared with the Harrisburg City Islanders (to again quote The Coopers: "that's not a compliment”), after trying out with the top league's Portland Timbers. Overall, the LCFC squad is staffed primarily with young talent that gave the club a truly impressive 2015 season. The team is lead by Matt Fondy, a standout in 2015 who scored 21 goals for the season including a hat trick this past September. Fondy has been a fan favorite and he'll be a a real challenge for the FCC defense.
EDIT: Nevermind, Fondy went to Jacksonville.
Louisville City is lead by James O' Connor, a former player in top Irish and English leagues as well as with Orlando City during it's pre MLS days. He became head coach of LCFC in 2015 and led the club through an exciting season that included two rounds of the US Open Cup, a friendly victory over MLS side Orlando City, and a decent showing in the USL playoffs. He's also apparently an amateur beekeeper:
Although behind FC Cincinnati in season ticket holders, Lou City attracts several supporters groups who complimented the team's on field success last year. According to the team website, college students make up the Cardinal Crew, the Heretics are apparently known for their "hugs and off the wall" antics, the biblically inspired Derby City Ultras are "hardcore and unpredictable," and if you want plain old fashioned family fun check out "Scouse's House." Maybe the most well known though is The Coopers, a well-organized and vocal SG that is always organizing, coordinating, and refreshing Twitter. They're all part of what makes a match at Slugger Field so unique and have all helped create an experience that isn't just well known throughout the USL, but the greater soccer culture as well. While they've been overly critical of FCC's corporate sponsors, they'll make a road trip to Louisville an interesting time when my friends and I head down there in our all new 2016 Toyota Camry with 8-way adjustable driver's seat, V6 engine, and smart safety technology that we got at a very affordable price.
Hey LCFC fans: Any of you heading up to Cincinnati? We'd love to share a beer with you at Rhinegeist before the match.
Special thanks to Tom Niehaus for his help with this post.