It’s been a week of anticipation and a week of trash talk. Coming off a huge win in front of a massive crowd in the team’s inaugural home opener at Nippert Stadium, emotions were high. FC Cincinnati had made a statement to the USL and to the city: they had arrived. The preseason, those first regular season matches, and the home opener were now behind us. The next benchmark was approaching: Louisville City FC. Just an hour and a half down 71, it was only natural that LCFC would become a rival to the boys in orange and blue. It also helped that their fans have been very critical, to say the least, of FCC and its supporters. All in good fun, the banter between fans escalated this past week heading into the first round of the "River Cities Cup," or as fans started calling it: "The Dirty River Derby." The stakes were high. This wasn’t just game 4, this was the first match against Louisville and it was on our own home turf.
We changed things up a bit on Saturday. Instead of Rhinegeist and our march up the hill, we opted for Mecklenburg Gardens and a march through uptown. The good folks at The Meck were wonderful hosts and kept the beer flowing as the crowd swelled from just a few to well over a hundred.
For me personally, I wasn’t sure that this week could top the feelings of the home opener. As I had remarked, that had been one of my greatest moments as a Cincinnati sports fan. However, as the time drew near, I found myself and the entire biergarten becoming incredibly excited. It became a frenzy as we gathered our things, unfurled the flags, began the chants, and started marching towards Nippert.
Last week, 14,658 fans braved frigid temperatures to come out to Nippert. This week, the weather was far more cooperative. Mid 70s, bright sun, and blue skies all the way through the neighborhood. Chants echoed up University Ave., down Short Vine, and into the University. Just outside of Nippert’s gates, we waited for our friends in The Pride and our collective band of supporters then proceeded into the stadium’s entrance and into The Bailey.
We sang the national anthem and raised our TIFO: “Bustin’ Barrels.” A play on the original Donkey Kong video game, it featured the hero Mario clad in orange and blue dropping a hammer on the villainous Donkey Kong in the Louisville colors of purple and gold. In the game, Donkey Kong would throw barrels in an attempt to stop Mario. In our case, the barrel served as a nod to The Coopers, currently the only “recognized” LCFC supporters group. A “cooper” is a barrel maker. Several Die Innenstadt members put a lot of time and effort into hand painting this TIFO (as they always do). It turned out great.
The enthusiasm continued even as the section to our left filled with visiting Louisville fans. The smoke from the start of the game had barely settled when hometown hero Austin Berry drove in the first goaI. I wish that would have set the tone, but odds are if you’re reading this, you know how the game ended up.
I’ll leave the play-by-play to those with more detailed insights, but I can tell you as a fan it was frustrating. Things just never seemed to come together like they had in past games. You’d see a chance forming only to watch it disappear or get interrupted by a staunch Louisville defense.
Nevertheless, I’m incredibly proud of Die Innenstadt, The Pride, The Den, The Legion, and everyone in attendance (except for those of you who started "The Wave"). No one let up on the chanting and cheering as Lou City scored again, and again, and again. "Hat's off" to LC's Chandler Hoffman for scoring all three of the opposition's goals, a respectable feat.
Kudos as well to Louisville’s fans and supporters for making the trip. You folks showed up and brought a lot of energy and support for your squad on the road. Someone had to leave disappointed; I just wish it was you and not us.
All those Louisville supporters helped contribute to something big: Saturday night’s record setting attendance. Previously, the USL’s highest attended regular season game had been 20,231 at Sacramento in 2014. On April 16th 2016, at Nippert Stadium, FCC vs Louisville City drew 20,497 - a new regular season USL record (and more than double the amount Lou City has ever seen (you won this game, but I still have to gloat about something)).
The attendance numbers were a beautiful silver lining to a frustrating match and I genuinely appreciated the nod and applause from the section of Lucy fans when it was announced. I hope the attendance stays high, I hope the people coming realize we have something special here.
Even with a goal in stoppage time, FCC still fell by 1. What is there to say about a loss? You’d always rather win, but I can’t really complain. The environment in Nippert was electric and I loved that all our supporters stayed to still cheer on the team as they exited the field.
Some remarks from Forward Andrew Wiedeman:
2/2: That support got us 2nd goal. Important that y'all know how much it means to the players. Keep it up- this is something truly special.— Andrew Wiedeman (@awiedeman3) April 17, 2016
I also have to say that I loved the way the Louisville fans came out, that they traveled to support their team and were all incredibly friendly. A few stopped by to visit The Bailey once the match concluded. Those folks and all the others I met throughout the day were fantastic people. As I exited the stadium, every person I passed in a Lou City scarf said “good game.” Indeed it was and come June, I look forward to round 2 of 3, and for our own chance to support our team on the road.
Louisville, we’ll see you again in a few months.
Until then, we’ll be at Rhinehaus this coming weekend to watch FCC take on Toronto II.
More photographs from the march and the night at the bottom of this post.
Stand with Die Innenstadt, stand with Cincinnati.
More photographs from the day: