Extinguishing The Fire

Editors Note: Was a little late in getting these posted, it's been busy for both Die Innenstadt and the team on the pitch. On the eve of our next Open Cup match though, I felt it was important that we relive just how special this Open Cup round has been so far. I'm incredibly excited to introduce two new voices to the DI blog (and soon some others). Making their Die Innenstadt blog post debuts, please welcome Ziggy Zibrowski and Austin Hinkel as they share their reactions to the USOC game versus the Chicago Fire! See you at Rhinehaus on July 12 to watch FCC take on Miami in the next round.

- Ronny Salerno

P.S. Thanks, Claire!

We Had Just Survived Hell. What’s a Little Fire?

Ziggy Z

- DI Member Ziggy Zibrowski

- DI Member Ziggy Zibrowski

Over the past 6 years, I have lived in 4 different cities across 3 different states. This means I’ve never had a hometown team to really get behind. Even growing up as a kid in Columbus [F*** the Crew!], immersed in the a rich (even if predominantly collegiate) sports culture, I was always a Minnesota sports fan first and foremost, and I never allowed myself to get swept up in much else. It was seldom easy, but I enjoyed my role as a counterculture sports fan.

Of all the cities I’ve been in, Cincinnati had something special. It is the 4th city mentioned above, and I’ve been here for the past 3 of those 6 years. From the moment I pulled off I-71S I found what I had been looking for - a place to call home. Discovering the city was creating second division soccer team was the icing on the cake. I was ecstatic. I’d finally have a team to root for that I can go and watch week in and out. More importantly, this was the opportunity for camaraderie that comes with sharing experiences with a real fan base, not just virtually through the internet and the odd away matches when my teams played closer to me.

So here I am sitting at my table, approaching the 13th hour since the conclusion of last night’s Lamar Hunt Open Cup matchup against MLS opposition Chicago Fire, and I’m still watching video highlights over and over again because I don’t want to come down off this high. I’ve been to a lot of sporting events over the years, but nothing has ever come close to the overall experience and excitement of last night.

Early on, the cards seemed to be stacked against us (obviously we were always the underdog). But aside from that, the pre-match announcements that Chicago’s starting XI would consist of their usual crop aside from Dax McCarty (US) and David Accam (Ghana) (who were both away from the club due to international team duties), and then getting word that neither Jimmy McLaughlin or Djiby were starting for FC Cincy (the latter having sustained an apparent ankle injury during a training session)... I’ll be honest, they left my expectations pretty shaky. Even so, I knew that if the crowd showed the club we were up for it, they’d leave it all on the pitch, and did they ever!

32,287 in attendance watched on as our backline defended as though their very lives depended on it. They executed the game plan perfectly; weather the storm and find opportunity on the counter. I can’t stress enough that Dacres was an unsung hero throughout – hard on the ball time and time again, fighting tooth and nail to give us an edge – to give the defense a break and a moment to regroup.

There were times around the 60’ mark when I’d stop singing long enough to take in how truly loud Nippert was. I was quite literally shaking with chills. And if, like me, you started finding it hard to speak let alone sing, the FC Cincy substitution in the 70th minute changed everything. We dug deep because little Jimmy stood stoic off the bench, waiting for Stevenson to exit the pitch. All of Nippert erupted as Jimmy paced the touchline finding position. Chicago should have known then they didn’t have a chance because the Fire fell short by underestimating how we had just survived Hell. They were starting to get heavy legged, and the boys in Blue and Orange were hungry. Even though they felt the same, they knew they could lean on every one of us, and trust that our songs would lift them up. We got louder and stayed so.

The no-call on the handball in the fleeting moments of the initial 90’ was disappointing, but it happens. Refs get screened and can’t have eyes on everything. I wasn’t happy, but I get it. Fast forward 30 minutes into extra time and the chess match continued, the result still holding at 0-0 until the 119’ when Andrew Wiedeman makes a perfect run and slots a ball home past Lampson. That moment was everything. What we all felt was due and were holding our breath for. The refs called it offside. (Brief aside - I’ve never been a proponent of VAR because I feel it takes away from the organic nature of the game, but come on, that should have been reviewable.) The call was garbage, and I hope those refs feel awful for stealing that from Wiedeman.

Though when all was said and done, FC CINCINNATI did what they needed to do to get the result. It was nothing short of historic.

Now, I should mention, before Cincinnati got this beautiful team together, I used to be a Minnesota United FC season ticket holder. I watched Mitch play at Blaine, and he’s always had something about him. MNUFC had their MLS aspirations at the time, so they started moving Mitch to a backup roll having signed Cameroonian keeper Sammy Ndjock to take over. This opened the doorway for FC Cincinnati to pick him up in their infancy, and I was all hands on deck to getting Mitch into town. I’ve seen him do many things over the years, but watching him stop those three PKs was gold. I think better yet though was seeing the pure elation on every face in the Bailey as the smoke dissipated and the chants continued.

Walking back to my car, a couple on their porch a block or so from Mecklenburg Gardens said, “You all really tore them up. That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard this town.” I grinned and responded with the only thing that made sense in that moment: 

“We’re here, and if they didn’t know it before ...they do now.”

What Curse? Whaddaya Mean, Plastic?

Austin Hinkel

DI Member Austin Hinkel

DI Member Austin Hinkel

Editor's note: We do not acknowledge FC Cincinnati being impervious to a curse. They will fail in spectacular fashion, all the players will contract the bubonic plague, and CL3 will declare his love for Gold Star before the next match, mark my (Claire's) words.

As many of us in the Cincinnati area know, it is impossible to talk about Cincinnati sports without someone snidely mentioning a primetime TV curse or some other similarly negative remark. The Reds are doing well? It won’t last, they say. The Bengals have a shot at the playoffs? We’ll find a way to bungle it, they say.  FC Cincinnati, on the other hand, somehow seems immune to the negativity; indeed, the positive energy surrounding this club is unlike any Cincinnati sports team in recent memory.

In the latest installment of our US Open Cup run, FCC downed the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer on a National Stage, dispelling any doubts: the primetime “curse” (if it even exists) does not apply to FC Cincinnati. There were countless chances for us to lose the match, for the “curse” to rear its ugly head, for us to throw the match away like detractors might say of the Bengals. But Mitch and his back line thought otherwise. A goal line clearance, countless saves during the 120 minutes of play, and three huge NO’s during penalty kicks helped push FCC toward victory.

It didn’t have to be this way. Who knows? Maybe there are twenty alternate universes where the Fire won for every one where we did. Sitting outside the Bailey for the first time this season, though, I witnessed first hand why we won. The fans in the upper deck and throughout all of Nippert were on their feet for the last 60 minutes of play and during the penalty shootout. When the Bailey fell quiet for even ten seconds (a rare occurrence to be sure), the rest of the stadium reverberated with chants of FCC, even louder than the Bailey at times! The will of the fans was palpable for this match, it permeated the atmosphere, made its way onto the pitch, and infected every single one of our players. With 32,000+ standing, screaming, jumping fans, it was impossible for our boys to feel anything less than inspired.

We saw a glimpse of such inspiration against Columbus, when Djiby was overcome with emotion upon scoring, and again when the final whistle blew. That night, we were fortunate enough to witness it once more. One could sense the ardor burning in our players as the entire stadium rose to their feet. Our defenders jumped a little higher, our midfielders stretched out their legs just a little farther, our attackers ran forward on the counter just a little faster, and Mitch… Well, I don’t think words can contain his performance, but I’m sure you’ve seen the footage at least sixty times. Regardless, such participation from ALL fans is the key to making Nippert a fortress. I can’t wait to see more and more people joining in on the chants.

Yes, something is different about this club. After only one and a half seasons, FCC seems unstoppable, even fictitious at times. How could a Midwest soccer team have such a large following? How could a second division side defeat two MLS squads in a row? How can a club seemingly make all the right decisions? Somehow FC Cincinnati has done it, and, cliché as it may be, the fans are the fuel behind this success, as evidenced by the support at the game against the Fire.

A team and its supporters once called plastic by jealous fans, FC Cincinnati has proven itself to be the real deal. In a town where higher-level soccer was previously ephemeral at best, FC Cincinnati has caught on and has become increasingly immutable. If any part of our club was plastic (and let’s be honest: no plastic here), it has been transmuted to gold after our down-to-the-wire victory against the Chicago Fire.

Special thanks to Ziggy and Austin for sharing their thoughts. Looking ahead to the next round of the US Open Cup: we'll be watching FCC take on Miami at Rhinehaus in the heart of the city on Wednesday July 12. 

Also a special thanks to Claire Hughes as well as Alex Vehr and Cincinnati Soccer Talk for some fantastic photography.