The Friday Funblast — February 18, 2022

A disgraced former Ohio State Football Coach (no, not the one you’re thinking of) once described “the punt” as his favorite play in football. This is despite the fact that a punt is generally considered a complete concession and failure of a team to accomplish it’s goals. We talking punts now? Oh you know we’re talking punts…

ALBRIGHT’S PUNT FORMATION

Chris Albright sat down for an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer this week and peeled back the curtain on what’s been happening at The FC this off-season. The answer? Not a whole lot. There was a lot of the usual nonsense that we’ve gotten very used to hearing from the team currently on lockout down by the river — talk about “building a sustainable product” and other things focused on the long-term outlook of FC Cincinnati. The entire article read like a Congressional transcript of Big Tech desperately attempting to dodge every question about how their products are literally poisoning our democracy. The single positive thing he had to say about the upcoming season was this: “I’m also not punting on this season.”

I’m sorry, but fucking what?

We’re a week away from the start of the 2022 MLS Season and the best thing there is to be said about the state of The FC’s roster right now is “We’re not punting.”

Look, if you would have asked me last year, I would’ve said that my goal for FC Cincinnati was to compete for a playoff spot. In hindsight, that was laughable — it’s completely on me that I didn’t see the massive red flag that playing Yuya Kubo out of position was or that no one had really seen Mikel van der Werff run or touch a soccer ball in months. Or, you know, Jaap Stam having literally never been successful as a manager anywhere outside of one season at Reading. Hand up. I’ll own that. That was probably an unrealistic expectation given the roster makeup and paper-thin depth.

This year, I have a really simple expectation — don’t be the worst team in MLS for a 4th straight year. I legitimately don’t care if that means competing for the playoffs or finishing a single fucking point ahead of Charlotte. Don’t win the wooden spoon again. I don’t give a shit about “improving culture” or “setting the team up for long-term success.” Fuck long-term success. Stop the losing right now. If you gave me a choice between “Guarantee of an MLS Cup Caliber Team sometime in the next 5-10 years” or “Guarantee you don’t finish in dead last place again in 2022,” I’m taking the latter every goddamn time. It shouldn’t be this hard to crawl out of the basement, and it’s frustrating that Albright isn’t even willing to set that modest goal as an outcome this year.

How hard is it to come out to the media and say “I’ll guarantee you this, there won’t be a fourth wooden spoon in our trophy case next year!” After the bullshit we’ve been through as a fanbase, hearing that would make me want to run through a fucking brick wall. If you aren’t willing to make at least that guarantee, how can this season be seen as anything other than a punt? I get that Albright is on his first year here and, under normal circumstances, would see this year as a throw-away in order to build a lasting foundation — but it isn’t OUR first year here. He’s walking into a situation that demands just a little more attention be paid to 2022. Not much attention, mind you — just enough attention to ensure we aren’t an unwatchable laughingstock for the fourth year in a row.

That isn’t too much to ask. And, if Albright wants the fans behind him in this project, he probably should say something to show he understands that.

THE JOY OF SIX

As we sit here, on the afternoon of February 18th 2022, the FC still does not have a true #6 / Defensive Midfielder on their roster. This is despite literally everyone who follows this team and everyone who works for this team (as pointed out in the aforementioned article) acknowledging this fact as a glaring issue. It’s one of the rare instances of vertical alignment between fanbase and club management (the last time this happened was with Fanendo Adi, where everyone agreed that it was absolutely hilarious that he was better at finding the back of a cop car than the back of the net). My question is if everyone knows this is a problem, why hasn’t it been fucking fixed?

According to google (which has never been wrong and is a valid source to cite at all times, fuck you Mr. Cannan), there are over 100,000 professional soccer players in the world. The number of people out there who would claim the #6 role as their primary position has to number in the thousands. And yet, not a single one of these people will be suiting up for FC Cincinnati next weekend against Austin FC. Hell, there was even a guy available in the Super Draft (Kipp Keller) who could theoretically have played the #6 — and we passed on him to take a 3rd string Goalkeeper.

I say this all to put in to context the silliness and stubbornness involved in simply refusing to have a player in such a key position signed prior to the start of the year. If you read between the lines, it’s pretty clear that Chris Albright is prioritizing making the “right” move as opposed to just any move. And I’m totally cool with that — but at this point, we’ve really entered “letting perfect be the enemy of good” territory. It would be like if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t find a quality replacement for Tom Brady and, instead, announced “Well, we haven’t seen any good options — so we’re just gonna have Mike Evans play quarterback for the year and see if anyone comes available at the trade deadline.” The press conference wouldn’t even finish before the firings at GM and Head Coach were announced.

There’s no reason why FC Cincinnati can’t go out and find someone to play the #6 until the unicorn signing comes around. Hell, go raid a fucking USL club for someone — you’ll probably want whoever you’re signing as depth anyway down the road. At least that way we’ll be spared having to watch Haris Medunjanin hobbling around the field or watching Yuya Kubo, yet again, waste his skills doing something he was never paid to do.

ORANGE YOU GLAD WE’VE GOT A NEW KIT

Can ya’ll shut the fuck up about getting an Orange kit now?

Just kidding — I love each every one of you that complained, asked, complained, and asked again to make today possible.

While I understand and acknowledge the importance of both the Orange and the Blue parts of “Orange & Blue,” let’s be real — it’s all about Orange right now. Like 90% of MLS teams incorporate blue somewhere in their kit design or badges. Orange though? Total power color. The only other team that really goes full-on with Orange is the Houston Dynamo, and no one gives a shit about the Houston Dynamo — including people in the actual city of Houston. It’s frankly shocking that we haven’t gone with an orange primary kit already. And locally, thanks to the Cincinnati Bengals, has Orange ever been hotter? It would take an entire continent’s worth Spirit Halloween stores to sell as much Orange apparel as Cincinnati has bought in the last 3 months. Fact: 2022 is the year of Orange.

And the kit itself? Fire. It incorporates the city flag in ways both subtly and an overtly, and is — for the first time in the club’s MLS history — finally something that feels uniquely Cincinnati. When was the last time you could say that about one of our kits? The plain white kit from year 1? Basically a Fruit of the Loom Undershirt with a Badge and Sponsor ironed on. Hell, we didn’t even have a home authentic kit in 2019 and, allegedly, almost had to use a single-color shirt off the rack from Adidas because of how short the timeline was for kit design. The last truly iconic kit worn by The FC was probably the orange and blue diamonds design that was used in the USL days. It’s a bad sign when Deikel Keinan was still playing the last time your team had decent threads.

The one issue I do have with this kit is how godawful the replica version of the kit is. I get it, the team wants to upsell you to a better version of the kit — but it would’ve been nice if the discrepancy wasn’t so obvious. In this case, ironically, the Blue Collar now signifies the presence of wealth and affluence such that one could afford the additional cost of an authentic kit. I worry about a future at TQL Stadium where there are two classes of citizens — the Blue Collars and the Orange Collars — and class warfare comes to the cramped concourses of Cincinnati’s West End. Much like the blue text message bubble indicates one is a superior person when it pops up (vs. the disgusting green of an Android user), the blue collar will now tell the world kind of person you are.

Choose wisely.

THEY MADE A MOVIE ABOUT THE REPLICA KIT DEBATE:

It’s called “The Blue Collar Comedy Tour.”

Alright fam, we finally made it. Real games start next week. We’re about to get a crash course in how much coaching matters, because we’re rolling into 2022 with the exact same roster as 2021 and hoping for different results. Orange forever. Off the Rack Never. See you motherfuckers in the thunder dome.