FRIDAY FUNBLAST: Help Us Ben Nwobodo, You're Our Only Hope!
The Friday Funblast — April 29, 2022
You thought I was done writing to pursue my career as a star podcaster? Ha! No microphone alone can contain all of the takes within this head. Come inside and become part of the Chief Crew if you dare.
I’m on the record as thinking that, for the most part, Results (with a capital R) don’t really matter this season. There’s so much transitioning happening with this team right now that Jean Schmidt wants FCC discussion banned in elementary schools. As it currently stands, this roster is a Frankenstein’s monster of leftover players from the disastrous Nijkamp regime augmented by the few low-level signings that Albright has managed to fit into the oddly shaped budget holes he has had available. No disrespect to Junior Moreno or Ray Gaddis, but we weren’t exactly printing playoff tickets when the signings were announced (an aside: “print the playoff tickets…” is officially on the clock for “Phrases ‘the youngs’ won’t understand soon…”). For me, the expectation this season was really simple: Don’t “win” the goddamn spoon again.
On the other hand, results (with a lower-case r) actually are important for me this season. By that, I mean that I want to see this team making progress over the course of the season. I want to see that the coaching staff understands how to produce a watchable brand of soccer. I want to move on from Jaapball — which mostly consisted of watching overpaid foreign players getting the piss beat out of them for 90 minutes and maybe, if you were lucky, poaching a goal off a turnover or individual moment of skilled brilliance. I want to see the roster start to take shape in a way that better “aligns payroll to talent and production,” and that makes better use of the domestic player market. Basically, I want to stop doing MLS Franchise Mode on the highest difficulty setting. And also to not win the goddamn spoon again. I don’t know that I can state that last part emphatically enough here.
So, what’s our report card on that this week? Actually, pretty good. LAFC is sitting top of the MLS table with the most points as well as most matches won. They’ve got quality all over their roster and at every level of the pitch. FC Cincinnati, on the other hand, went into this game held together by Gorilla Tape and hardened nacho cheese from the concession stands. Missing from the FC's lineup were key starters Geoff Cameron, Ronald Mattarita, Alec Kann and Brandon Vazquez. Despite that, the team took a lead into halftime and only ended up losing by 1 goal. Plus, if you’re into advanced metrics, FCC once again played a competitive match on the xG sheet as well losing by less than .5 (worth noting on the xG front — setting aside the whole “game’s not played on a spreadsheet, mate…” thing, The FC has won the xG battle in 3 of it’s 5 losses this season). I said it on the PostCast this week, but the team seems to pass the eyeball test for me as well. They have decent firepower and move the ball confidently enough in the offensive end that you feel they can always score a goal. Gone is the hopelessness of yesteryear, where the team remained stuck in the midfield as you screamed into the void of frustration from your seats or couch. That’s a good thing. Full stop.
BUT…at some point this team needs to start stringing some wins together. Winning the xG makes for good podcast fodder — but unless you’re in the business of scamming people for NFTs, you can’t build culture on data and speculation. For the good of this roster and the cleansing of the organizational DNA, eventually the narrative about FC Cincinnati has to change. That requires winning. Which brings us to…
HELP US OBI NWOBODO, YOU’RE OUR ONLY HOPE
First off, I’m just going to call him Ben Nwobodo from this point forward. I need to explain that here, because as Obi-Wan Kenobi demonstrated, simply changing for first name from “Obi-Wan” to “Ben” makes you literally disappear from sight. Entire galaxy of Inquisitors, Bounty Hunters and Jedi Killers looking for you? Just change your name to “Ben” and no one will be the wiser. You already knew the Empire didn’t teach basic marksmanship to anyone, but how bad were their investigation techniques? “We searched outer rim and didn’t find any sign of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Just some with a beard named Ben Kenobi, who is the exact same age as Obi-Wan, has a beard, and also dresses like a Jedi. Guess we’ll keep looking somewhere else.” I guess it isn’t surprising for a political organization who just rolled with it when their otherwise normal elected leader from a backwoods planet started dressing, looking, and cackling like an evil wizard.
God I fucking love Star Wars. The Obi-Wan show can’t get here soon enough. But, I digress…
The arrival of Ben Nwobodo marks a bit of a turning point in the Albright-Noonan administration. Up until this point, the roster additions, as discussed above, have been modest at best. Nwobodo has been a guy Albright has targeted for some time during his tenure overseeing the FC Cincinnati rebuild (based on statements from Nwobodo himself, indicating that he thought this move was going to happen in the winter window), and he is, by far, the biggest signing made to date. Spiderman taught us that “with great power comes great responsibility,” but we’ve also learned thus far in MLS that “with great spending comes greater expectations.” You only get three DPs on your roster and you absolutely, positively, cannot afford to whiff on any of them. Fucking up a DP signing is the fastest way to get shown the door in MLS. Owners hate it when you spend their money and don’t show a return on investment — hell, I’ll bet Nijkamp would still be here if he hadn’t thrown a bag at Locadia, Kubo and Brenner and still finished in last place.
Simply put, better results need to follow Nwobodo. The team should look immediately better with him on the field. The FC should be better at stopping opponents possessing the ball, and it should be better at transitioning into offensive possessions that generate goals. DPs need to be difference makers in this league, and if Nwobodo isn’t, that’s going to be a really bad sign for the Albright - Noonan era. That’s not to say this team was a Ben Nwobodo away from being a lock-in playoff squad — but this team should be a Ben Nwobodo away from respectability and a playoff contender. This can’t be a situation where Nwobodo joins and the results continue to be elusive while the spoon grows ever larger in the rear view mirror. Put more bluntly, this can’t be a Mokotjo 2.0, where he does the other Jedi trick and goes into hiding upon arrival. We’ve had years of roster builds where the future refused to change no matter who was wearing the badge or walking the touchline. In order to escape from this endless cycle of losing, eventually the high-dollar signings need to produce results. And, for the sake of fan confidence in the product, those results need to begin with Nwobodo.
Good luck Ben, and may the Force be with you.
COASTAL ELITES STAY MAD
Didn’t get a chance to address it earlier (because I was busy not-writing this column for a minute), but I want to give a special “Get fucked and stay mad” to everyone on the east and west coats who got big upset because the US Soccer Federation saw fit to play another USMNT game in Cincinnati, Ohio. Reading the anger online following this announcement gave my soul joy. God forbid any of these fucking weirdos ever have to get on an airplane at one of their many airports and fly somewhere else to do something interesting. Or that they may have to find something else to do on June 1st — like watching one of their other professional sports teams, seeing a concert or show at one of their thousand clubs, going to fucking Broadway, or any of the other billion amenities you get from living in a large metropolitan area that isn’t in fucking Ohio. What a tough life it must be staying entertained in these cities.
I lived in Washington DC for a couple of years and by far the most infuriating aspect of living on the East Coast is the pervasive sense of cultural superiority. I’m not gonna turn this into some shitty New York Times think piece on the wisdom of the Midwest (“In this Ohio diner, the talk is less about national soccer and more about the threat of national socialism…”), but at least we acknowledge some basic laws of Copernican physics regarding where exactly the earth revolves. The fact that it’s so unfathomable to these weirdos that a sporting event might be played somewhere other than New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Seattle, etc. makes me want these games to stay in the midwest and Deep South forever. Fuck growing the game, I want to grow a swimming pool of salty New York tears (pro tip — learn how to make a goddamn championship banner and we’ll talk about awarding major matches) for my backyard. You want to see Christian Pulisic? Neat — check delta.com for flight times.
That said, I’m kinda on the fence about going to this game. That’s the joy of living in Cincinnati — I know they’ll be back soon. Suck it, LA.
TERRIBLE BAILEY IDEA OF THE WEEK
Roman Celentano’s song — when we figure out what it is — should be sung in Latin and to the tune of some part of the Catholic mass.
Let it never be said I criticize without also offering solutions.
The only explanation I have for FCC and Toronto playing in back-to-back matches is that there’s some quirk in the exchange rate that made 1 match worth 2 in Canadian. No matter the reason, the only goal here is to avoid going the old Double-L.
If I had to guess? We draw in Canada with Nwobodo coming off the bench for 30’ and we win back in TQL on Wednesday. Why do I say that? Because I’m going to have to miss the match on Wednesday, and there’s no surer way to guarantee an FCC victory than for me to be out of town and miss it.
THEY MADE A MOVIE ABOUT GEOFF CAMERON’S STATUS FOR THE GAME IN TORONTO…
…it’s called “Left Behind.”
Alright, that’s it for my triumphant return. If you haven’t listened to the Mitch pod, do that. He was an incredible interview and a fascinating dude. Also, buy a War Pigs scarf. Pre-orders close soon and you don’t want to be left out. Or may be you do. I can’t read minds. Jedi forever. High boots never. See you motherfuckers in the Thunderdome.