FRIDAY FUNBLAST — April 8, 2022

Remember when we were on a winning streak? That was fun. But, if you're going to be on a losing streak, at least be on an entertaining losing streak -- like losing to an expansion team in the middle of a medical controversy and then on the sad side of a 7 goal thriller, right? That's still fun. Or Fun-ish. Certainly worth blasting about!

’TIS BETTER TO HAVE SCORED AND LOST…

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that losing sucks. I spent the majority of my formative years learning the uncoverable plays in NCAA Football (HB wheel routes = Tuddies) or the exact spot on the ice to shoot in NHL ’95 that guaranteed a goal because I hated losing. But, if you’re going to lose, at least be entertaining about it. WWE Hall of Fame Mick Foley had that figured out. What’s the one thing everyone remembers about Hell in a Cell 1998? Mankind getting thrown off the cage while Jim Ross dropped the greatest commentary line of all time (WITH GOD AS MY WITNESS, HE IS BROKEN IN HALF!). Does it matter he didn’t win the match? No — because we were all to0 busy losing our goddamn minds at how insane what we just saw was.

Say what you will about the FC this past weekend (and I had plenty more to say earlier this week) — at least they were fucking entertaining. This is a team that has had multiple scoreless runs of 400’+ in its short history. Being able to watch them actually put the ball in the net repeatedly is still a new feeling that we should cherish. Was it soul crushing to watch Nick Hagglund try to lumber back on defense like an elderly butler trying to get to the phone? Yes. Yes it was. But, as bad as the defending was, you never felt the game was out of reach for the FC because of the dangerous positions they kept finding themselves in on offense. That’s fucking fun. It’s the difference between having Andy Dalton as your quarterback — where you feel a 3 point lead might be insurmountable —and Joe Burrow as your QB (where it’s full-fucking send 24/7 no matter what the score is).

As I’ve said repeatedly, the goal this season isn’t necessarily winning. Make no mistake, I want to win. Thanks to a few random jaunts on match day weekends, I actually haven’t seen in an FC Cincinnati win in person since Portland in 2019 (this streak also includes multiple away matches, including the ill-fated trip to St. Louis in the 2019 US Open Cup). In that way, I’ve been witness to more losses than a Loopring investor. But, I also understand that Albright and Noonan are going to need time to get the roster to where it needs to be. With that in mind, I look for little signs of progress wherever I can find them. And, for me, goals (plural) being scored is a definitive sign of growth for this team and for the fan engagement this team so desperately needs to keep afloat.

Basically, if we can’t win — at least let us set off smoke and go crazy a few times per game.

THE MAZE OF BRENNER

I’m going to start this off with a prepared statement:

"I have nothing against Brenner as a person. I have nothing against Brenner as a player. I would like it very much if Brenner succeeded here at FC Cincinnati, both because of what it would mean for results and for the amount of shit-talking I could do to everyone in the national punditry who questioned the signing." -Chief

We found out this week that Brenner may or may not have requested a transfer out from FC Cincinnati. I say “may” because, without getting into #SOURCEGATE, it’s still unclear to me if the genesis of this story is Brenner himself wanting out or Brenner’s agent wanting Brenner out to protect a potentially depreciating asset. These are two vastly different things with vastly different implications for the team going forward. The relationship between player and agent in the soccer/football world isn’t quite the same as what we see here in America. Here in America, the term “Agent” potentially makes you think of someone like future president Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the show “Ballers,” or maybe someone like Scott Boras who gets identified as the bogeyman by MLB Owners and Owner-Apologists as the reason why your favorite team won’t pay market rate for the player you like. In soccer, the agent relationship is significantly more complex — which isn’t shocking when you consider that the agent isn’t dealing with a closed-cartel system of ~30 NFL/MLB/NBA franchises that represent the entirety of job opportunities for their client.

Regardless of where the information is coming from, the situation with Brenner at FC Cincinnati seems to be at something of an inflection point. Thus far, his role on the club has been that of a mid-late game supersub, consistently getting the last 30 minutes of matches to come on and make some impact. That might work at a big-dollar club in Europe, where you can afford to have a bench of players with a wage bill that rivals the GDP of some smaller nations, but it isn’t going to work in a league like MLS. When you only get to have 3 Avengers on your roster, you better be picking guys who have actual superpowers and not characters like Hawkeye or Black Widow, who are only useful in select situations for a small portion of the film (Note — this is not an endorsement that FC Cincinnati attempt to trade Brenner to acquire fellow Brazilian Hulk, despite the obvious connection to the Avengers analogy, as Hulk the Avenger would be a constant liability to pick up a red card for failing to control his anger on the pitch).

If there is good news, it’s that the unexpected 2 week layoff for FC Cincinnati (the first time in the history of this blog that I’m happy or give any shit about the existence of the CONCACAF Champions League) should clear the situation with Brenner significantly. If he’s not in the starting 11 after this much time to train, it’ll be a sign that there is a larger issue at play with Brenner. At that point we’ll know that there is something else going on beyond simply getting a late start training with the team. Unfortunately, what that is will still be up to interpretation — which, as we know, has been a struggle for FC Cincinnati when it comes to Brenner. But every step closer to some kind of resolution with Brenner is a good thing, be it him returning to a starting role and answering questions about his future on the pitch or the team beginning the process of moving on to utilize his resources elsewhere.

OPE-n CUP

I’m gonna be honest, I had several versions of this portion of the funblast written ahead of time and the only team I didn’t bother writing something about was Pittsburgh. No offense to them as a club, but they’re just not that interesting. Everything about them feels like a “Create a Club” feature in FIFA — they play in a city everyone has heard of, they wear the same colors as every other sports team from the city, and their crest looks like it was designed by a computer algorithm that analyzed soccer logos but had no programed sense of aesthetic itself. A human being would look at a soccer logo and think “I should probably choose between a badge and a circle logo — it would look stupid to do both!” but the computer would just merge the two and think it was combining all the elements that work elsewhere.

Pittsburgh also doesn’t really pop on the radar because they were one of those USL teams that nobody seemed to give a fuck about. With other teams you had people online who seemed to be fans — they’d slide into your mentions the second you talked shit about their club, they’d post memes or make the standard “Attendance FC” jokes. Pittsburgh? Nothing. Which isn’t terribly surprising, considering your average sports fan in the city of Pittsburgh was likely too busy defending Ben Roethlisberger on twitter or angrily calling into sports talk radio to complain about the preferential treatment Alex Ovechkin gets from NHL officials (“HAVE YINZ SEEN HOW HE GETS PRUTECTED BY THE LEAGUE, MARK?! THEY CALL IT EVERY TIME HE GOES DAHN!!”) to really care about soccer.

To me, the USOC draw is an unmitigated win for FC Cincinnati for two reasons:

1. We get to host an extra match that (knock on every fucking piece of wood you can find) will be a home win, and

2. We aren’t playing Louisville or Detroit.

I’m not in a mental place right now, as an FC Cincinnati fan, to deal with the potential of losing to Louisville or Detroit. The idea of losing to either one of these teams fills me with a level of existential dread usually reserved for hearing a doctor say “We just need to run a few tests…” or watching the “Scott’s Tots” episode of The Office.  Losing to Louisville or Detroit would almost certainly require never going on the internet ever again. Full scrub of the online profile. Deletion of the blog. Ending of the podcast. It would mean that every accomplishment would ring hollow going forward. Win MLS Cup? You’ll still have those fucking weirdos chirping your mentions about how you lost to them at home. I don’t want that unhappiness in my life. The “block” button on twitter only does so much.

Having said that — it would’ve been fucking hilarious to draw Detroit City and only set aside 49 tickets for their fanbase. Just for old times sake.

LEFTOVER NOTE FROM LAST WEEK RE: FCC v. EXPANSION SIDES

FC Cincinnati is 1-1-7 with a -18 GD against the expansion teams (Nashville, Miami, Austin and Charlotte) that have joined MLS since the FC did. It's one of those stats that makes you realize that you win a wooden spoon because it's the hardest utensil to use for self-harming behavior.

THEY MADE A MOVIE ABOUT DJORDJE MIHAILOVIC AGAINST FCC’S BACKLINE

It’s called “2 Fast, 2 Furious.”

Alright, that’s it. Enjoy your week off. I’ll be engaging in my favorite spring pastime — getting buzzed on a Sunday afternoon and passing out on the couch while watching golf. Until then: Tiger forever. Riverhounds Never. See you motherfuckers in the Thunderdome!