Friday Funblast: Seeing the Jaap You Want to See
Friday Funblast — May 28, 2021
We won a goddamn soccer match! Positive vibes only this week, right? Maybe? For the first time in forever it feels like there might be genuine momentum behind the FC Cincinnati experience. Or, are falling victim to over-reacting to the first win this team has had since Donald Trump left office? Onward we go...
PARDON MY FLORIDA FRENCH
Stop me if you’ve heard this before — wait, can’t say that this week! The FC headed to “Montreal Sud” and picked up 3 points for the first time in the 2021 campaign, defeating the Club Foot by a score of 2-1. It was manager Jaap Stam’s first victory since October 14th and raises his overall record with the club to a robust 5-5-17. Because this is Cincinnati and we have run afoul of some elder god, the Chicago Fire also won their match this weekend to keep The FC in the basement of MLS for yet another week.
The match itself was a tough watch. I get that there are problems with travel for Canadian teams, but fucking hell — could we at least think about putting these matches someplace more interesting than at 1PM in an empty stadium in south Florida? Everything about this game, from the kick time to the windscreeenless field mic popping the speakers of every TV in the city, felt like one of those shitty IMG Academy pre-season games. It was fucking terrible to watch, and it got me to thinking: why isn’t MLS using this as an opportunity to expose new cities to their product?
There are dozens of cities around the country without MLS teams that could easily host these matches. You could sell $5-$10 general admission tickets as a goodwill gesture to the communities hosting and, you know, build some fucking brand awareness for the league in places that probably don’t have it on their radar. The NBA did this back when Hurricane Katrina displaced the New Orleans Hornets. The team was temporarily housed in Oklahoma City, given jerseys with the city name and everything. It was so successful, and the city turned out so big for it, that the fucking Supersonics relocated there to become the Thunder. We let NYCFC play on a baseball field, why not have Montreal playing in Milwaukee at whatever the fuck they’re calling Miller Park these days? You’re telling me that city wouldn’t turn out for $5 GA seats to throw back some Spotted Cow and watch soccer? Or host games at PNC Park in Pittsbrugh — make some one-year only yellow & black third kits for Toronto with “STEEL CITY FC” on the front and let the mouth breathers in that city go ape shit for it. Literally anything is better than more empty stadium matches at this point and, who knows, you might accidentally discover a soccer market in a place you never knew one existed.
As for the actual performance of The FC…
SEE THE JAPP YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD
The match this past week was fascinating because it was an almost-perfect Rorschach Test for how you view the current iteration of The FC under Jaap Stam. And, predictably, the post-match conversation has featured both camps looking to the match and pointing to it as more evidence towards whatever their take on Jaap Stam happens to be. Similarly predictably, the battle lines between #JaapIn and #JaapOut have started to harden, taking on an almost religious fervor usually reserved for debates about weighty topics like abortion or who shot first between Han Solo and Greedo (obligatory: Fuck You, George Lucas).
If you want to see this week’s match as evidence that Jaap Stam is progressing with this team, there were things you could take away to support that claim. For starters, the team fucking won. It’s a results-oriented sport, and there’s no better result in soccer than 3 points. And, as hilarious as this is for a team in Year 3, this was also the first time in history that The FC battled from behind to win a game (if you’d ever sat in your seat and thought “Well, we’re fucked…” as soon as a goal was scored, you hadn’t been wrong until this past weekend). The club went on the road, albeit to a mostly neutral site, and beat a club that most people would agree is roughly peer-level in terms of talent and form. That’s undeniably progress for a team that wasn’t a good bet to beat anyone last season.
If you want to see this week’s match as evidence for #JaapOut, there was plenty of takeaway there too. While it is a results-oriented sport, you also can’t unsee the shit that happens to produce a result. A 1-0 win against Atlanta last year in #MLSisBACK looks great on the ledger, until you read the match notes to see that Atlanta had to play down a man for the final 64’ of the match and that it took a wonder-strike goal to get the result. Similarly, in this game, you can’t just ignore the fact that Montreal missed a tap-in goal from point-blank range (you, yes you, reading this blog could’ve managed to score this goal 99 times out of 100 in a similar position) that would’ve put them up 1-0 at the half and completely changed the outcome of the match. Or that another goal was disallowed for offside because a Montreal player had fallen into the net and couldn’t get back up in time before the shot. You also can’t ignore that the FC looked completely toothless in open play (Brenner, once again, utterly invisible) and needed set pieces bouncing their way to score both of their goals.
Kevin Wallace wrote about it this week, but there’s a weird reluctance among the paid scribes in this town to ask any tough questions of Jaap Stam — either directly in their media interactions or generally in the form of tough columns / articles. It took weeks of watching Joe Gyau struggling to play right back before someone finally asked Jaap “Hey, what the fuck about this guy?” Absolutely no one has directly inquired as to why Calvin Harris was getting starts over DP Jurgen Locadia (the answer, almost certainly, is that he’s on a minutes limit — which raises the incredible possibility that someone is going to do the math wrong and we’ll be stuck the motherfucker because he got inserted into a lineup too early in some match). And we’ve still yet to have someone bring up the fact that Yuya Kubo, the most thoroughly average thing to come from Japan since the Wii U, continues to be played out of position in defensive mid.
This lack of critical eye towards Jaap in the coverage of this team has now morphed into almost excuse-making behavior for the club and it’s gaffer — I listened a Twitter Spaces sessions that included pleas for patience and an expectation that the team will lose matches like it has this weekend against New England. To which I ask: What the Fuck? This isn’t some small-market baseball club hoping to not get clobbered by the Dodgers or the Yankees. The FC has one of the highest wage bills in the entire league. The team has gone out and splashed cash to fill holes on the roster. At some point, there needs to be more expectations placed on this club than “Beat Montreal.” When do those expectations start? Is it after some nebulous amount of time this year to where we can all agree this mythical “cohesion” of the roster should have happened? Is it after Locadia leaves and a new DP is brought in during the summer window? Because right now, we’re in the worst of all worlds — where every win brings “SEE, HIS SHIT IS WORKING!” and every loss is “NOT HIS FAULT — HE NEEDS MORE TIME!”
And that’s total bullshit.
#FINGATE2K21 CONTINUES TO CONTINUE
If you thought the Tickle actually opening up for business would end the stadium drama in this town — man, where the fuck have you been living? This week brought more outrage from political falling star Michelle Dillingham (who is so great at politics that she narrowly lost her last race to a dude who ended up getting indicted on felony corruption charges and got shut out of the endorsement process this week for her next run), posting Zapruder-film quality images of TQL Stadium lit up with advertising for various FCC sponsors. And, honestly, if you can think of a more Cincinnati nonsense-scandal than “Failed City Council candidate complains that new Cincinnati sports stadium is being too disruptive with it’s P&G advertising,” then you can just win the internet this week.
This, of course, spawned an entire day of dumb takes (all of which missed the lowest hanging fruit of “Of course this absolute shit team would have fucking toilet paper ads on the side of their stadium”) about light pollution, neighborhood ruining, and broken promises. All of which is fucking hilarious, when you consider the “problem” being created here can be solved with bold, new, cutting edge technology known as (checks notes) a fucking curtain. It gets even funnier when you realize that the LED lights on this stadium are focused directly towards OTR, with no LED lights shining back towards the actual neighborhood in the West End. And, if you’ve been to the West End at night (which, lets be real, none of the motherfuckers clutching pearls online about FCC probably have), you’d know that the entire fucking neighborhood is already lit 24/7 in those giant orange streetlights that are everywhere downtown.
So, as a result, I default back to what I wrote weeks ago when people were shocked and appalled that a stadium covered in LED lights might actually light up every so often:
I hope they keep the stadium lit 24/7 and turn the brightness up to a billion. I want the stadium to be the last fucking thing Elon Musk sees in orbit before he nopes off to Mars in one of his giant-ass rockets. I want the LED glow to be an ever-present middle finger to the haters and losers (of whom there are many) that we built this goddamn team and this goddamn stadium when everyone told us it would never work here in Cincinnati.
THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED (AT THE SAME TIME AS THE FUCKING CHAMPIONS LEAGUE)
This is the part of the column where I get to add my two cents about how awful the fucking schedule makers at MLS really are. Making The FC play at 1PM in the Florida sun was dumb as fuck, but this week is a new fucking level of stupidity. By arbitrarily scheduling this match at 3PM (for absolutely no reason — it’s a holiday weekend and you can play this fucking game literally any time on Saturday, Sunday or Monday), it’s going to force everyone to miss watching the Champions League Final.
Just — fucking why?
If 1PM is a fine time to kickoff in Florida, it could’ve been a fine time to kickoff this weekend in Cincinnati. Match would’ve finished just in time to watch Pulisic represent America on the world’s stage. Or, you could’ve given us a fucking night match to see those giant fuck-off fins blasting the world with Tide propaganda. It’s not like we’re worried about a national TV time slot — the only people inconvenienced here would be the 20-25 dull weirdos who tune in to watch “Big Bang Theory” reruns on Star 64. The fucking instant Chelsea & Pulisic made the CL finals, this match time should’ve been shifted to literally anywhere else on the weekend.
But, I digress…
The aforementioned twitter spaces conversation featured a lot of FCC Scribes predicting that the Orange & Blue will lose badly this weekend to a superior New England team.
The Chief correctly predicted an FCC win last weekend, and I’m actually predicting the FC manages a draw here in front of 11,000 fans.
2-2. Mark it down. Take it across the state line to Indiana and make your bets (Fuck you Ohio).
THEY WROTE A SONG ABOUT GOING TO OTR WHEN THE LED ADS ARE SHOWING
Alright, that’s it for this week. Enjoy your holiday weekend and remember to spare a thought for why we’ve got Monday off. See you motherfuckers in the Thudnerdome.