Friday Funblast: Thin Benches & Rivalries Re-Examined
The Friday (Saturday?) Funblast -- July 24, 2021
The Chief is on the road, traveling for a little bit of much-needed R&R, but fear not! It wouldn’t be a Friday (read: Saturday) without a little funblasting to put you in the weekend / pre-game mood.
THE SECOND “C” IS FOR “CHOKE?”
Two more matches, two more leads choked away by The FC (actually more than two, considering the team inexplicably managed to cough up not one but two fucking leads in the Montreal match). If The FC were a person, you’d have to worry about coming home and finding it hanging dead in a closet Davd Carradine-style. If you’re keeping score, that’s now four matches, out of 12 played, where the FC has taken a lead and been unable to see the match out for all three points. It’s a long road to the top anyway when you already own more goddamn spoons than a gourmet chef, but it’s an even longer road when you’re coughing up points in a third of the matches you play.
The match against Montreal was particularly galling, as The FC went up by two goals, conceded the lead, and then went BACK UP by two fucking goals in the second half. Scoring a third goal after a team has clawed back from 2-0 down should be backbreaking; scoring a fourth to go up 4-2 should be soulbreaking on top of that too. That should especially be the case when you’re playing against a team like FC Cincinnati, which hadn’t scored 3 goals in a match since “COVID” was a term used to describe having joint custody of a fucking VCR. And yet, somehow, The FC’s defense was unable to see that lead out. In a span of like 15 minutes, the match went from firmly under FCC’s thumb to “Wait, we’re actually going to lose this fucking match, aren’t we?” (Just kidding -- veteran FCC fans know that “we’re actually going to lose this fucking match…” is a thought you have in your head from the first whistle).
The immediate question raised here is how the fuck a team managed by a defensive legend can be so godawful at the act of defending and holding a lead. One would think that if there was one thing Jaap Stam would be able to impart onto a team, it would be playing with organization and discipline in the defense. And I know this where you think to yourself “Alright self, here he goes again -- this prick is gonna launch into another #JaapOut tirade…” -- and you’d be dead wrong here. Because, watching these defensive collapses, it has become incredibly apparent that the black hole of talent on this team’s bench is mostly to blame for the problems seeing games out.
Put yourself in Jaap’s shoes this past Wednesday against Atlanta -- you need to go to your bench for fresh legs and who is staring back at you? Nick Hagglund? Ben Fucking Mines? The lack of depth on the wings and in the midfield is astounding -- and it all traces back to questionable decision making in the roster build. You let Frankie Amaya go with no replacement on the roster, and suddenly one of your best wingers has to become a defensive mid. Kamohelo Mokotjo has been a fucking ghost this season -- they call this motherfucker “The General,” but dude has been straight AWOL the entire goddamn season. That’s $1M in cash and a shitload of TAM providing about as much value as Lordstown stock right now. This is a manager being hung out to fucking dry by his GM as he he tries to get results. The result is becoming predictable -- FCC gets fatigued, replaces adequate players with shitty ones, and almost immediately coughs the lead up.
It’s why this window is imperative if FC Cincinnati is going to make anything out of this season. It’s becoming harder and harder to imagine Nijkamp is gonna find someone more gullible than himself to take on Mokotjo’s contract, which severely limits the amount of space he has on the roster to make improvements. Fortunately, however, the shifting of Yuya Kubo (the most versatile Japanese import since the Walkman) back to a DP role has opened up more TAM to make depth signings. They need to happen. Now. Because it’s getting fucking old to look at the bench every week and think “Damn, I wonder what Kadeem Dacres is up to this week…”
PODCAST WARS EPISODE V: THE DRAMA STRIKES BACK
This week was also punctuated by the kickoff of “FCC Podcast / Website Drama Week 2K21” — a recurring event in FCC Fandom where people involved with various fandoms get together to make petty swipes at one another online and engage in generally fun internet behavior. It’s like if you take the lamest, nerdiest thread on Something Awful or 4chan and told it to get everyone to get into a flame war with one another over which “Final Fantasy” is the best (trick question — the correct answer is always “ChronoTrigger”).
I’m not going to pretend to know or care why this sort of thing happens, but I always enjoy the inevitable life-cycle of any “internet fight” between content providers: Attack, Rally Troops, Escalate, Back Down, Apologize. If you’re really lucky, you can see all of these steps happen within the same twenty-four hour period. As a #ElderMillenial, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness this sort of thing happen for decades — be it over wrestling websites covering WCW v. Other websites covering WWF, or even rival radio programs (who could forget the infamous “morning radio wars” between such storied American Icons as Howard Stern, Don Imus, Opie & Anthony, and a fucking guy named “Bubba the Love Sponge”). It always ends the same way — with absolutely no one gaining anything and everyone sheepishly wanting to forget they went so fucking hard in the paint for something so utterly fucking inconsequential.
The podcast & media sphere around FC Cincinnati is pretty incredible for a team that’s been around for just about the same amount of time as the Nintendo Switch. On its face, it’s pretty cool that there are so many different places offering completely different forms of content with one another. You would be forgiven for thinking “Why the fuck does CST give a shit what Knifey Lion Radio is saying,” considering they literally have zero overlap on their audiences. There’s isn’t a fucking soul on the planet tuning into CST on the hopes that Bill Wolf will suddenly break out a guitar and debut a new song about Arquimides “The Magician’s Assistant” Ordonez. This goes for all of the other media sources out there -- you go to CST for analysis, you go to Pat Brennan for team news, and you go to Laurel Pfahler when you want to hear from Jaap Stam’s personal cheering section. There’s no reason for any group to fight -- they’re all speaking to completely different aspects of the fanbase.
The Chief doesn’t do media, other than this weekly column I don’t get paid for. I’ve been told, at various points in my life, that I have a face for radio and a voice for libraries -- so sticking to writing is probably in my best interest. It means I’ll never have to worry about catching strays in a fight like this, so I’ll offer a bit of free advice courtesy of the movie Superbad:
NASHVILLE: OUR REAL RIVAL?
I’ve long been of the mind that Nashville SC is the true rival of FC Cincinnati. There are many reasons to support this take, most of which revolve around Columbus fans being dull as fuck and generally uninteresting as an enemy. It’s like if instead of having Darth Vader as an enemy, Luke Skywalker would’ve found himself matched up against an environmental regulator who was upset that Echo Base had been built on an area designated as a Wampa sanctuary (actually not too far off from what the Prequels ended up being like). Nashville, on the other hand, is just close enough to our origin story to make them an interesting rival -- we’re both part of the “new” MLS (teams born in an era where people actually like soccer v. following the sport in order to be cooler / more cultured than their normie friends), we both began as minor league clubs in the USL, and we both have fanbases that are probably too online for our own collective good.
There’s also things each side can hate about the other. From our point of view, Nashville was gifted an MLS franchise and given “most favored nation” status by MLS simply because putting a team in Atlanta worked. They’re a silver spoon club that worked for nothing, put no sweat equity into supporting their club, and did no legwork to help build their case for MLS. They’re a club of printed tifos, sponsored tailgates, and low-attendance road matches. From their point of view, we’re the loudmouth assholes who think soccer was invented in the tri-state area. We’re really good at patting ourselves on the back, despite the fact that our club really never wins anything (the “guy on the 3rd place podium” meme is pretty much the most dead-on roast of FC Cincinnati culture ever). We’re obnoxious online and have armies of people just sitting and waiting to pounce on any mention of our club. We’re also, objectively speaking, fucking funny -- and it has to annoy people that we’re so good at roasting ourselves that it makes it difficult to get a good punch in otherwise. We’ve got Cincinnati Chili -- the eternal butt of all food jokes nationwide -- they’ve got an entire city that was purpose built for awful bachelor / bachelorette parties where one person in the wedding party is too cheap to pay for a flight to Miami or Vegas. There’s hateableness to go around on all sides (as opposed to Columbus, where the city is one giant lobbying firm filled with drunk dipshits screaming “OH!” at random intervals).
On the pitch, we’re endlessly locked in a combat stalemate that would make the writers of Xenoblade Chronicles feel proud. Every match between the two sides, thus far, has ended in a draw -- including the most consequential meeting between the two sides in the USL playoffs (a game where the temperature dropped something close to 40 degrees from opening kick to PKs). This allows the debate between the two fanbases to continue endlessly with no side claiming superiority -- meaning any off-field fuck-up takes on enhanced importance. Printed trifos. Old hype videos. Everything is fair game.
You know, like a fucking rivalry should be.
I tried to ignore this for far too long. I was out there on the front lines of trying to shut down people giving stupid names to this derby (and, to be fair, all of the names suggested sucked -- the dweebs in Nashville can’t name a goddamn thing to save their lives, but I guess that’s to be expected when the your city’s only contribution to food culture involved adding the word “Hot” to an existing fucking concept). And, I wanted “Hell is Real” to work, I really did. But it isn’t going to work. Crew fandom online is Morgan Hughes and 100 alts that he runs online to create the illusion that anyone gives a fuck about their team. Crew fandom in person is a crowd full of people on their phones browsing Bucknuts or spamming the DMs of whatever latest 5-star recruit is thinking of committing to Ohio State this fall. It isn’t interesting, and it isn’t going to be interesting unless the one thing happens that has never occurred in the history of Crew fandom: people starting to give a shit about the Columbus Crew.
Speaking of the Crew…
SAYING GOODBYE TO RACIST SPORTS TEAM NAMES
This week, the Cleveland Indians announced that they had finally picked a new name: The Cleveland Guardians. It’s a fine name, in so much as every single sports nickname is fucking stupid, and this one is no more or less stupid than the others (seriously -- the only reason why “The New York Yankees” doesn’t sound dumb/corny as fuck is because you’ve heard it since you were a kid and there’s footage of people like Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth hitting monsterous black & white dingers in the uniform). It’ll sound weird for a minute and then, one day when you aren’t paying attention, it’ll suddenly just sound normal.
This reduces the number of sports teams with racist names left in Ohio to just two -- the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Columbus Crew SC.
By including the word “Columbus” in their names, these two teams honor the life and legacy of Christopher Columbus. Columbus was infamous for his brutal treatment of the native populations where he landed. He subjected and enslaved many of them, allowed his men to brutally torture and beat anyone who got out of line, and sold girls as young as 9 and 10 into slavery. In short, he was exactly the kind of person who deserves his name immortalized in the titles of two sports teams.
The silence from Crew SC fans on the murderous legacy of their team name is deafening here. And, worst of all, by fighting to keep the team from moving to Austin, they were really fighting to keep Columbus’s name on the badge / jersey. Sad, really.
But, with the Indians name now gone, Columbus Crew SC now should be next for a name change.
I missed badly on my last prediction (but, to be fair, who the fuck really thought The FC could score 4 goals?), so I’m looking to rebound here.
A tie is the easy and obvious pick. For one, FCC always ties Nashville. For two, Nashville is one of the best teams in MLS at coming back to steal a point when down. And for three, the FC fucking LOVES dropping points when they’re leading.
2-2 tie. The points are split, and the draw streak remains intact.
THEY MADE A MOVIE ABOUT LUCHO ACOSTA...
It’s called “Falling Down.”
Alright, that’s it for this week. We’ll hopefully be back on a regular Friday schedule next week. Until then, dropping points forever, bench depth never. See you motherfuckers in the thunderdome!