FRIDAY FUNBLAST: Welcome to Another Year of Terrible Soccer Takes!
The Friday Funblast Returns!
Friday, Feburary 4th 2022
Hello, how are you doing today? I hope I find you feeling healthy. So glad our paths crossed this time today, on our way into another season of FC Cincinnati soccer. Need to borrow a spoon? Oh, I think I’ve got a few of those sitting around here too. But, I digress…
Let’s talk about what’s been going on since we last talked!
The major headline from the offseason — really, if we’re being honest, the ONLY major headline from the offseason — is the appointment of Pat Noonan as the new manager of the Orange & Blue. Despite being cursed with a name that makes you picture a balding, overweight regular at your local Irish pub, Noonan comes to Cincinnati with an actual pedigree worth taking note of. Noonan was, himself, an MLS player for over 10 years (picking up a few USMNT caps along the way) and has been coaching as an assistant in MLS since 2013. In every way, he’s the exact opposite of what Jaap Stam was — domestic to the core and deeply familiar with what it takes to succeed in this wacky league.
And yet, it felt like the appointment of Noonan was met with something of a collective “yawn” in the greater Garydom. Part of this, almost assuredly, was because we’ve long since grown tired of seeing press conferences where Carl Lindner robotically promises that THIS time is going to be different while being flanked by Jeff Berding clapping along and wearing the one blue windowpane suit he owns. Another part was surely how routine and “paint by the numbers” this hire felt. Noonan was linked to the FCC job approximately 5 nanoseconds after Albright was hired as GM. There was never any serious chatter around any other coaching candidates, and the entire process felt like an exercise in just waiting for Philadelphia to lose so that we could pull Noonan off their staff. There was none of the “edge of your seat” / “lets all track private jet flight plan” drama like you find in most college football or NFL coaching searches (though, given recent legal filings, it seems quite a few NFL coaches might have been better off applying to manage FC Cincinnati).
So, why should you be excited about The Pat Noonan Experience?
Mostly — and I cannot possibly stress this enough — it’s because he’s god damned, red-blooded American. I get that the last few years have made the “rah rah” patriotism shit a little cringe (to be fair, it was always cringe — but back in the day you could at least enjoy your Lee Greenwood “Proud to be an American” and dream about killing commies like you were in “Red Dawn” without some dickhead chanting about walls and ruining your good vibes). But, much like the ability to get fired up when the McRib or Burger King Italian Chicken Sandwich come back for a limited time only, this is one of those times where being an American makes a difference. As we’ve previously reported in the past, MLS is a fucking stupid soccer league. It’s rule set was devised by a coked-up Dungeons & Dragons nerd with an eye towards stopping teams from overspending and crashing into a financial wall. One of the things it never felt like Jaap Stam appreciated was that, in MLS, there’s absolutely no way to avoid the fact that a player making $81,000 is probably going to touch the ball multiple times per game. You can’t spend your way to excellence, or even competence, at every level of the field — and, at some point, your system is going to need to reflect that fact. Pat Noonan has been living this reality for nearly 20 years. He’s been a winner in this league as a player (MLS Cup 2008 & 2012) and as an assistant coach (Supporters Shield 2020). After two seasons under a manager whose only achievement was almost getting a team promoted from the second division of English football, sign me the fuck up for someone who has hoisted a trophy on this continent.
From a supporters POV, you also have to like the idea that both Noonan and Albright understand the weird relationship between supporters and club in American soccer. I know this is going to shock people, but soccer isn’t as popular in America as it is elsewhere in the world. In Europe, supporting is a birthright. You grow up, live, and die as a fan of the neighborhood side. For many clubs, winning the big rivalry derby and avoiding relegation is enough to keep the passion alive. And, if it isn’t, what the fuck else are you going to do? Watch cricket? (An aside — I’m convinced there’s no actual rules to cricket and people use the “Oh, games can go on forever…” as an excuse to get out of the house / away from their families for multiple days in a row. It’s fucking brilliant when you think about it — “Sorry babe, I gotta go back to the bar; the Bengals game didn’t finish yesterday and they’re picking it back up at noon on Monday.” What a fucking scam.) Here in America, though, it’s different. Our soccer passions are still in their infancy, and it’s hard to have generational fandom for a league where half the teams are under 15 years old. Little things are important to keeping the flame burning — players staying after a match to sign for fans or acknowledging the away support after a road match. It’s an understanding that some Europeans might lack. Support isn’t a given in this country, it’s earned; and you have to understand that if you aren't earning it, someone else will. Hell, in this city there’s now another team down on the river that’s competing for hearts and minds like never before. Who better to understand that than people coming from Philadelphia like Noonan and Albright -- where they throw batteries at you when they don’t like you, and snowballs at you when they do.
To me, we haven’t gotten fired up enough yet about what a Pat Noonan managed FC Cincinnati will mean, going forward. I have to keep reminding myself, though, that this is a long-term project. It’s going to be rocky at times, but this is undoubtedly the right way forward from a back-of-the-house perspective. The roster, on the other hand…
WELCOME BACK TO THE FCC CLASS OF 2021!
Part of the reason I’m trying to fire myself up about Pat Noonan is because I’m having a *really* fucking hard time getting fired up about this roster. I asked Kevin “KW” Wallace to draft his projected Starting 11 for FC Cincinnati, as currently constructed, and this is what he came up with:
I knew that Nijkamp had left and overflowing Port-A-John of awful on the roster, but I don’t know that I was prepared for it to be as stark as it is. There are so many bad contracts on this roster that the team had to use it’s one-time “Get this motherfucker out of my sight” MLS trick to cut ties with Kamohelo Mokotjo —a guy who was on a max-TAM deal and still wouldn’t be in this lineup. There’s also going to be no help coming in the form of a Darryl Dike or Frankie Amaya SuperDraft wonder — as the FC blew that pick on a keeper that’s probably going to get loaned out somewhere for minutes (all while Kenneth Vermeer sucks up hundreds of thousands of Tricky Don Funbucks on the bench). The team doesn’t have a CDM / 6 worth a damn on the roster, and there’s a dearth of players in the midfield who are good passers and possessors of the ball. This has been an issue on the FC Cincinnati roster since forever, and is a primary contributor to their defensive breakdowns and their seeming inability to build an attack for more than 2 minutes at a time.
So, is there any good news here? Well, maybe. The backline looks to be competent, and I think it’s probably important to note that we got Geoff Cameron fresh off a full-season run in England and then asked him to make a full-season run with us (minus a few short border-crossing breaks brought to you by the letter Q). His fellow CB, Tyler Blackett, didn’t arrive until the season was well-passed DOA. A rested pair of CB with a full pre-season to work together should hopefully shore up a lot of the defensive miscues we’ve become accustomed to seeing. Thanks to the launch of Mokotjo, there should be money to fix the CDM/6 problem with either a max-TAM deal or a DP deal (buying down Kubo — who might need his own Cincy Shirt with “Good job, Yuya!” on it if these behind-the-scenes coaching videos keep dropping). There’s also a thought out there that big international transfers like Brenner tend to get better after having a year to adjust to the league. I’ve got my own thoughts on Brenner (namely that a striker who can’t create their own shot consistently and doesn’t frighten you with speed/quickness on the ball is a waste of a DP roster slot), but getting full-value out of him could also make this team better absent anything else.
It’s just hard to get super excited about the season when so many of the players who were responsible for last year (and, in a few cases, the similarly ineffective 2020) are still going to be taking the field for The FC. I don’t need to see more of Alan Cruz to know that he’s maddeningly inconsistent and disappears for long stretches of games, and I don’t need another year of Lucho Acosta trying to nutmeg 11 players and the assistant referee because he thinks the rest of his teammates are bums. If you look at the lineup above, who are you looking at and thinking “Hell yeah, things are gonna be fucking different this season!” Hell, one of the only new names on the list is fucking Alvas Powell — a guy who is somehow making his second run with a club that’s less than 4 years old. I’m hoping to be surprised with a DP 6 signing in the next few weeks, but if not, we’re about to get a real-time experiment in just how much coaching matters in this league — because, essentially, Noonan’s going to battle with the same bunch of soldiers that Nijkamp couldn’t get to shoot straight.
Truly, war never changes.
FREEZING COLD TAKES
On the non-FC Cincinnati news front, I also wanted to weigh in for a second on the United States Men’s National Team. You know: the one true bit of soccer joy any of us got to experience at TQL Stadium this past year (or, at least I’m told it was joyous — the Chief was grossly over-served on match day, including a Irish Car Bomb at Holiday Spirits on the way to the match, and most of what happened that evening was something of a blur). This past week, the USMNT hosted Honduras for a match in the United States. More specifically, the USMNT hosted Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota — well known for it’s hospitable outdoor climate in the winter months. The temperature at kickoff was somewhere between “Your Tauntaun will freeze before the second marker” and “See you in Hell” (fun literary fact — Dante speculated that Hell would actually be cold due to the distance between it and the warming light of Heaven). The decision to play the match was criticized heavily by the blue-checkmark brigade, and that criticism intensified after it was “reported” (in quotes, because I’m gonna need to see paper documentation on this to believe it) that several Honduran players were treated for hypothermia after the match. This match, it should be noted, was dominated by the United States and resulted in a 3-0 victory for the Red, White and Blue.
To the haters and losers (of which there are many) criticizing the US for playing this match, please allow me to say: Fuck directly off.
The pearl-clutching after this match is, and remains, fucking hilarious given the nightmare factories around CONCACAF that the United States is forced to play in every 4 years. The US is expected to endure waterlogged / unmaintained fields in stadiums that wouldn’t pass High School quality standards, fans throwing piss bottles and other shit during corner kicks, games played in air quality conditions roughly resembling a closed garage with a ’57 chevy running inside, and god knows what else — and it’s all chalked up to “gamesmanship” as part of the CONCACF tradition. Hell, there were fucking think-pieces written that the US shouldn’t play their European-based players in World Cup Qualifying because they (these pampered, soft superstars) don’t understand what it takes to win in these dog-shit facilities against players who are completely unconcerned with knee and shin health. Yet, whenever the United States engages in the barest minimum of shithousery in response, we get the righteousness thrown directly back in our faces.
We’re not “better” than playing an outdoor game in Minnesota. This is a team that missed qualification outright in the last cycle. I’m 1,000% behind doing anything and everything to make life fucking miserable for teams that come to play in the United States, and 100,000% behind whatever gets us the points to play in Qatar this winter. There are no fucking style points in this content. It’s a make-miss situation — and I won’t apologize for a god damned thing it takes to win and qualify for the World Cup. Play the matches in fucking Alaska for all I care. And, if this is really some big problem that needs to be addressed, let’s address it after the World Cup — and let’s really fucking address it. We’ll agree to no more matches in sub-zero weather if these fucking banana republics agree to take their CONCACAF blood money and pay actual people to maintain their soccer pitches and hire actual security to arrest and prosecute hooligan fans that make the games dangerous for our players and our traveling supporters.
But that’s not going to happen, because this is the same soccer federation that let George R.R. Martin’s fucking body double take a Scrooge McDuck’s money bin worth of bribe money. CONCACAF is concerned with one thing, and one thing only — lining the pockets of the worst goddamn people imaginable. And if that means looking the other way on fields containing actual land mines or playing matches in toxic levels of heat/cold, so be it
ASKING FOR A FRIEND…
If the Bengals are now on the record as playing this season in memory of Harambe, does that mean the #69 HARAMBE FC Cincinnati kit would now funny to own again?
Because if so, I gotta get to DH Gate ASAP.
THEY MADE A MOVIE ABOUT THE 2022 FC CINCINNATI ROSTER
It’s called “Groundhog Day.”
Alright, that’s it for this week. A final word from the Chief — thank you for everything Tom. It’s been fucking tough with a sports team rotation of FC Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but you made the last two years awesome. Go eat a piece of bread or whatever the hell else you’ve been denying yourself for 22 years, you fucking psychopath. TB12 forever. Mokotjo Never.
Welcome to the new year, motherfuckers.