FC Cincinnati fans have become experts in self deprecation these last few years. Three last place finishes will do that to a fanbase. I’d be happy to argue they take it too far sometimes, but, I’m not going to judge anyone’s sporting coping mechanisms too harshly. And in those years, there had been a lot to be pessimistic about. 

Had been. 

It is an impossible task to overstate how poorly FC Cincinnati has been managed since joining MLS. From Koch, Berding, Nijkamp, Jans, Stam, and every other character in this saga that had a role in the on-field product, they failed spectacularly. I am not coach, I’ve never worked in a front office, and my playing days ended in high school rec leagues. But myself, and many fans with even less experience, could see exactly what was wrong with FC Cincinnati from the outside. The issues were plainly obvious. 

And those issues are, as far as we can tell, now gone. 

Yes there are still some bad contracts on the books. Sure there are a number of players who play positions we really won’t utilize going forward (pour one out for every winger on the roster), but the demons that haunted FC Cincinnati have largely been exorcised. 

Jeff Berding has been moved further away from the team on the field. An MLS experienced and cap-savvy general manager has been brought in to build the team. A long time assistant manager in MLS has been given his overdue chance as the head coach. An incredibly experienced and well-rounded backroom staff has been built. Smart, sensible, eat-your-vegetables signings have been made. Goalkeeping has been massively upgraded. Talented players in their prime have been retained and promising young players have been given a better coaching staff to work with. The academy that ranks in the top 10 on every list I’ve seen is starting to produce youth national team players. 

That’s a lot of issues ironed out. A lot of issues. 

So what issues remain? Well, fleshing out the midfield is pretty well the last outstanding issue. And the rumor mill has been working overtime on that front. Junior Moreno is the latest name to come up with The FC buying his rights from DC United. That’s a full Venezuelan international defensive midfielder who started 25 games last year and ranked in the top 80th percentile for midfielders in every defensive stat tracked by StatsBomb. Not too shabby for a defensive midfield position everyone has been clamoring for, assuming this signing is completed. 

That’s a lot of problems that have been solved out this offseason. So why are people still saying “I just don’t want to finish last”? This is an average MLS team now. Sure the midfield depth isn’t great and sure we haven’t seen Brenner really turn it on yet. But everyone MLS team has their issues. That’s what makes FC Cincinnati average. And in MLS, average MLS teams make the playoffs. 

So go ahead, have some expectations this year. Hope this team can make the playoffs. Expect home wins. Expect clean sheets and scoring multiple goals in a game. Consider this your permission slip to hope. 

Because lowering expectations is how bad team remain bad. Giving up on a few seasons is how fanbases are destroyed. Expect positive results and progress on the field and voice your displeasure with the club when they fail.

Except results, and if they don’t come, we’ll find someone who can produce them.