We all knew it would be difficult, taking essentially the same roster from last year and trying to win this year. But knowing something will happen and living through that moment are two different things. We all know our pets won’t live forever, but that doesn’t make their passing any less sad. 

Yes, watching FC Cincinnati is not unlike the family cat dying. 

Austin and DC were supposed to be bad teams this year, and they’re both undefeated and scoring boatloads of goals. Sometimes MLS is like that. Sometimes FC Cincinnati is utterly shit. We’re all refreshing Dave Wasserman’s twitter feed because it’s just too close to call right now. 

Which is why the result against Orlando doesn’t matter. Or more accurately, a bad result doesn’t matter. A good result would matter and would be very very very very very very very very shocking. Orlando is a team a lot of people consider Supporter Shield contenders. They ought to be a fantastic side, especially at home against a bad FC team. 

If we’re grading on a curve, the curve is a 3-0 loss. Anything better than this would be lovely. Anything worse than this would be a disappointment. 

But, and I cannot emphasize this enough, a bad result won’t matter. 

FC Cincinnati under Pat Noonan is a work in progress. Austin was a punch in the mouth to remind the coaching staff and the players how much work they really have to do. DC was a reminder that even playing well isn’t going to be enough if you don’t capitalize on your opportunities. Orlando is poised to teach the FC a new lesson and give the fans a new heart break. 

That changes on March 19th against Inter Miami.

Miami is also a team under construction (also they’re under sanctions). Miami, at home, in the afternoon, with the full team ready to go. Assuming nobody has a set back with their recovery or picks up a new injury, every single player should be ready to go on the 19th. The FIFA competition calendars will gobble up players a few days later, so Mata and Moreno ought to be available. Brenner will have been with the team and up to game speed. No excuses.

This is when the rubber will meet the road.

A poor result against Miami will be the time to start to panic. Like, good ol fashioned panic. I’m not saying fans should then  call for the heads of the coaching staff or the front office. But to panic that this team might be really, really bad this year and a wooden spoon will be more likely than not. It’ll mean Albright better start transferring players in and out this summer if he hopes to avoid a terrible start to his, hopefully, long career here in Cincinnati. Punting bad contracts to next year won't be viable if fan interest is to be maintained.

This really is a weird season where some fans have high expectations and can’t stand that people don’t see this FC Cincinnati team as a playoff contender. Others view this team as inevitably doomed until the roster can be completely and fully turned over.

Miami, not Orlando, will tell us which of these perspectives is more accurate.