The Friday Funblast — April 16th, 2021

Can you feel it? We’re just one day away from this never-ending off-season finally coming to a close. We’re one day away from soccer being played in front of people instead of blue screens, from actual fans singing off-key instead of recordings. I’ve never been so excited to hear Tommy G in my life, and those are words I couldn’t imagine typing 18 months ago. So, without further ado…

COST BRENNER-FIT ANALYSIS

The minute the euphoria of Brenner signing with Cincinnati wore off, a narrative started slowly emerging in the shadowy world that is MLS journalism. The opening salvo to this was the objectively fucking stupid article written by a team of hacks at The Athletic (business motto: “Murdering your local paper in its sleep since 2016”) questioning if Brenner had actually been fielding offers from Europe. This moronic piece of “journalism” planted the seed that The FC wasn’t actually bidding against more well-funded teams in Europe at all. The inevitable follow-up to this has been what we saw this week from Laurel “Can I Buy A Vowel?” Pfahler — the take swirling around MLS that The FC “overpaid” for Brenner.

The obvious retort here is: Who the fuck cares? It’s not my money.

What a team spends on a Designated Player, quite literally, doesn’t matter from a roster-building POV. Thanks to the pressing need to get star power in the league at any cost (‘sup David Beckham), you are allowed to pay any cost in order to get these DP slots filled.

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(AN ASIDE: Can we come up with a better name for this roster rule than the “DP Rule?” I mean — we’re all fucking thinking it whenever someone says the letters “DP” together, right? I get that that the rule was written by people who didn’t grow up in the age of PornHub, but we’re now in a world where everyone under 45 knows what “DP” means. There was a goddamn South Park episode with someone wearing a DVDA shirt in fucking 1998. We all laughed. Hell, I just giggled a bit writing “DP Slots filled.”

You don’t see baseball naming a rule after former Orioles utility player BJ Surhoff, or the NFL calling it’s Franchise Tag the “Franchise Unifying Player Agreement” or FUPA for short. Figure this shit out, MLS — it’s embarrassing to talk about seriously.)

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In fact, the only mistake you can make with a DP is to go too small (see — your mind went there again) and not take full-advantage of the spot. That is, arguably, one of the main problems with FCC right now: they’re spending barely above DP wages on Yuya Kubo (the biggest Japanese bust since “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”) when they could have a much better and higher paid player in that spot. In fact, every MLS team should be buying the absolute best player who will agree to play in America for all their DP spots.

So, why does everyone “in the league” suddenly give a shit about overspending? I have a twofold theory on this — one, it’s because small markets get mad when other small markets spend, and two, because MLS wants its South American pipeline to stay cheap.

The first point is super obvious: a team like FC Cincinnati spending to win makes other teams in smaller markets (think: SKC, RSL, etc.) look bad when they refuse to open the wallet. These other small teams want to be able to sell “staying in budget” and “can’t compete with the big boys” to their fans whenever the whining starts about needing better players. That goes out the fucking window when a team from lowly Cincinnati goes out and drops bank to bring in a guy like Brenner. Hence, a whisper campaign of other GMs grumbling that “FCC got ripped off” as an excuse for why they, in their infinite fucking wisdom, don’t pay that much for players. In this line of thinking, they're the smart ones for not giving out the bad deal to make the team better.

The second part isn’t quite as obvious, but makes sense when you think about it. Over the past few seasons, MLS has developed a reputation as a league where South American talent comes on their way over to Europe. Some of the best additions to the league in recent memory (see: Martinez, Josef) have made this journey. Now, the “book” on building an MLS roster seems to be avoiding overpriced European talent and raiding the South American leagues at value. By breaking the bank on Brenner, the idea goes, FCC has re-set the market rate for spending in South America and proven that MLS does have the coin to spend in that realm when it chooses to do so. This is absurd for any number of reasons — chief among them being that soccer is a worldwide fucking market, and one transfer from one team in league isn’t going to suddenly upend the entire player valuation system. If FCC had that kind of power, they should’ve invested in fucking crypto and really sent their cash flow to the goddamn moon. But, you can still see why MLS GMs would suddenly start grumbling and grousing privately at the thought of, gasp, having to pay a few bucks more for their acquisitions.

My only hope now is that Brenner goes out and skullfucks the entirety of MLS, because — as bullshit as all this is — I really need FCC to win this silent debate for my own sanity. It’s hard enough defending bad decisions from the club, I don’t have time to give a shit about the good decisions that simply weren’t good enough.

THE FCC - IHEARTMEDIA COLD WAR COMES TO A CLOSE

FC Cincinnati announced their broadcast plans for the upcoming season yesterday, including another season of games broadcast over-the-air on Star 64 and streamed for free on their website (obligatory: Fuck FloSports forever). The big change for 2021 is the return of radio coverage for matches on ESPN1530, one of the many iHeartMedia properties in the Cincinnati area.

There are many sports that are great listens on the radio. The Chief has many fond memories growing up listening to Marty & Joe on an old clock-radio during west-coast swings back when bedtime was a non-negotiable 9PM. Soccer, however, isn’t one of them. This is especially true when you’re just getting a TV audio feed with no accompanying picture to put the words into context. So, you’d be forgiven for giving absolutely no fucks about the announcement of a radio deal for FCC matches. The issue was notable, however, because it marks an end to an unofficial media blackout of FC Cincinnati on the major “talk radio” stations in town — namely WLW and ESPN1530.

If you’re under 50, you probably didn’t notice this fact — mostly because you’re statistically more likely to be listening to a podcast or Spotify than flipping on Bill Cunningham or Mike McConnell. But, if you were listening, you’d have noticed that appearances by people like Jeff Berding and other notables who had been frequent guests plugging and promoting The FC had dropped to 0 since the move to MLS. Coincidentally, around that time, The FC had switched radio broadcast providers from ESPN1530 to some low-frequency FM oldies station absolutely no one had heard of. Much like ESPN rediscovering that the NHL existed as soon as they got the rights back for games, Tommy G was suddenly a featured guest for Mo Egger yesterday afternoon.

Does this mean anything to you? Based on a quick glance at who follows the Post, I’m going to guess “No.” But, when it comes to the ever important battle to keep the momentum going and keep growing the sport at a regional level, it’s actually a decently big deal. Although radio is dying as an industry, there are still thousands of people listening on a daily basis. And, to those people who were listening over the past few years, there was minimal presence for the FC beyond a score update or everyone clowning the club over who they were evicting on that particular day. When you’re the upstart in the local market playing the least popular sport of the bunch, you can’t afford to miss any opportunities to grow. FCC understood this in the USL days, and it’s nice to see them get it now.

Me? I’m still going to be listening to KLR and Pardon My Take exclusively on the commute in to work.

SEASON PREDICTIONS ARE DUMB

But, you read the Funblast for hard-hitting takes, so of course I’m going to give you a fucking season prediction.

When you look at The FC’s roster, it’s hard to feel confident or comfortable about winning matches. Is that the goal of 2021 (or, indeed, any goddamn year)? Yes. But, you don’t go from being the worst expansion team in all of sports since the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers to kicking ass in the span of one offseason. I get that. What I’m really looking for this year is: 1.) Not finishing in dead last again, and 2.) Having enough firepower to actually feel “in” a game down 1-0 or 2-0. That’s it. Don’t embarrass the fucking city, score some fucking goals to make games interesting. Not a huge fucking ask from my POV.

On that front, I think FCC will satisfy my expectations. Barring a massive run of injuries, I don’t see another last place finish. There’s too much talent up front for that. I also don’t think the team will struggle to score goals; the combo of Acosta and Brenner seems tailor-made to create problems for opposing defenses. Beyond that? The backline on this team is a fucking nightmare, starting Yuya Kubo is ridiculous (starting him in the midfield is insanity), and the coaching is ill-suited to a team that will need to concede goals and win shootouts. There’s also nothing by way of depth, so hopefully everyone’s been hitting the Peloton this off-season and is ready to play a lot of 90’ efforts. There are persistent rumors of a new CB coming in from within MLS, and I’d feel instantly better if that happened. I’d also feel better if the team targeted a new DP to replace Locadia (who is absolutely, 100%, not coming back after his loan is up) that could be a boost during the summer window.

So, where do I see things? Eh — 9th place feels about right. Maybe we stay within striking distance of the playoffs to make September interesting. I’ll need to see a lot more on the field and from Jaap before I can do better than that. Pessimistic? Maybe — but you’ll never go broke betting the under in Cincinnati.

THE FC v. BACHELORETTE PARTY SC

Did you know that you can actually book a giant dick on a truck bed to ride around Nashville? Doing that is still less embarrassing than actually supporting Nashville SC. Having said that, though...

FC 1, Nashville 2. Call Vegas and book it.

THEY MADE A YOUPORN VIDEO ABOUT FCC’S INTERNATIONAL ROSTER SPOTS

It was called “I can’t believe they all fit!”

Alright, that’s it for the Funblast this week. We’ll have NEW SOCCER TO TALK ABOUT next week. In the meantime: Brenner forever. Brennaman never. See you motherfuckers in the Thunderdome.