Tonight is a Must Win Match
This part of the season, and this part of being a soccer fan, sucks. The team isn’t doing well. The manager is struggling. You feel like the team is just a few bad results away from getting a new manager. But you’re also kind of hoping that happens, just so you can go ahead and get started on the next project. Maybe the worse part is you fall into a pessimism that even if a few results go your way, you don’t think its sustainable, prolonging the inevitable.
We’re at the point now where these next four matches, these are must win, err must result(?), games.
I see it like this.
Between Chicago and Toronto, FC Cincinnati needs a minimum of 4 points. That’s a win and a draw. Gerrard Nijkamp and Jaap Stam, the General Manager and Head Coach respectively, have been in charge of this team for too long to be able to face off against the two other worst teams in the conference and not get results. If Cincinnati can’t get results at this point in the process, it’s failed.
If I were in ownership, not just some guy who’s been calling for the coach’s head for weeks now, I would look at 4 points in these two matches as the minimum. If there is a loss here, that should be the end of the experiment.
Then there’s the next two matches. If The FC is able to come away from Chicago and Toronto with those 4 points, that’s great, but there’s still work that needs to be done. A draw from either Houston or Columbus is the next benchmark I hope ownership is looking at.
If FC Cincinnati can get out of Hell is Real having taken 5 or more points in the last four matches, I think I would be forced to say a turnaround is afoot. Now, how flukey are these wins and draws? Well they haven’t happened yet, but there’s still an eye test to pass here.
Less than 5 points in these four matches? Then this team isn’t making progress. There will be next to no hope left at that point. 4 points, or god-forbid less, against really bad and average teams would be the end of aspirations for this front office. If The FC can’t beat the bad teams now, then what are we even doing here?
Like I said: this sucks. I want this fanbase to have joy. I want Cincinnati sports fans to shove every single hot-take about this team back into people’s faces, and that includes my face! I want FCC fans to be able to go back to writers for The Athletic or MLS and say “You got us all wrong, we’re great! You made fun of us and this team and this city is so much better than you said we were!” We have such an obnoxious fanbase that when we’re bad, we can only attack each other. But if we’re good? If FCC is good!? Cincinnati’s praises will be screamed from the mountain tops and the twitter-tops.
And I hope that not just that the team is good, but that Nijkamp and Stam are good too! If Nijkamp is able to fulfill his vision of dropping a Champions League team down in MLS and unleashing a free-flowing attack this country has never seen before, I’d need medication to steady my heart! And for Stam to find his coaching footing here with Cincinnati where he spends the next decade here or takes over a Champions League team in Europe.
If that happens? TQL is a fortress and revered as hallowed ground in American soccer circles. It becomes the place to play for American players. Europeans have heard about us and Mexican teams fear us. Cincinnati becomes synonymous with great soccer and hosts World Cup Qualifying matches. This is what I want.
But what do we have?
We’re stuck. We’re stuck hoping for just mediocrity. That’s why I’ve been harping about the management here for so long. I want to see that progress.
And that’s why these next four matches matter so much. Will the progress be there tonight? Will the progress still be there after Columbus? I hope so, but everything we’ve seen so far tells me it’s just not there. Prove me wrong tonight, please?