Dear FC Cincinnati,
This year has been unbelieveable. I (and the rest of us) are truly amazed by how you have become part of the fabric of our city in the ridiculously short 14 months you have been a team. The initial reaction to your announcement was overwhelming, ambitious, and exciting. On August 12, 2015 you announced that you will be participating in the USL regular season in 2016.
Cincinnati was confused. There was a lot of information to process. You somehow secured Nippert Stadium, the Lidner family resources, a US soccer legend head coach, an executive from a major league team coming on board to serve as the president of a minor league team, and you immediately established that the USL is not the endgame for this organization.
It was exciting, but it appeared overzealous.
Columbus crew is an undisputed mainstay in the MLS, Louisville City is two years ahead of you, and although your approach is certainly of a higher quality - you are not the first attempt at putting a professional soccer team in this city.
I became a season ticket holder in the Bailey on December 30th, 2015. At the time I had never even been to a live soccer match. I did not know what to expect. It was either going to be a roaring success or a colossal failure - and in Cincinnati we have come to expect the latter when it comes to our sports.
Not long after, the squad is announced. You made it very clear that the expectation of this season was about establishing the team and growing the sport in our city. Nobody had the expectation that this team would be playing to win - but here we are.
This season has proved that when you execute - you can have your cake and eat it too.
You hosted your first game on April 9th and Nippert stadium was slammed to the tune of 14,658 people. The stadium was understaffed, lines were long, and you were clearly working out the kinks. Honestly, it was barely organized chaos. It was beautiful because it was indicative how how you were going to be supported in this city - overwhelmingly.
Weeks went by, and you tightened up the gameday experience up and made it unique. There is no question that our home games are the best in all of the league. We are a major league city, and you have proven that Cincinnati is indeed big enough for a third major league team.
Weeks into the season, we were not at the top of the table - but we were certainly in the conversation for the playoffs. Fans continue to pile onto your bandwagon and just when this season feels like it’s too good to be true - on July 16th you brought an English Premier League team to Cincinnati. Before your inception, the thought that I would be sitting at Nippert stadium in a crowd of 35,000 watching an EPL team play a team from Cincinnati is more than mind blowing….I don't know. I really don’t have a way of expressing how surprising, unpredictable, and ridiculous that really is.
Now here we are after the playoff loss. Although it is no easy to take on the chin, this game does not define the squad and it certainly should not drown out all of the success we saw this season. However, it is sad to see the guys walk off the field in that fashion.
This offseason is going to be difficult for all of us. I am of the understanding that our best players will be hard to retain. I am a lifelong fan of everyone on this team and I am excited to see what the future holds for all of these guys as individuals. I know that John Harkes will not be here forever, but I certainly hope he stays for a while.
I know that the goal is to become an MLS expansion team. The news is out about Don Garber visiting us this winter and I am sure you have the capabilities to make the case for us to be in the conversation - and I hope you succeed. If you don’t, that is also fine. I would argue that the magic of this season will be very difficult to duplicate - major league or not.
Thank you FC Cincinnati for a wonderful season. Thank you for exceeding all expectations. Thank you for giving us a place to go this summer. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Until next season,
-Some guy in the Bailey.