Just one day until Nashville SC’s first match of 2021! The Boys In Gold will take on old USL rivals FC Cincinnati at Nissan Stadium on Saturday night. To get the latest on the Orange and Blue, I checked in with Tyler Snipes of SBI Soccer. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @SnipesTyler and check out his coverage at SBISoccer.com.
Ben Wright: Cincinnati have been bad… really bad… for their entire existence in MLS.What’s the mood like among fans going into 2021? Will a new stadium be enough to keep fans content?
Tyler Snipes: Yes. If for nothing else, the stadium is SO sweet and the new will take a long time to wear off of it.
In terms of soccer, the team just needs to be interesting in a much different way than it has been. You mentioned they’ve been bad, and everyone knows it. FC Cincinnati fans, as rough and tumble as they can be, are not demanding a champion yet. Getting out of the cellar and seeing the sunshine is the bare-minimum expectation. Fighting for the playoffs is the goal. Comfortably making the playoffs would be pandemonium.
BW: They spent big on players like Brenner and Lucho Acosta. Other players they spent on like Jurgen Locadia and Siem De Jong haven’t worked out. Do you think these signings are going to be different, and if so why?
TS: Truthfully, De Jong never found his footing and had to go after a destructive audition. It was weird and I don’t think anybody actually understood what they watched there.
He isn’t to blame for all of Locadia’s problems, though. As a DP and newcomer, you’ve got to do more than two goals (one of which was a PK) regardless of the circumstances.
Brenner will be different because he has Acosta. Both speak so highly of each other and there seems to be some real funk being written. Through the lens of realistic expectations, it is more than fair to ask for FCC’s first double-digit goalscorer and if that’s the case, there will be a natural rise in the standings.
BW: With all the money they’ve invested, Cincinnati have the potential to be an exciting team this season. Do you think they’ll improve dramatically, or do you expect more of a slow build to eventual stability?
TS: Mind you, we’re talking about a team we haven’t seen yet but the latter-ish. Looking at the attrition in the East, I’d argue FC Cincinnati’s ceiling is 6th place, and estimate the floor is 12th. Super specific, right?
Razor-thin margins to make the playoff cut, and I think the team lands 8th or 9th but gets the taste of success it needs to sage the room, if you will.
BW: With so much roster turnover, how have they looked in preseason? Do you expect a fairly cohesive unit off the bat, or will there be growing pains?
TS: I’ll be honest, I think it’ll be surprisingly cohesive. “Total Football” has been said by player after player in the preseason conversation.
That said, Joe Gyau is holding down a right back spot after a decade-long career up front. Another historical attacker, Yuya Kubo looks to be in the central midfield. There will be some growing pains, naturally. But truly, if you talk to one player about the plan, you’ve effectively talked to them all. There’s a system and it is very apparent that everyone knows their role.
BW: Finally, Nashville and Cincinnati have a rivalry from their 2018 USL season. How do the fans and players view that? Do you expect the rivalry to show up on the pitch on Saturday?
TS: So far in the conversations that I’ve been a part of, the team is really focused on itself and there hasn’t been a particularly interesting remark. So NSC would probably have to instigate it.
It’s MLS though. The fans make the rules in this way. A hostile environment will absolutely be noticed, especially after 2020. If there’s a little action, the Nashville fans will egg it on and get the party started on Saturday. If they don’t, Cincinnati folks will gladly cast the first stone (figuratively) in the reverse fixture, is the sense I get.
Many thanks to Tyler for his Cincinnati insight. If you want to hear more on this weekend’s match, check out our conversation on last night’s episode of Speedway Soccer.