FC Cincinnati Profile
Since their early days in the United States Soccer League, the club have grown and are now looking to make in impact in the MLS. Planet Sport takes a look at their story.
The first incarnation of FC Cincinnati was created in 2015 to play in the United States Soccer League. The owners of American Financial Group, the Lindner family, also owned the team, with Carl Lindner III appointed as controlling officer.
FC Cincinnati played in the USL for three seasons before disbanding and being reincarnated as an MLS expansion team, also called FC Cincinnati.
Former US men's national team star John Harkes was the first manager of FC Cincinnati.
The team colours have always been orange and blue as primary colours, with gray and white as secondary colours. The crest was updated for MLS, with the lion upon it made bigger and changed to white.
The team nickname is the Orange and Blue. The section containing the most passionate FC Cincinnati fans is called "The Bailey" and they play at Nippert Stadium on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.
They are building a new soccer-specific stadium called the West End Stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2021.
The West End Stadium will meet all requirements to host CONCACAF and FIFA events, making Cincinnati a finalist to host games in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
The USL years
FC Cincinnati were in the Eastern Division of the USL for the 2016 season. Their first USL game was a 1-0 away defeat to the Charleston Battery on March 26 but they won in Bethlehem a week later, beating the Steel 2-1.
Andrew Wiedeman scored the first goal in the team's history. On April 9, they beat Charlotte 2-1 in their home opener in front of 14,658 fans.
On April 20, they broke the USL regular season attendance record for a single game with 20,497 fans and they bested that number on May 14 with 23,375 spectators.
With five games left in the season, they broke the USL season attendance record too.
FC Cincinnati only lost four times before August 28. After consecutive losses knocked them into fourth place, they went unbeaten in the final five games to make the play-offs.
They also set another attendance record with 24,376 fans at the September 17 home finale. Sean Okoli led the team with 16 goals, while Mitch Hildebrandt had 11 clean sheets in 2016.
Cincinnati ended the season with a 2-1 loss to Charleston Battery in the conference quarter-finals.
For the 2017 season, the USL became the second highest division in the US soccer pyramid and FC Cincinnati stayed in the Eastern Division.
Harkes left as manager on February 17 and was replaced by assistant Alan Koch. Cincinnati lost two of their first three games and picked up just two wins from their first nine.
They got going in the middle of the season with three straight wins in July and six straight without defeat from August 23 through October 8.
On September 16, they set another attendance record with 30,417 fans for a 4-2 win over NYRB II. FC Cincinnati finished in sixth place in the regular season and lost their first play-off game 3-0 to Tampa Bay.
The story of the season for the Orange and Blue came in the 2017 US Open Cup. They entered in the second round and beat AFC Cleveland 1-0 before beating Louisville City FC by the same scoreline.
In the fourth round, they faced an MLS team for the first time and upset the Columbus Crew 1-0 in front of 30,160 fans at Nippert Stadium, with the only goal scored by Baye Djiby.
Their round of 16 home game against MLS side Chicago Fire was televised on ESPN with 32,287 fans at Nippert Stadium. The game was goalless after extra time and Cincinnati won the penalty shootout 3-1.
They went to Miami in the quarter-finals and beat Miami FC 1-0 before getting another home game in the semi-finals. They attracted 33,250 fans and took a 2-0 lead but lost to New York Red Bulls 3-2 through a goal in the 101st minute.
Last USL season
In the 2018 season, Cincinnati started with five wins and two draws from their first eight games.
On May 29, it was announced that MLS had awarded the Cincinnati ownership group an expansion franchise and the USL team would disband after the 2018 campaign.
After that announcement, they didn't lose again in the 2018 regular season, securing 17 wins and six draws.
They clinched the USL Regular Season Championship on September 26 with a 4-1 win over Richmond and attracted 31,478 fans to the home finale against Indy Eleven on September 29.
FCC beat Nashville in the first round of the play-offs before falling to NYRB II 1-0 in the conference semi-finals.
In the US Open Cup, they beat Detroit City FC 4-1 and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 3-1 to reach the fourth round. FCC hosted MLS side Minnesota United but lost 3-1 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
FC Cincinnati and the MLS era
Cincinnati signed their first MLS players while still playing in the USL. On July 30, 2018, they acquired Fanendo Ali from Portland as a Designated Player and then picked up midfielder Fatai Alashe from San Jose.
They drafted Darren Mattocks, Kei Kamara, Roland Lamah, Eric Alexander and Hassan Ndam in the Expansion Draft and traded Kamara to Colorado Rapids for an international roster spot.
They also signed midfielder Frankie Amaya with the first overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.
The first-ever MLS game for FCC was a 4-1 loss at Seattle, with their first goal being scored by Leonardo Bertone.
They drew 1-1 at Atlanta United and played their first home game on March 17 in front of 32,250 fans, a 3-0 win over Portland.
After two wins, two draws and seven losses, Koch was fired on May 7 and Yoann Damet was named interim manager.
They won just once in 14 games between March 24 and July 5. They took back-to-back wins in mid-July but lost the next four games, including Ron Jans' managerial debut on August 3.
The first MLS Hell is Real Derby against Columbus was a 2-2 away draw on August 10, with Cincinnati losing 3-1 at home to the Crew 15 days later. FCC finished the season with three straight draws, including a pair of 0-0 contests.
Overall they finished in last place of 24 teams with 24 points from 34 games. With six wins, 22 losses and six draws, FCC had a goal difference of -44.
They conceded a record 75 goals. Allan Cruz led the team with seven goals, while Emmanuel Ledesma scored six times and provided four assists.
Przemyslaw Tyton had three clean sheets while Spencer Richey had two. In the US Open Cup, FC Cincinnati beat Louisville City 2-1 in the fourth round but lost to USL side Saint Louis FC 1-0 in the round of 16.
The 2020 campaign
Heading into the 2020 season, FCC brought in forward Brandon Vazquez from Nashville, defender Saad Abdul-Salaam from Seattle and midfielder Haris Medunjanin from Philadelphia.
Fanendo Adi and Ledesma were waived and FCC also lost Alvas Powell to Inter Miami CF in the Expansion Draft.
Jans resigned on February 17, 2020, during an investigation about him using a racial slur. Damet again took over as interim manager, with the campaign starting two weeks later.
The season started with two losses as FCC were outscored 5-3. The league shut down after the March 7 game due to COVID-19 and didn't resume until July.
At the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, FCC lost to rivals Columbus 4-0 in the first group game.
They bounced back to beat Atlanta United 1-0 and RBNY 2-0 to advance to the knockout stage. In the round of 16, they took eventual champions Portland to penalty kicks but lost 4-2.
When the MLS regular season resumed in August, FCC drew three of their first four games, including a goalless draw against the Crew.
They grabbed a 1-0 win over Red Bulls in September before losing four straight matches.
A landmark 2-1 win over Columbus at home on October 14 gave FCC their first MLS win over their Ohio rivals. However, the season then ended with five straight losses and FCC didn't score in three of those.
Over the season, they finished last again, 26th overall with 16 points from 23 games. They picked up just four wins and four draws. Their goal difference was better at -24, but FCC scored just 12 times all season.
Yuya Kubo led the team with three goals, while Jurgen Locadia and Brandon Vazquez scored twice. Tyton kept five clean sheets while Richey had two. Nick Hagglund made the MLS Team of the Week twice.
Heading into the 2021 MLS season, FCC brought in defender Ronald Matarrita from NYCFC for $500,000.
They also released goalkeeper Richey and extended loan deals through June for Locadia and Franko Kovacevic.
Locadia is owned by England's Brighton & Hove Albion, while Kovacevic is on loan from Germany's TSG 1899 Hoffenheim II.
FC Cincinnati's rivals
The Ohio Derby is also known as the Hell is Real Derby and is contested between FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC. The name comes from a billboard that can be seen on Interstate 71 between the two Ohio cities.
The first-ever meeting was a 1-0 win for FCC in the 2017 US Open Cup fourth round. The two sides didn't meet again until FCC joined MLS, with the first game being a 2-2 draw in Columbus.
The Crew won three of the next four with a 0-0 draw thrown in too. A 2-1 win on October 14, 2020, was the first in MLS play for FCC.
In the USL, their major rivals were Louisville City FC, with the sides playing in the River Cities Cup (also known as the Dirty River Derby).
The name comes from both teams being situated on the Ohio River, 100 miles apart. The teams first met in 2016, with each winning once and a third game being drawn.
In 2017, FCC won two of three and Louisville City returned the favour, winning two of three in 2018. They met in the 2019 US Open Cup fourth round as FC Cincinnati won 2-1 in extra time.
FC Cincinnati's top players
FCC have designated players Yuya Kubo from Japan, Jurgen Locadia from the Netherlands and Allan Cruz from Costa Rica.
They also have homegrown defender Zico Bailey and Generation Adidas player Frankie Amaya.
In their two MLS seasons, French defender Mathieu Deplagne has played in the most games with 50, eight more than captain Kendall Waston and Amaya.
Cruz leads the team with eight goals, all in MLS play, while Emmanuel Ledesma had six before being released. Przemyslaw Tyton has kept eight clean sheets, three more than Spencer Richey.