FC Cincinnati Week
by Evan Floyd, Host of “In The House” weekly podcast
Salutations and welcome to FC Cincinnati week!
People in Louisville have a special relationship with rivalries that few other places can match. Ali versus Frazier, Trinity versus Saint X, and Alydar versus Alysheba have all captured the local imagination in some way. But they all pale in comparison to UK versus U of L. Children are born into homes flying blue flags, red flags, or house divided flags. From the time they are old enough to care about identity, they are given one. Cardinals or Wildcats. Lexington or Louisville. Good or evil.
I’ve lived all over the Midwest and seen some great rivalries, but nothing prepared me for living in Louisville. The sheer, unadulterated passion that Cards and Cats fans feel here is astonishing. The unbridled enmity between the two fan bases is shocking. The pride that the team on top feels, and the angst that the team on the down side of things experiences is real and immense.
None of this is to say that other rivalries don’t have fans who feel this way. They all do. But the volume, intensity, and proximity is unique in this city. You work next to someone you can’t stand just because of what color they wear. The radio, television, and print media in this town is devoted to 95% college athletics, 5% other news. It is inescapable.
So yeah, Louisville understands rivalries. And FC Cincinnati is well on its way to being a great rivalry.
I’ve given it a great deal of thought about what makes for a great rivalry, and I’ve boiled it down to these three things:
1. Proximity – With the notable exception of Celtics/Lakers, truly great rivalries exist when the other team lives in your back yard.
2. Parity – With the notable exception of Red Sox/Yankees, truly great rivalries exist when one team doesn’t always dominate the other.
3. Animosity – Without exception, truly great rivalries need an x-factor of nastiness. Hateful, unpleasant, occasionally profane… nastiness.
LCFC versus FCC has got all three of those things in spades. So let’s break it down!
1. Proximity –
You don’t need to be Rand McNally (or enter your favorite cartographical society here) to see that 100 miles isn’t much. You can make it from Slugger Field to Nippert Stadium in under 90 minutes if traffic is good. We share a river. We are both mid-western staples with proud traditions of commerce, diversity, and athletics. These cities are similar and they are near one another. That, my friends, is proximity.
2. Parity –
In the regular season, these teams are dead square even. 2016 saw Cincinnati claim the River City Rivalry on the strength of goal differential. 2017 watched Louisville claim the same honor. In six regular season games they each sport 2 wins, 2 losses, and 2 draws. Over six games, the goal differential is just plus 3 goals in favor of Louisville. But Cincinnati will eagerly point to their US Open Cup success which includes a 1-0 win over the boys in purple.
That’s head to head. In terms of USL success, Louisville holds an obvious advantage having made it to at least the Conference Finals each year while FCC has yet to win a playoff game. Louisville has won a regular season Eastern Conference Championship and a USL Cup Championship (hence the gold star). In that time, FCC has won… nothing of consequence. They did make a surprise run to the US Open Cup semi-finals beating two separate MLS teams. But there are no trophies for that. Unless the people in Cincinnati made one up.
But let’s give the devil his due: FCC has been a good team that has underperformed in the playoffs. Louisville has been a good team that thrives in the playoffs. The difference between them has only been more than 2 goals once, and that was the absolute destruction that Louisville rained down on the blue and orange in a 5-0 beat down last year. But I digress… the teams have been close on the field.
3. Animosity –
This is where it gets fun. These two teams detest each other. These two fan bases can’t stand one another. The coaching staffs won’t be exchanging delicious recipes either. From the minute it was announced that FCC would be joining the USL in 2016, there has been jawing back and forth. FCC has mocked our crowd size and the fact that we play in a baseball stadium. LCFC has mocked Ciinci’s head coach controversy, their free ticket giveaways and their lack of post-season success. An FCC player bit an LCFC player. FCC didn’t like that Coach O’Connor took exception to the biting. There have been red cards. There has been shoving. Luke Spencer and Pat McMahon left Cincinnati for Louisville and suddenly got good. Aodhan Quinn and Kadeem Dacres left Louisville for Cincinnati and suddenly got bad. We deride their inability to get a stadium deal. They deride our inability to get on MLS’s radar. It has been contentious. It will continue to be.
So, Louisville knows rivalries and this is quickly becoming a doozy. Tune in Saturday night as two undefeated teams aim for early season bragging rights. If history is any indication, it’ll be a good one. Tune in to the “In The House” podcast on Thursday for an interview with Paco Craig and a game-specific breakdown of what to expect beyond a fantastic rivalry.
And as always… Go City!