Through the wind and the rain, the best team in the USL got knocked out of the playoffs, this past Saturday. FC Cincinnati’s magical transition to the MLS was cut short, but that doesn’t take away from what has been a stellar season for the third-year franchise.
The most playoff success the city has seen in awhile was cut down by some interesting refereeing and some rough weather. The whistle seemed to be on rapid fire in this conference semi-final, with the crowd booing, a lot. Like maybe too much? I mean some of the whistles were for legitimate fouls, but you couldn’t have told the crowd that. Anyway, I digress.
My foremost thought on the game was with the players whose futures lie outside the Queen City. There is no official decision on the whole roster, only that a few have contracts. Fanendo Adi and Emmanuel Ledesma are the only two with MLS contracts, currently, with the rest of the roster still up in the air. One such player whose future is in question is Justin Hoyte. The defender laid on the field, after the final whistle, and just sort of stared, for a minute.
A few teammates came over to him, after a few minutes, and he got to his feet. Hoyte then walked over to the stands and handed out his jersey and his cleats to a few young fans and then started for the locker room, for what could be his last time in orange and blue. Spencer Richey, Corben Bone, Jimmy McLaughlin, you’ve got to feel for all of them, over these next few days. Especially Bone, McLaughlin, and Kenney Walker, who have all donned the orange and blue since the inception of the team.
For those of us in the stands, there were a handful of exciting moments to cut through the cold, mostly from Adi. He had a few headers that either just missed, or ended up blocked by the Red Bulls II goalie, and one shot that left us wishing for more. My wife and I had to make a break for some hot chocolate at halftime, which was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had (maybe due to the circumstances) and the concourse was packed with most of the 16,000+ trying to avoid the cool mist that never ceased, through the afternoon.
The promise of the forthcoming MLS journey is an exciting one, but the USL journey was seen out the door sort of unceremoniously. Now we look on to the coming years, the thought of Rooney making a trip to Cincinnati, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (maybe), and other world-renowned soccer (futbol) stars is exciting. The Reds and Bengals better take note, Cincinnatians have another professional franchise with which to invest their time and money. They drew record crowds while playing “minor league” completion, what will happen when the big dogs come to town?
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