In the end, there was nothing sentimental about FC Cincinnati’s final seconds at Nippert Stadium. The full-time whistle chirped before the team could muster one last attacking opportunity.
And with that, the game ended, Cincinnati lost its last match in its first home and rain descended onto the turf.
FCC lost, 1-0, to Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night in their 2020 home finale. Here are the takeaways from the defeat.
Stam: “You give away a game.”
Head coach Jaap Stam didn’t mince words. Since he’s arrived, the majority of his post-match interviews have followed losses – often preventable ones. So, just as Stam tried to find the right players to fill a lineup, he tried to find the right words to deconstruct another disappointing performance.
The Dutchman didn’t hold anything back following Wednesday night’s loss, when FC Cincinnati created chance after chance but didn’t convert them, and Siem de Jong missed a penalty.
“I can only say that it’s unbelievable that we’ve played many games and it’s unfortunate that you don’t get the results that you deserve. Do we deserve them?” Stam said minutes after the game. “Because we missed the opportunities ourselves. You give away a game.”
“That’s unfortunate, because we can say a lot and we complain about things, of course, but we need to look at ourselves because in a lot of home games we gave it away ourselves. We couldn’t finish the games, and that’s why we are where we are now, to be honest.”
FCC, who controlled 62.4% of possession against the Western Conference leaders, had 13 shots. Two were on target.
“Man, just feels like that summarizes our season pretty accurately,” goalkeeper Spencer Richey said. “I thought we played well for large portions of the game. We dictated the game especially early on, we created some chances, and they created a couple. They ended up scoring that goal.
“You can’t fault guys for their effort, I know eventually effort is not enough and results need to start coming. Unfortunately, we didn't get it done tonight.”
When Cincinnati upset Columbus Crew SC in the last #HellisReal Derby at Nippert Stadium two weeks ago, the win felt like a catalyst for a late push to make the postseason. The team can still make the playoffs, but it’s lost three consecutive games and sits on the cusp of a league-worst finish for a second straight season.
In 21 games, FCC have scored 11 goals. Every other MLS team has scored at least 20.
Stam – and supporters – have every right to complain about that. The opportunities have been there, but the clinical finishing hasn’t been. That will likely be the difference between the club making and missing the playoffs.
McLaughlin makes first FCC appearance in two years
Two years and a day since Jimmy McLaughlin last played for FC Cincinnati, the winger made his Cincinnati MLS debut – and first league appearance since 2015.
It was a brief appearance in the 90th minute with a single touch of the ball, but the moment allowed the winger to come full circle for FCC.
In the week before the 2019 preseason, McLaughlin tore his ACL and missed the season. Set for a debut in the MLS is Back Tournament this past summer, he suffered a high ankle sprain.
Seeing the fan favorite back on the field – especially on a memorable night – was the only bright spot of a dark evening.
McLaughlin, one of the inaugural players from 2016, is the only player to be on the team roster in all five seasons of the club’s existence. He also played in the first and last games at Nippert Stadium.
His 104 total appearances rank second only to Corben Bone.
FCC are officially done at Nippert Stadium
The University of Cincinnati operations staff didn’t wait long after the final whistle to reclaim its stadium for good.
Once the blue and orange smoke cleared from the air above The Bailey, the FCC team banners and tifos were removed to reveal UC’s black and red signage.
The stadium that jumpstarted FC Cincinnati’s bid for an MLS expansion franchise, is now past history, as the club closes in on opening West End Stadium in 2021.
“(Not having fans) certainly takes away what makes Nippert what it is, the people that fill it and the atmosphere they create,” Richey said. “Obviously, this year we haven’t gotten to experience that. It’s been interesting … It’s been some of the most fun games that I have ever played in. That’s due, 100%, to the supporters and the atmosphere they create.”
The goalkeeper said that while there are two games left in 2020 – both on the road – he hopes 2021 will bring out a new FCC: a club fighting for silverware, not the last spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that next year, going into the West End Stadium, the supporters can start to get some of the results they deserve,” he said. “They’ve been patient. They’ve been supportive. They could have easily been smashing us these past two years for a team that has largely underperformed, and that’s myself included. Hopefully, looking into the future there are brighter days ahead.”
What comes next
West End Stadium – but first, the club has two games remaining in the 2020 regular season.
Cincinnati plays at Atlanta United FC on Sunday night in the third meeting between the teams in 2020. In the first meeting – the last match before MLS suspended the season in Match – Cincinnati lost, 2-1, inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, despite a second-half strike from Yuya Kubo.
The Orange and Blue beat Atlanta United, 1-0, in July during the MLS is Back Tournament group stage, when Frankie Amaya scored his first professional goal, and Stam earned his first win in MLS.
Following that match, the season concludes Nov. 8 at Inter Miami CF.