MIB Tournament Takeaways - Bodyarmor ver 2

It’s official: FC Cincinnati and the #HellIsReal Derby return July 11 in the MLS is Back Tournament!

FCC will then play Atlanta United FC on July 16, followed by the New York Red Bulls on July 22, the league announced on Wednesday afternoon.

While we’ve known MLS is returning, we now finally know the dates and kickoff times for Cincinnati’s next match – which comes more than four months after last playing on March 7 in Atlanta.

Now that we know the schedule, here are other takeaways from Wednesday’s news:

Beginning with the derby just feels right

FC Cincinnati’s opening match of the MLS is Back Tournament was going to be one of the club’s most anticipated matches to date, regardless of the opponent.   

So, to say it’ll be against Columbus Crew SC only builds the excitement and anticipation approaching the third #HellIsReal Derby in MLS play.

The storylines are obvious. Beyond the rivalry and being the first game back, it’s also Jaap Stam’s first match as the new head coach. (Ron Jans’ first match was also against Columbus.)

Plus, the game is a rematch against two former FCC players: Fanendo Adi and Derrick Etienne Jr. Pundits will see this game as Adi vs. Jürgen Locadia in terms of productivity and offensive firepower.

The kickoff is late – 10:30 p.m. – but the timeslot allows the western half of the country to watch one MLS’ best young – and fiercest – rivalries in prime time.

A good result against your biggest rival would be vital in the Group E standings – and could provide bragging rights when all of us are looking for moments of normalcy.

Facing Atlanta second is really, really intriguing…

Takeaways from the schedule release -

FC Cincinnati and Atlanta United FC meeting in the second match of a competition has become the norm. They’ve met in week two of the past two seasons, and now again in the MLS is Back Tournament, too.

The circumstances surrounding this match are unique, and not just because it’s a 9 a.m.kickoff.

When they met March 2019, it was Atlanta’s home opener, and a sell-out crowd to celebrate their 2018 MLS Cup title.

Three months ago, the game was Atlanta’s first without Josef Martínez, who tore his ACL in the season opener at Nashville SC. Emotions were high, and pre-match scouting was difficult. You can’t exactly replace the best player in the Eastern Conference.

How much changes by playing at a neutral venue?

It’s also worth mentioning that the kickoff time is way earlier than FC Cincinnati have ever played a competitive match. (FCC playing the Montreal Impact at 1 p.m. last May was their earliest kickoff previously.)

Oh, and Stam and Atlanta coach Frank de Boer are former teammates, and de Boer used to coach Siem de Jong at AFC Ajax. So there are some great club connections there, too.

FCC’s result at NYRB would be much different now vs. March 1


Takeaways from the schedule release -
Photo by Michael Millay

There’s no point making excuses about the season opener at the Red Bulls.

FC Cincinnati struggled in the first half, but recovered and ultimately looked very dangerous in the second half when Locadia entered the match.

Locadia literally globetrotted in the days prior just to arrive back in the U.S. in time to make it to the match – and he still scored.

Yes, FCC are facing a team to whom they already lost, but they’ve had enough time to dissect what went wrong and can show what they’d do differently now.

This match with be compelling no matter what, and especially so if three teams from the group can potentially advance into the knockout stage ... and being played on the second-to-last day of group play, we may very well know that going into the game.