Before he spoke, he made sure everyone had a full glass of a Braxton beer or a water. Once that was done, Jeff Berding delivered a five-minute speech about the club’s past, present and future.
To the club employees gathered about him, it was a nice moment to reflect, appreciate and get inspired for what comes next.
Monday marked the fourth anniversary since FC Cincinnati officially became a club. Four years ago, FCC was just a team name with mock jerseys and a vision for what professional soccer can be in this city.
By the time Berding spoke on the rooftop patio at Braxton Brewing Company on Monday afternoon, FCC was an MLS team with an academy and a soccer-specific stadium under construction just a couple of miles away.
“It’s very special and a proud moment,” the team’s president said of celebrating four years. “The most important thing is the impact this club has had with people, the community and how we’ve been very determined to improve people’s lives, whether through new friends, new memories or a new passion.”
When FC Cincinnati were announced on Aug. 12, 2015, the club had six employees. There are now more than 100. Monday night’s toast – and drinks, pizza and cupcakes – was about bringing the staff together in the same effort the club has done the same in the city.
“Whether they were here on day one or they’ve come along the way, they’re all committed to building something bigger than themselves and leaving a legacy,” Berding said. “I’m very proud of the family we’ve built in the club and the family connection we have with the community.”
Saying FCC have grown can be redundant. There’s continuous growth, from building to adding to the current foundation. The fact the club announced a head coach, three new players and another assistant coach in the last 10 days is just another reminder.
But to see this growth and compare it the team’s start is what’s special for Berding.
After working for the Bengals for nearly 20 years, he left the NFL team on Aug. 3, 2015, and started FC Cincinnati nine days later. Now, both are major league franchises.
“I’ve never looked back because this has been so challenging, so all encompassing,” he said. “We truly believed that in our fourth year we would be a Major League Soccer team. We believed in our plan and we believed we’d execute that play. I never thought it’d be easy.
“But the whole community put FC Cincinnati on their shoulders by coming to games, by buying merchandise, by coming to community events and by supporting good works in the community. All of that helped us get an expansion bid in the quickest turnaround in the history of the league.”
FC Cincinnati have provided plenty of moments to celebrate achievements on and off the field. On Monday night, the evening belonged to employees celebrating what they’ve achieved together. That’s why Berding made sure everyone had a full glass for the toast, and then clinked glasses with each coworker afterward.