FC Cincinnati were a club founded with “major league ambition” that started in the country’s third division. But that didn’t stop the club and its fans from daydreaming about MLS matchdays at Nippert Stadium.
This past Saturday, FCC re-aired the team’s MLS home opener, arguably the club’s best game in franchise history. In a match that was about civic pride as much as winning, the Orange and Blue pummeled the Portland Timbers, 3-0, who were the reigning Western Conference champions.
While the match restreamed, FCC also hosted the Buffalo Wings & Rings Second Screen Experience, which included Voice of FCC Tommy Gelehrter, players Kendall Waston and Spencer Richey, and FS1’s broadcast crew from the game: John Strong, Stuart Holden and Katie Witham.
Here were some of the more memorable moments of the second screening…
Waston on his first game at Nippert Stadium
“It was so exciting because just arriving to the stadium, we see the amount of people all around and how they cheer and how they scream,” Waston said. “I was just waiting for the first whistle to start the game.”
The Costa Rica international scored the first MLS goal at Nippert Stadium when he headed home a cross from Leo Bertone. On the other side of the field, he helped FCC earn their first MLS win and clean sheet.
Richey called it his favorite game he’s ever played in
The goalkeeper was on loan with Cincinnati in 2018, so he was used to playing at Nippert Stadium, but he said the atmosphere was unbelievable that day.
“There was just something about that Portland game,” Richey said. “Just the buzz that was in the atmosphere, it was a beautiful day and sunny. That’s probably my favorite game that I’ve gotten to play in. I remember just wanting to give the fans a positive result and something to cheer for.”
Strong on why he loves calling home openers for expansion clubs
Strong and Holden called FCC’s first-ever MLS match when they played at the Seattle Sounders – you’re probably hearing Strong’s goal call of Bertone’s volley in your head now – and said that Cincinnati’s big test would be its home opener.
Given the chance to call both the Seattle and Portland games, Strong said he has a few objectives every time a new MLS team plays its first home game.
“For a game like this, you’re more focused on covering the occasion and covering the history,” he said. “Let’s cover the scene and introduce people to Cincinnati and the traditions and rituals that exist, then just soak it up and see what happens … It was a wonderful day for soccer fans in Ohio’s Queen City.”
Witham recalls her “March to Nippert Experience”
An early highlight to the second screening was Witham, who as the sideline reporter that day, sharing her memories of the match.
She had just had a son four weeks earlier, and the FCC-Portland match was her first game back.
“It was a blur,” she said.
Her retelling her story of trying to run to catch up with the march was classic, and she had glowing reviews about the match.
“The atmosphere was just tremendous,” Witham, a Columbus native, said. “It was the perfect game.”
Holden on his first visit to Cincinnati – ever
It’s worth remember there was a lot of hype around FCC in American soccer ahead of the MLS opener. The club averaged more than 25,000 per game in the USL and had a magical Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run in 2017.
Holden wanted a first-hand glimpse of everything.
“I remember just this scene of orange smoke coming down the road and up to the stadium,” he said of the supporters’ march. “There are few games where John will see me take off my headset because we have these noise-cancelling headsets, and you don’t get a sense of the atmosphere and the sounds … When the first goal went in, the stadium erupted.”