FC Cincinnati's first home match as an MLS club lived up to the hype.
The game was sold out in front of a raucous crowd and their heroes matched Nippert Stadium's energy with a historic 3-0 victory over the Portland Timbers that won't be soon forgotten.
“There is nothing that you could add to the day to make it any better," defender Nick Hagglund told MLSsoccer.com Thursday.
"There’s no words to describe what it was like to walk into Nippert, my hometown, in front of my family and friends," Hagglund added. "The word that comes to mind is just ‘proud’: Of the city, of the team, of the club. The moment was just right and it was a perfect performance.”
Now, with FC Cincy having picked up four points from a difficult opening three matches — away to Seattle and Atlanta, home to Portland — the club believe they've sent a message to the rest of the league.
“We are here," Hagglund said. "We’re not just an expansion team that people are expecting to roll over. We are a team that’s ready to go. We’re hungry.”
After their home debut, it's back to the road as Cincy face the New England Revolution Sunday (4 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada) at Gillette Stadium. Every match against an in-conference opponent is an opportunity to get one step closer to the postseason — no matter how early in the season.
“Every Eastern Conference team can be a playoff contender," Hagglund said. "The league can change — the Revs can rip off a six-game win streak at any moment in the season. Anytime we’re playing in the Eastern Conference, it’s a six-point swing.”
"We just now need to come out of this as a team to stick together, not to point fingers at each other," Revs defender Antonio Delamea said after training on Tuesday. "This is the only mentality that’s going to push us forward. We really need that win on Sunday.”
Attacker Diego Fagundez went a step further.
"With the team that we have, we can definitely win this game," Fagundez said. "I think, overall, we're at home and we can definitely show them who's going to be boss here."
Hagglund isn't much perturbed by Fagundez's comments.
“He can say what he wants, to be honest," Hagglund said. "We’ll see what happens on the field at the end of 90 minutes.”