CINCINNATI – Wednesday’s US Open Cup match represented the biggest moment for FC Cincinnati since its inception in 2015. And on the biggest stage, the club and the city came through.
An astounding crowd of more than 30,000 fans – a record for a non-final Open Cup match – watched FC Cincinnati produce a clean sheet against Columbus Crew SC to earn a 1-0 win in their fourth-round matchup, the first-ever meeting between the two Ohio clubs.
After the match, FCC head coach Alan Koch didn’t mince words about how much the match meant to the team and the city.
“It’s Cincinnati against Columbus,” he said. “People can [break] it down and say, ‘It’s the first game, so how do you have a rivalry?’ Of course we have a rivalry. This is professional soccer, and when you get to play against teams that are this close geographically, it’s very important for the clubs … and our fans and both of our cities.”
After the match FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding said he was blown away by the city’s continued support of the second-year club, especially against their in-state rivals.
“That’s a big-league soccer experience right there [against] a big-league club we have a lot of respect for,” he said. “I’ve said for the last two weeks that we’re honored to host [Columbus] here in Cincinnati. They paved the way for our ability to build this club.”
Even in a loss, Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter couldn’t help but compliment the home team.
He said the match was “what soccer is about,” and praised both the traveling group of more than 1,000 Columbus fans and the Cincinnati fans for the atmosphere.
“This is what makes soccer special,” he said. “It’s great to give Americans a taste of a real cup atmosphere – that’s exactly what it was. Our fans were amazing, their fans were amazing and it made an atmosphere that was electric.”
Speaking with emotion, Berding said the night epitomized the high aspirations of FCC, who have made their MLS ambitions widely known. But even with those hopes in mind, he said he was stunned by Wednesday’s experience.
“In all of our wildest dreams as we started this wonderful club in this wonderful sports fans, we wouldn’t have dreamed as big as a night like tonight,” he said. “It’s incredibly special. I’m speechless, really. It’s a stunning night.”