HANOVER, N.J. – The addition of FC Cincinnati as an expansion team in MLS was given a Midwestern endorsement by New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch, a Wisconsin native who lauded a city and fanbase that he said impressed him a year ago.
Following their U.S. Open Cup semifinal win over Cincinnati last August, Marsch and his players applauded the home support at Nippert Stadium.
After celebrating the extra time win with the Red Bulls supporters who made the trip, Marsch’s squad proceeded to applaud the home squad and the 33,250 in attendance who grabbed the attention of the American soccer world. Not only did the USL squad knock off a couple of MLS teams during their Open Cup run, they did so in front of crowds that were double, if not triple, what most MLS teams would draw for the tournament.
That Open Cup showing helped pave the way for Tuesday’s announcement that Cincinnati would enter the league next year.
“It’s awesome. I think in the league we knew that it was going to happen. It was just a matter of a formality. When you look at the stadium renderings, it looks pretty amazing,” Marsch said Wednesday following his team’s training.
“Being there, I think the fans…the fans were, I think, one of the best fans that we’ve ever dealt with that had a serious passion for the team, but they had a major respect for the opponent. And I’m from the Midwest and I think that might be partly a Midwest trait: You have passion, but that you’re a good dude or a good person. And so they, I think, do that really well, really well. Nothing, no obscenities yelled at us when we beat them. No throwing things at us.”
With a USL team in place, Cincinnati already has a core of a team, something that can potentially help them as they ready for the jump to MLS next year.
While they have that advantage, Marsch notes that next year will see a flurry of details coming at them in all directions. Having coached the Montreal Impact as an expansion team in 2012, Marsch knows firsthand the challenges that a first-year side faces in MLS.
The hurdles for Cincinnati, who will play at Nippert Stadium until they move into their own soccer-specific stadium, includes a home venue designed for American football. Then there are internal logistics that all expansion sides must sort out.
“The turf’s not great, but they’ll figure it out," Marsch said. "Every expansion team has challenges ... I went through it in Montreal. The team was understaffed, they had to bring in new staff, they had to create a culture. The stadium wasn’t ready and we played indoors a lot. When it was ready, we still had to put the team together the right way. The first year, in many ways, is a feeling out a process. And being that coach is not always the most fun job to have fun, but you learn a lot. I learned so much that year on how to handle everything.”