MASON, Ohio – Five out of six MLSsoccer.com pundits picked FC Cincinnati to finish 10th or worse in the Eastern Conference in the team's season preview. General projections have the expansion team struggling in year one. So how do FC Cincinnati players feel about that?
Midfielder Fatai Alashe had the most animated reaction. “Bottom of the East?" He shook his head. "That’s the first I’ve heard of that. I guess we’ll see when the games start, and hopefully we’ll prove some people wrong this season.”
Polish goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, new to MLS this year, had a more measured response. “I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on my job. I’m focused on my teammates, and the team performance. Media will always talk about expectations, about the new team in the league with new players. They don’t know anything about us so far. We start from the bottom, but we know what we have to do.”
Even in Cincinnati, a city known for its professional sports woes and diehard fans, most aren’t giving the MLS upstarts high chances for success in 2019. Interestingly, that’s what some of FC Cincinnati’s players are counting on. They plan to embrace the underdog role and focus on hard work.
They believe the key now is building familiarity as a team. In Fanendo Adi’s words “we have the quality, now we just need the understanding.”
On Wednesday, three days before the team’s first match in MLS (Saturday, 10 pm ET | FS1 in US, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada), defender Kendall Waston was anointed the team’s first MLS captain. Waston had previously served as captain for Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
“Kendall is an exemplary leader for our team both on and off the pitch. When building our roster, we placed a strong emphasis on not only adding quality players, but also somebody who could inspire the players around him. Kendall is someone who is very deserving of the honor of the club’s first-ever MLS captain.”
Waston reiterated the team’s focus on building team chemistry and explained why he thinks FC Cincinnati can earn a spot in the postseason.
“We have good players, and we’re trying to build a family," he said. "We have a lot of players trying to play together for the first time. But we have the goal that we can make the playoffs. It’s normal that [the media] say that we can’t because maybe the club hasn’t hired a huge name or a star. It’s not like we’re LA and we’ve got Zlatan. The main thing here [in Cincinnati], what matters is the group. I think with the days, weeks, and months that come, every day is going to be better.”