For FC Cincinnati, inaugural MLS home opener a day of community celebration

CINCINNATI — After FC Cincinnati took full advantage of Nippert Stadium’s first moment in the MLS spotlight, comprehensively beating the Portland Timbers 3-0 before a crowd of 32,250, players like forward Darren Mattocks reacted with awe at what immediately became one of the league's most imposing venues.

“Amazing, amazing crowd,” said Mattocks. “This type of atmosphere, I look to play in front of every week. The fans were definitely the 12th man out there, but we definitely went out and took care of business. In terms of the crowd, it’s right up there with Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, it’s really amazing.”

Mattocks is intimately familiar with the last two, having played with the Timbers for two seasons, and the third Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps for four seasons before that.

Defender Nick Hagglund arrived in his hometown in a late January trade after five seasons playing in another of the league's more imposing venues, Toronto FC's BMO Field. On Sunday, he remained to signed autographs for swarms of fans that stayed afterward to celebrate. 

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Fans at Nippert Stadium greet their team prior to FC Cincinnati's home opener | USA Today Sports Images

“After the whistle blew, just looking at the excitement on the people’s faces,” said Hagglund. “It’s definitely what Cincinnati deserves, a good performance like that. If you would have told me 10 years, five years ago that there was a crowd here cheering that loud, I would have called you crazy.”

After a brutal introduction to the league in Seattle, FCC bounced back with an unlikely 1-1 draw last Sunday against Atlanta United in Week 2. Hagglund said that result sent his new team a clear and confident message heading into the hope opener.

“We just went up to the reigning MLS Cup champions and stole a point from them. That means we can play with anyone in this league,” he said.

Cincinnati captain Kendall Waston provided the match’s iconic moment when he scored the first MLS goal in city history, ran to the corner flag, dropped to the ground and spun in circles.

Turns out, he was living up to a promise he made at home the night before.

“My son just came up with that, so I just throw myself down and started doing this thing," Waston said. "I didn’t tell the other players to join in. They just started doing it. So I said, OK, let’s do this and we continued."

Amid the rejoicing, FCC coach Alan Koch attempted to refocus the attention onto the fans and the work that’s been done to get the club to such a big moment.

“I’m very proud of our club, our city, and our players," Koch said. "We all know this club has worked incredibly hard to get where we are today, and I think the players showed their willingness to sacrifice for the team and they’ve got the three points tonight. I’m glad we could reward the city and our fans in a game that was very special to this community, with a great performance and a huge three points. The fans are the reason why we are where we are today.”

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