Aside from the three points and victory over their chief rival, the hope for Cincy will be that it's the start of a run that can convince an increasingly restless fan base that progress is being made and things are on the right track.
As Cincinnati have toiled away near the bottom of the Eastern Conference again this season and struggled mightily to score goals, criticism from the outside has become frequent. The Baileys Supporters Section at Nippert Stadium, which had previously been decked out in banners for the club's home games, was vacant on Wednesday, in what was apparently an act of protest directed at the club's front office borne out of frustration with the state of the roster.
For the first time since #FCCincy returned from Orlando, there are no supporter banners hanging from the Bailey.— D.J. Switzer (@wrongsideofpond) October 14, 2020
Per a source from the SGs:
“The lack of banners is a response to a growing sense of frustration at the overall team performance and lack of progress.”#CINvCLB pic.twitter.com/5AtPMoAp3L
After the match, defender Nick Hagglund said that perhaps the most important part of the win over Columbus was the reward of giving a signature rivalry win to a fan base that he admitted hasn't had enough to cheer about since the club joined the league.
From Hagglund: "Definitely a match for the fans bc they've been through a lot these past two years and they deserve wins, they deserve positivity and the team building and progressing. So, for all the fans out there, we hope you enjoyed performance today...."— Laurel Pfahler (@LaurelPfahler) October 15, 2020
Head coach Jaap Stam wasn't asked about the banner protest specifically, but was asked about whether he felt a result like Wednesday's can at least be the start of turning around the perception of the club, both locally and nationally.
The coach said that he understands why the criticism has surfaced, but said that he feels as though his club has played better than recent results might suggest, and that he believes things are headed in the right direction. It's just up to Cincinnati to use the stretch run to show that the win over the Crew wasn't a one-off and that they can sustain a positive stretch of play.
"There's always criticism if you don't win games," Stam said. "There's been a lot of games where we've played but we don't get a result because we don't score, and if you're not scoring and you're not winning games and you're giving these balls away, then there's criticism, yeah, I can understand that. I think myself and the staff and the players are most critical on our performances and what we have done and what we need to do. The only thing is sometimes is that's a difficulty and that's also a thing that happens in sports -- and it's not only in soccer, but in every sport -- that people who haven't seen the game, that don't know a lot about soccer criticize players or staff or a team or a club very easily because of certain results
"But we also need to know that we're in such a process. Every team is trying to improve their roster, every team is trying to make changes, we're not the only one. The players, again, are working very hard for it. Getting this result is very important for us, for the players. People might start talking differently now, but that's how it goes. For us it's very important to not pay too much attention to what other people say because it's easy to criticize, social media's there to criticize, a lot people don't even look at the game but only criticize because of the results."