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Crossing the Touchline: Crew vs. FC Cincinnati

What should Black & Gold fans know about their Cincinnati rivals?

MLS: FC Cincinnati Training Handout Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Columbus Crew SC is ready to return to play. Caleb Porter has his team ready to go as a part of the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida.

The Black & Gold, who began the Major League Soccer season 1-0-1 before the coronavirus pause, are itching to get back to the field after four months off. The team has been training for as long as possible but is looking forward to real, competitive games.

FC Cincinnati, Columbus’ opponent on Saturday night, struggled out of the gates, going 0-2 in games against the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United. During the stoppage in play, FC Cincy hired a new coach, Jaap Stam, meaning it’s hard to predict what this team will do in the first game.

To get a better idea of what Cincinnati will bring in the first game of the tournament, Massive Report reached out to FC Cincinnati beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer to learn about the group.

Questions for The Enquirer

Massive Report: Year 1 in MLS didn’t go well for FC Cincinnati. Backtracking to March when we thought we were going to have a regular MLS season, what was the optimism that Year 2 was going to be an improvement? For Crew fans who don’t follow FC Cincy closely, what changed in the offseason?

Cincinnati Enquirer: The optimism was founded in the club’s offseason overhaul of the roster, and the acquisitions of Jürgen Locadia and Yuya Kubo specifically. Both had spent time at bigger clubs in Europe, both were proven goal-scoring threats. There was a sense the club had also shed some dead weight from 2019 and had a more clear idea of how they wanted to play.

MR: The break obviously brought more change for Cincinnati, with Jaap Stam taking over as head coach. What do you know about his coaching style and his first trainings with the team? What do you expect to be similar/different about FC Cincy under his leadership?

CE: It bears repeating that the pandemic’s prevented me from attending a training session in-person since mid-March, but Jaap Stam is the disciplinarian FC Cincinnati has needed in a head coach. He and Said Bakkati, the assistant Jaap brought to Ohio, grab the attention of players in training. There’s also uniform respect for Jaap because he’s won virtually everything as a player you could hope to and no matter any experience an FC Cincinnati player might have, Jaap’s had more. In that sense, he’s an example for the players to aspire to. With Jaap setting the standards, I think it’s inevitable that success will follow.

MR: How is Cincinnati approaching this tournament? Obviously it’s unorthodox but do you expect the bunch to really go for it all over the next month or so?

CI: I think there’s a small camp of people — and I’m in that camp — that would like to see Jaap play a kind of long game at MLS Is Back and use the tournament to further evaluate his group/decide what modifications need to be made in the transfer window. But everyone I’ve talked to says FC Cincinnati is all-in on really competing at MLS Is Back. Jaap will be able to use the tournament to make some further evaluations anyway, and they haven’t played since March 8, so why not go all-in? It’s a great opportunity to earn some respect for a club that is desperately in need of some.