Fans have been a key part of FC Cincinnati's 2022 season success, the team's owner says.
In an Oct. 23 letter to fans, FC Cincinnati controlling owner and co-CEO Carl H. Lindner III noted the club's historic achievements – including a first-time postseason berth – and improved output this season over previous years, adding that fan support has been at the heart of it.
"You, our incredible supporters, have been the foundation upon which all of this was built," Lindner wrote. "You have endured a few difficult years, and we are proud to have finally delivered exciting soccer and winning results during a successful MLS season. Your loyalty is greatly appreciated."
Cincinnati (12-9, 13 draws in the regular season) won its first-ever playoff game on Oct. 15, defeating the New York Red Bulls 2-1. The victory marked FC Cincinnati's first time contending for the MLS crown as well as its first playoff triumph. With the win, the Orange and Blue set a club record for the longest consecutive stretch of games in which the team has scored – 14 games, when counting both the regular season and the postseason.
The Orange and Blue clinched its spot in the playoffs with its 5-2 win over D.C. United during the final regular-season game Oct. 9. The team effort was propelled by a hat trick from Brenner (born Brenner Souza da Silva), along with attacks and assists by attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta and forward Brandon Vazquez.
Unfortunately, the MLS Cup run came to an end on Oct. 20, with No. 5 seed Cincinnati losing 1-0 on the road to Philadelphia Union, the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Vazquez had several attempts for Cincinnati, but Philadephia's Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake managed to block everything. Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati's goalie Roman Celentano made five of his own saves, marking the eighth time he's accomplished that feat (or better) throughout his career. Acosta had four chances created (93 total during the regular season, good for second in the MLS), 50 total passes and 38 accurate passes.
Cincinnati's 12 regular-season wins were much better than the six or fewer wins the team had earned during each of the previous three seasons since 2019. The 2022 season also marked the first time Cincinnati did not finish in last place in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, Acosta and Vazquez both were selected for the MLS All-Star Game earlier this year. Brenner scored three goals in three separate games, the most of anyone in the league during the 2022 regular season. Brenner also was one of three finalists for MLS Young Player of the Year.
FC Cincinnati became the 24th team to enter the MLS as a professional soccer team in 2019. Before that, the team played in the second-division United Soccer League (USL) from 2016 to 2018.
Lindner noted the team's improvement, spotlighting FCC's 46 points and 64 goal throughout the season.
"Three years ago, after our inaugural season in MLS, I wrote a post-season letter to our fans where I stated that FC Cincinnati was built to win – and committed we would get back to being a winning team. I did not expect getting there to be so challenging," Lindner wrote. "We aim to be: 1) family friendly, 2) visible in the community, and 3) a winning team."
"This season has been a success on all three fronts. We clinched our club’s first berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs and had our first postseason win against the New York Red Bulls!" Lindner said. "When we brought on Chris Albright as general manager and hired Pat Noonan to be the head coach, they were tasked with reshaping the culture of this team and setting new, winning standards that will serve as the foundation as the team moves into the future. We are thankful and blessed by the impact Chris, Pat and their staff has had on the team this year."
But Lindner again went back to fan support for helping to propel the team.
"The energy at TQL Stadium this season was electric. Our fans’ presence, passion and unwavering support created a tremendous stadium atmosphere, which helped fuel remarkable performances from a young and hungry team," Lindner said. "This enthusiasm contributed to prestigious recognition on the world stage, with TQL Stadium named 'Best Venue of 2022' by The World Football Summit in late September at an awards event in Madrid, Spain."
And the fun isn't over, he promised.
"While we celebrate the success of this past season, this is only the beginning. We aren’t done building. We aren’t done improving," Lindner wrote. "We continue to focus on enhancing your stadium experience, bringing competitive players to Cincinnati, and developing our youth academy program and our newly formed MLS Next Pro Team – all important contributors to further solidify the winning culture of this club."