While the Pittsburgh Riverhounds are preparing for an important game this week at home against NY Red Bulls II, in what will be a playoff rematch Saturday at Highmark Stadium, the next game at Cincinnati was made a bit more interesting this week.
Apparently FC Cincinnati principal owner Carl Lindner III really can’t wait to host and beat a team from Pittsburgh.
In an open letter Tuesday, he stated that it’s the club’s aim for 25,000 fans at its the May 14 game against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds…
“Now THE rivalry comes to our home,” Lindner wrote in the letter.
“Pittsburgh comes to town on May 14 and we are inviting you, Cincinnati, to help us give them a Queen City welcome. Let’s show the world we can fill Nippert Stadium with 25,000 fans in the bright orange of FC Cincinnati. We hope you will join us for what we expect to be a great rivalry game, a terrific atmosphere and a fun experience for everyone.”
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, FC Cincinnati plans an “orange out” at the May 14 game. The team will also wear its new alternate jersey, a mostly orange-colored top, during the game.
As for his comments about this being “THE rivalry,” it is really interesting being that the two teams have never met. FC Cincy is an expansion franchise, while the Riverhounds have been a mainstay in second and third divisions of U.S. pro soccer since 1999.
It seems as if folks in Cincinnati really have a complex about beating Pittsburgh.
Much of this stems from the National Football League rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals — which is currently at an all-time high after Pittsburgh’s wild Wild Card win in the Queen City in January. And to a lesser extent, the Reds-Pirates Major League Baseball National League Central Division rivalry that has also peaked in recent years, with culmination of the Pirates beating Cincinnati in the Wild Card game in 2013.
But, in terms of building a soccer expansion franchise, it’s hard to ignore the success that FC Cincy has done out of the gate both on and off the field in the first two months of the season.
In their first year as a franchise, they’ve been doing well on the field (4-3-1 ) after another win, beating Orlando City B 3-1 last night in Florida. Even more impressive has been fan support — including a USL record crowd of 20,497 in April game against Louisville City FC.
This statement from Lindner is consistent with the team’s on-going bold marketing and outreach strategies to get fans to come support pro soccer in Southwestern Ohio. For the most part, everything they are doing has been working.
From Cincinnati, this all seems manufactured, of course.
The question now will be, what kind of response, if any, will this generate from Pittsburgh?
I am sure that the Riverhounds have their own concerns about selling tickets and winning a game this week.
Could this be the beginning of a rivalry that could really boost more interest in soccer among Pittsburgh sports fans?
As the Penguins are in the midst of an exciting playoff run, and the Pirates are in the heart of their season, is there room for Pittsburgh fans to embrace a soccer team with greater interest?
The Hounds are not drawing anywhere near the same level of support that FC Cincy has had in its short tenure, but maybe this is a spark that they need.
Even after an amazing series of games with Harrisburg last season, and some history, other than the local die-hard soccer fans, the Keystone Derby rivalry still seems like small potatoes compared to the potential of having an intense rivalry between two bigger cities that have a lot of history in other sports.
So, throwing the Riverhounds-FC Cincinnati into the greater Pittsburgh-Cincinnati rivalry makes sense.
Maybe they are on to something.
It’s your turn Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati looks like they’re be ready …
Are you ?