Rush hour on the Williamsburg Bridge.
Clay Winstead August, 31st, 2018
As a soccer fan, I’ve been fortunate to watch some amazing matches in person. I saw my favorite Premier League club play in their home stadium while I was studying in England. I’ve been to an MLS playoff game with larger than life elimination stakes. But when anyone asks me what is the best soccer game I’ve ever seen, I don’t tell them about Tottenham Hotspur or New York City FC. Because the best game I’ve ever been to was FC Cincinnati against Chicago Fire SC in the U.S. Open Cup. My best friend and I saw a second division club hold a major league heavyweight to a zero-zero draw through 120 minutes and witnessed a heroic goalkeeper save three penalty shots to seal the upset in dramatic fashion. I can still remember standing in general admission, joining a choir of 32,000 singing, “Mitch says no!”
That Round of 16 match in the U.S. Open Cup was the last soccer game I saw in Cincinnati before I moved to New York City. I believed it was time to start a new chapter in my life, but I was certainly going to miss watching FCC just when they were reaching new heights. So I watched from afar as the Orange and Blue finished another good season with a disappointing first-round playoff elimination. This mirrored the disappointment I was experiencing in my personal life as I attempted to acclimate to living in New York City. What made these struggles more difficult was the lack of community. Moving to a new place always comes with some growing pains, but it is particularly challenging in New York where it can feel like the city is actively trying to isolate you.
As winter gave way to spring, I was actually dreading the start of another USL season. I knew I would be watching the streams of FCC alone in a city I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to call home. I was afraid of letting the isolation feel even more pervasive. But these fears would wind up unfounded. For I wasn’t the only Cincinnati expat living in New York who missed their hometown soccer club. I knew of the pride that was building within the city of Cincinnati itself, but was completely unaware of the growing number of transplants in New York, who found themselves proudly telling their neighbors, barbers, coworkers, and bodega clerks that they came from Cincinnati, Ohio. Some of these people came together and formed the first remote supporters group for FCC, and I knew I had to be a part of it.
So there I was, walking tentatively through Brooklyn, attempting to find this place where these mystical Cincinnatians came to watch the Knifey Lions play. I stepped over the threshold, unsure of what I would find, and was immediately relieved. In that pub were people I felt like I’ve known my whole life. Before the game even started we talked about what neighborhoods or suburbs we hailed from, and what boroughs we lived in now. We talked about the upcoming World Cup and how soccer came into our lives. We drank and cheered on the Orange and Blue. If I didn’t have to take a subway home, I would’ve sworn I was in Over-the-Rhine instead of Williamsburg.
Auxilia One made New York City feel friendlier. It gave me the sense of community that I was missing, and there was nothing I looked forward to more than a pub watch with my first supporters group. But I did not stay in New York City for much longer. At the end of the summer, an opportunity to come back to Cincinnati fell into my lap and I decided to take it. Last weekend was my first game in Nippert Stadium this season. With my Auxilia One scarf in my passengers seat, I drove past all these homes adorned with the orange and blue, carrying the banner for FC Cincinnati on their porches and doorways. I knew I was among my community again. But as I waved my scarf among the thousands watching in Nippert Stadium, I knew that I had a little piece of home waiting for me in New York City.