The Bailey ratches up the environment for opposing teams of FCCincinnati
On a wintery Friday nights, when the band is booming and the students section is packed the gymnasium at Pendleton County High School is transformed into The Woodshed. The otherwise normal high school gym becomes congested, hot and loud. The visiting players, thinking they were going to get some southern hospitality, can’t hear their coach or themselves think. It can be a totally intimidating place to play basketball. Coaches have made the statement that the wild atmosphere gets them a cited advantage. Those that have been there on one of these nights will be able to testify of the atmosphere.
Professional sports ratchet up almost every aspect of the amateur experience. The players are bigger, more skilled and much faster. The venue and crowds are bigger. Normally, however, the fans are not as intense. Sure they still scream and yell. But they’re not right on top of the players in an otherwise intimate setting.
This is not true for FC Cincinnati matches. As the Woodshed is to Pendleton County basketball teams, so has the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium been to one of Major League Soccer’s newest teams. FCC’s most dedicated fans congregate in what is called the Bailey. This is not where they sit. They do not sit. They also chant and sing for the whole match. In fact they start their fierce war cries of, I'm Cincy Till I Die, Don't Need A Reason Why Oh, FC Cincinnati, I'm Orange and Blue for life! Over a mile and a half away at a local establishment called Mecklenburg Gardens. The march takes the crowd down short vine and to a University of Cincinnati Bearcat statue where they stop briefly to gather the crowd that has been growing, then continue their final push into the stadium. This group stays fired up and loud for the entire game. Through the Bailey leading the stadium in chants and cheers the otherwise normal stadium is changed into a bowl of cacophony.
That is why FC Cincinnati typically has a winning home record over their minor league history and has played so well this year in their MLS debut. Visiting teams come into their “Woodshed” and have to face an intimidating, boisterous crowd. In last Sunday’s game the Bailey magic was working again as FC took the ball down the right flank and had a chance on goal within the opening two minutes. The quick opportunity was followed by aggressive pressing in the first half. That aggressive pressing let to a penalty kick and put FC Cincinnati up 1 nil at the break. However, Kansas City came out the more aggressive team for the second half with their back to the Bailey and pressed forward until they capitalized on a mistake from the FC goalie and defender. As the Bailey got louder and the stadium grew more intense the crowd was ripe for a go ahead goal in the final minutes due to a fowl committed by a Kansas City defender on a FC breakaway. The goal was not meant to be as the free kick sailed just over the goal. FC has a draw, which in soccer is worth one point in the standings. The elusive win would have netted them three points. In his closing remarks the coach said in the big picture he was proud his players were able to get one point from such a storied, well-structured club in this, the 6th game of FC Cincinnati’s inaugural MLS season. He was also disappointed because he knew the chances to win were plentiful and the team did not finish those chances like he thought they could.