New York City FC are on the road tonight as they take on FC Cincinnati.

For this edition of 'The Away End' presented by Berkeley College & Rennert International, we spoke to Pat Brennan, FC Cincinnati beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Hi Pat, thanks so much for speaking with us. How long have you been covering the team?

I’ve covered FC Cincinnati for the Cincinnati Enquirer/Cincinnati.com since the club’s introduction in August 2015. It’s fair to say our regular, daily coverage started in 2016, and that included a preseason match against NYCFC at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Things have obviously been ratcheted up coverage-wise over the years and after not traveling with the team for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m back on the road with the club this season doing every match. I’m very lucky. 

What's been your favorite moment covering the team?

Definitely the lower-league days, and 2017 in particular because of the run to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup. The Open Cup run lasted almost the entire summer and was all-consuming for supporters and the few hardcore beat writers of the team. And then you had the MLS expansion push going on simultaneously, so there was this incredible intersection of business, investment, and long-term planning running alongside a fully formed and competitive second-division club.

I think the semifinal against New York Red Bulls at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium was the high point of it all. If I had to pick a single day, that one would be my favorite.

It's been a busy 2021 season for the club in terms of new players arriving, how would you evaluate the team overall this year?

It’s been disappointing and Wednesday’s loss at Atlanta United underscored that the season has gotten away from FC Cincinnati. A lot of money was invested in this team and too often the biggest players just haven’t shown up. There were a couple weeks in late June/early July where it looked like Cincinnati had some promise but the whole thing just hasn’t come close to being what a lot of people expected.

From a tactical standpoint, what strengths should Ronny Deila and his team be wary of heading into the game?  

When FC Cincinnati’s playing with its first-choice XI, they’re usually hard to break down, although the 42 goals against seems to poke a hole in that argument. And certainly, NYCFC didn’t have trouble scoring on FCC in a variety of ways when the teams met in April.

If the service is on for Brenner Souza da Silva, he can be a threat in front of goal.   

Are there any areas where you think FC Cincinnatti can improve? 

Set-piece defending is an area of concern coming out of Wednesday’s loss to Atlanta. Brenner is a threat and needs to be watched closely but he misses the target far too often. I think the club’s big players sometimes go MIA for long stretches of matches, and when they reappear, the results aren’t convincing enough.  

If you were to identify FC Cincinnatti's danger-man, who would that be? 

Luciano Acosta. He’s contributed to more goals than anyone else on the team. Brenner was the big-money offseason signing but he’s been mercurial.

And finally, for any fans thinking of making the trip to Cincinnati in the future, are there any particular attractions you’d suggest checking out? 

I’m an East Coast guy originally (Philadelphia) and Cincinnati has grown on me since I moved here for work in 2014. You won’t confuse Cincy for New York and the other larger East Coast cities but there’s plenty going on here. My favorite place in town is Findlay Market, which is your classic kind of indoor-outdoor farmers market experience. There are patios where you can sit and have a drink, and a ton of fantastic restaurants in every direction. It’s also walking distance from TQL Stadium, so this is a very authentically Cincinnati thing to experience if you’re thinking about doing anything pre-match.

There are more breweries than I can count, too. Rhinegeist, Taft’s and Northern Row are three great ones that are walking distance from the stadium. If you’re up for some good-natured ribbing from FC Cincinnati fans, you could get a great taste of local supporters culture at any of those establishments before Saturday’s game.