FC Cincinnati

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2020 MLS Power Rankings, Vol. 1

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With the 2020 Major League Soccer season kicking off this weekend, here’s a (surely brilliant) predictive edition of the Power Rankings, which will be updated at the start of every month here on PST…

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s parting shots cause anger at Hertha Berlin ]

MLS Cup favorites
Los Angeles FC and New York City FC

We all remember what LAFC did last year, and the fact they didn’t win MLS Cup despite settling most every relevant league record will only serve as further fuel for Bob Bradley to demand even more from (inarguably) the most talented team in the league. One potential pitfall: after trading Walker Zimmerman (for a record amount of allocation money), it’s unclear who’ll start at center back, and if you think it’s clear it’s a less than ideal situation. As for NYCFC, they managed to fly under the radar last year despite finishing top of the Eastern Conference by six points. While they don’t have the household names of an LAFC or Atlanta United, Domenec Torrent’s side (now that of Ronny Deila) played every bit the attractive, fluid attacking soccer of the league’s darlings. In a week East, NYCFC could wind up Supporters’ Shield winners.


MLS Cup contenders
Seattle Sounders, Atlanta United, LA Galaxy and Toronto FC

These teams will be in the playoffs, 100 percent guarantee. (fingers are now crossed) With satisfactory answers to certain questions, they could make the leap from contenders to favorites with ease. Those questions are… Seattle: does the completely rebuilt backline come together, and how long does it take? Atlanta: will head coach Frank De Boer find the right balance between his preferred defensive slant and the roster’s natural tendency to attack at all costs? Galaxy: is the defense, which has been horrific for five or six years now, any better? Toronto: wait, why aren’t they on the “favorites” line? Ah, yes, because only one team per conference is allowed.


See you in the playoffs
Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union and D.C. United

Here’s the thing about this group: the two teams from the East should finish fourth or fifth in the junior circuit (some ways back of the clear-cut top-three), but they probably wouldn’t make the playoffs in the West. By default, Philadelphia and D.C. get a bump in the tiers for the fact they’ll walk into the playoffs in the East. That is not — repeat not — to say they are as good as RSL or Dallas, who would actually push Atlanta and Toronto for second and third.


In the hunt
Portland Timbers, Sporting Kansas City, Minnesota United, Colorado Rapids, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, Columbus Crew SC, San Jose Earthquakes, New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution and Montreal Impact

That’s a long list of teams. As stated above, the teams from the East will be in playoff contention due to not having seven standout sides. Basically, any combination of these teams could wind up in the playoffs. Looking to the West, Portland, Sporting KC and Minnesota have the potential to climb a tier (or two) if all goes right for them, but each of those sides has a glaring, and potentially fatal, flaw. The temptation to say Colorado will actually be quite good and also a playoff team is very strong, but it goes against all human instincts when you think back to how they opened the 2019 season, before firing Anthony Hudson and hiring Robin Fraser and almost making the playoffs anyway.


Fulfilling obligations
FC Cincinnati, Orlando City SC and Vancouver Whitecaps

Barely a month into their first season (last season), Cincinnati was very clearly the worst team in the league. Somehow, the offseason has gone even worse for them. They (probably) managed to improve enough so as to not claim back-to-back Wooden Spoons, but enough to contend for a playoff place? Highly unlikely. Orlando City has never — not once in their five-year MLS history — given me, or anyone, reason to believe they are a competent organization. Until they do so for a period of six (6) months or more, they just exist for existence’s sake. Speaking of merely existing, the Vancouver Whitecaps.


Expansion teams, TBD
Inter Miami and Nashville SC

Here’s the thing about expansion teams: they aren’t to be trusted, either way. What looks good on paper can sometimes look terrible on the field, and what looks terrible on paper can sometimes look great on the field. We’ll give Miami and Nashville their first assessments after a month of games.

FC Cincinnati adds Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong

Siem de Jong
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FC Cincinnati got a much-needed bit of good news toward the end of a rough week in Southern Ohio.

Longtime Ajax attacker Siem De Jong has joined a talented FCC attack ahead of the club’s second MLS season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

De Jong, 31, came up through Ajax’s vaunted academy before transferring to Newcastle United, where he suffered through a series of miserable injuries including two collapsed lungs in 18 months.

He’s been capped six times with two goals for the Netherlands in his career and will join a revitalized Cincinnati attack with Jurgen Locadia and Yuya Kubo.

“The system they want to play is quite similar to the Dutch system, and yeah, Ajax is probably one of the team’s that perfected it,” de Jong said. “Over the years I played there, I’ve learned a lot about this similar philosophy and trying to build up from the back in the Dutch style of play. That was one of the reasons why FC Cincinnati was a good fit for me. Hopefully I can help with the experience I’ve had over the years playing this style of football.”

De Jong scored three times in nine matches this season for Ajax, all of the goals coming in a cup match against third-tier Spakenburg. His other eight matches combined for just 118 minutes.

He may not be with FCC when the season starts as he waits on visa approval.

FC Cincinnati coach Jans resigns amid investigation over remarks

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CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans resigned amid an investigation by Major League Soccer of his use of a racial slur in the locker room.

Jans resigned late Monday, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said: “The club had suspended Jans pending the investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from the MLS Players Association.

“As Major League Soccer’s investigation unfolded and some themes emerged, Ron offered his resignation and we agreed that it was the best course of action for everyone involved with FC Cincinnati,” Berding said.

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The club designated Yoann Damet as interim head coach while the team conducts a search. Cincinnati is training in Florida for its second season in MLS.

Cincinnati has been through two head coaches during its brief stay in the league. It fired Alan Koch after its 11th first-tier match, which left the expansion club with two wins, seven losses and two draws.

Damet also was the interim head coach while the team conducted a search that resulted in Jans’ hiring last August.

Cincinnati finished with the worst record in MLS in its inaugural season, with six wins, six draws and 22 losses. It scored a league-low 31 goals in 34 matches.

Cincinnati gained entry into MLS after a successful debut under Koch, who led the team to the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s playoffs in both 2017 and 2018.

FC Cincinnati coach steps away during investigation of racial slur

Ron Jans
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FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans has stepped away from the club while Major League Soccer investigates “extremely inappropriate comments” made by the 61-year-old Dutchman.

The Athletic reported Friday that Jans had used a racial slur earlier this preseason.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

According to Cincinnati.com, Jans told club president Jeff Berding the incident happened when “he said the word when singing along with music played in the locker room” and that a player confronted him to tell him that’s inappropriate in this country.

The same report mentions an awkward and “inappropriate” reference to slavery from Jans before an October match. That time, it was explained that “Jans spent time at the nation’s memorials and was meant to inspire the team to overcome adversity.”

FC Cincinnati issued the following statement on the incident and investigation, saying the club will conduct “training” for every member of the organization:

“FC Cincinnati was founded and operates with three core values: (1) being inclusive and family-friendly, (2) having a strong and visible presence in the community, and (3) winning on the field.

“When club leadership was made aware of the allegation, we were very surprised as building a caring and committed culture has been a focus of Ron’s leadership.

“We want to fully understand the nature of the incident and allow for an environment for our players to speak freely to any locker room issues. Therefore, while both the Club and Major League Soccer work together, Ron will step away from the team during the investigation.

“While the investigation is undertaken, the Club is also committed to ensuring every member of the club has a deeper appreciation and awareness for differences in cultures and backgrounds, and will institute training for every member of the organization.

“The Club will not have further comment on this matter until the conclusion of the joint investigation with MLS.”

Hired in August, Jans is 1-5-4 as FCC boss. He’s spent most of his playing and managing career in the Netherlands, leading Heerenveen to the Europa League and PEC Zwolle to the KNVB Cup.

2019 interim coach Yoann Damet and former PEC Zwolle man Ivar van Dinteren will lead the club during the investigation.

 

FC Cincinnati signs one-time Brighton record transfer Locadia

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FC Cincinnati got it done: Jurgen Locadia on loan from Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion.

The loan will run just a few months before Cincy will have to decide on its option to buy on July 5.

It’s an incredible low-risk deal for Cincy, besides his PL wages and the likelihood of a club transfer record come July. If he turns out to be the worst of combustible problems, Cincy isn’t out millions and millions. If he bails after four months, Cincy deserves credit for the effort and can seek a solution in the July window.

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Put plainly: It’s a new one for MLS, as a Premier League club transfer record attacker joins an MLS side within a couple of years of the aforementioned transfer.

We say likelihood because it would be truly surprising if Locadia doesn’t score goals. The second-year MLS club gets a 26-year old who was a club-record signing for Brighton in 2018.

Locadia bagged six goals and two assists in 43 appearances for Brighton but has four goals and an assist on loan to Hoffenheim this season.

The numbers didn’t impress in relation to his price tag, but the English and German top flights are levels above still-growing MLS. And his production at PSV Eindhoven before Brighton was special: 176 appearances, 62 goals and 39 assists across all competitions.

The only danger is he might not find the league, travel, and nation to his liking, though he stressed he’s spent plenty of time in some of the United States’ biggest cities.

Here’s what Locadia told Cincinnati.com’s Pat Brennan regarding what will go into the decision come July 5:

“I think the main thing for me is playing games. Like, play all the games, but obviously it’s my thing also. I need to show the coach that I want to play and be important for the team,” Locadia said. “Beside that, scoring goals and I think I will like it here, of course, because I’ve been in the United States often. Depends on the league also. Like, the level of the league.”

Locadia is a Designated Player, joining fellow Cincy new boy Yuya Kubo, a permanent signing from Genk.

Almost regardless of how this move plays out in MLS, it’s a statement-making success for the league.