NOTEBOOK | Nick Hagglund’s future is in Cincinnati, Pat Noonan ensures that

20240619 FCCvsPHI Pre-Match GB 012

Nick Hagglund's injury was not necessarily a season-ending one on initial review. However, after the extent of the injury was explored in surgery, the rehabilitation process timeline became clear, and FC Cincinnati formally announced Hagglund would be placed on the season-ending injury list.

It's not an uncommon practice. The reality of these procedures is that the best understanding of recovery comes after a surgeon is able to evaluate the damage and repair the malady in surgery. FC Cincinnati Head Coach Pat Noonan, for example, explained that there was optimism in an earlier return for Hagglund, but once they realized there were extra pieces to clean up while in surgery, the situation became clear: a return in 2024 was ruled out.

The injury initially called to attention some interesting and perhaps uncomfortable questions. Hagglund, 31, a Cincinnati ambassador and icon (at this point), is out of a contract at the end of this season. So while return information and assessed timelines were available for Matt Miazga, who also suffered a season-ending injury but had a return-to-action timeline set out in the statement from the club, a formalized statement was not available for Hagglund.

But that confusion and concern was quickly cleared up.

"We'll do everything that we need to do to make sure that Nick stays in Cincinnati," Noonan said in a press conference leading into the match with Inter Miami CF. We can be sure, he can be sure, that his future is here."

So that clears that up.

Noonan also highlighted how Hagglund will remain a daily presence with the squad and serve an important leadership role. That was made even clearer by a social media video the club put out recapping last Saturday's Inter Miami CF victory, in which Hagglund spoke to the team prior to the game while in street clothes.

There is also reason for optimism in the shadows of the injury. While obviously a disappointment, Hagglund had to battle and work to get back on schedule with the team after his hamstring injury ended his 2023 season. He pushed through preseason and was never truly caught up to the level he wanted to be until extremely recently.

Now, Noonan feels Hagglund's timeline is better positioned to return to full strength for the start of preseason 2025.

"The hope is that with this injury and knowing the timeline that has him returning around the beginning of preseason, now he can go through a preseason with the group at the same time, despite having recovered from a long term injury," Noonan explained. "I think that will help him as far as not having to play catch up with the rest of the group when he's going to be able to return, which is earlier than the timeline of when he injured his hamstring."

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Hagglund's recovery process has been his positive attitude despite his cruel and unfortunate luck with the injury.

"He handles it as well as anybody that is delivered bad news. Somehow still able to smile and have perspective and understand that we're here to support him," Noonan said. "Nick's [Hagglund] impact on this group is significant."

Transfer Window Opening

With Hagglund and Miazga out, the opening of the summer transfer window comes at a fortuitous time. FC Cincinnati can now react and augment the roster, with the stretch run of the season still to play out.

For the Summer Transfer Window, from July 18 to August 14, players can join MLS teams on international transfers or trades and begin contributing to the squads. Players can be signed on free-agent deals at any time, but free transfers still require registration within the window.

Last summer FCC made a splash by bringing in DP striker Aaron Boupendza, whose five goals in 12 games helped fuel The Orange and Blue to a Supporters' Shield crown. This year, FCC has the opportunity to retool the squad with the same goal in mind.

"Obviously (injuries to Miazga and Haggund) changes the conversation of what we think we could target in this upcoming transfer window," Noonan said in the aftermath of both players being added to the Season Ending Injury List. "The conversations have already started, it's just a matter of what's going to make sense."

"We lose two veteran players, and I think with Miles [Robinson] absence, however long that might be, we've got to look for some reinforcements along our back line. If it makes sense, we'll make a move. If it doesn't, this is the group that we'll move forward with until Miles returns and make an addition if and when it does make sense."

Miles Robinson's absences as he represented the United States at the Copa America and very soon will depart for the Summer Olympics in Paris has introduced an interesting wrinkle. Still, with the window not opening until July 18, no move would help the group immediately until that day comes. Until then, Noonan is focused on the current group while leaving his faith to General Manager Chris Albright to do the recruiting work of bringing in a player for FCC.

"So as far as the group, now you just look to find ways with what we have to continue to go out and perform and see different things. See who can step up," Noonan said. "You're just looking at the personnel that you have and what makes the most sense for this particular group to keep the structure, to change things around. You're always evaluating those things. When you lose key pieces, then you think about what's the best fit for this group (going forward)."

"The good thing is, Chris (Albright) and his team have prepared for situations like this, from previous targets to who have been an option when you lose bodies to injury. That's where we're at. I can tell you that we're aware of how this transfer window has changed in terms of our approach just because of the last few weeks. And, hopefully we're going to be able to strengthen our team in the coming weeks to kind of fulfill those ambitions that we have of winning trophies."