Jaap Stam has arrived at FC Cincinnati.
Appointed head coach on May 21, Tuesday marked the first time that he and assistant coach Said Bakkati met the players and coaches in person that they’ve been virtually working with for the past three weeks. The two coaches had been in the Netherlands awaiting clearance, first to visit the U.S., then to visit Mercy Health Training Center.
“We had a couple Zoom meetings with the players as well as with the staff members, and that’s nice because you get to know each other a little bit,” Stam said. “But eventually being over here and talking to everybody in person and working with everybody together, that’s the thing that we were waiting for. Finally, it happened, so we’re very, very excited.”
The two coaches arrived at MHTC early Tuesday morning to tour the club’s world-class training facilities. Because of the global pandemic, Stam could not visit Cincinnati before joining the club as the new head coach.
He made up for lost time, though.
After a team meeting that included majority owner Carl H. Lindner III and president Jeff Berding, Stam and Bakkati led a lengthy practice session to introduce new tactics and assess the players ahead of next month’s MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.
“They were very positive,” Stam said of the player’s embracing his coaching methods. “The attention was there and they were willing to pick up things that we were asking from them, in terms of possession games and in the big games as well.
“Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it goes a bit less, but that’s what happens in soccer. They responded very well to everything that we did. I think everybody was looking forward to it as well, so it was good.”
Stam and Bakkati arrived at practice one day after the Orange and Blue resumed full-team training sessions. Before Monday, the players had not trained together as a full group since March 12 – the day the league suspended the regular season.
The new head coach said there’s a lot to work on between now and when play resumes July 8 in the MLS is Back Tournament.
“We need to do a lot of work to be as strong as we can for the tournament,” he said. “We need to do a little bit of everything. We don’t have a lot of time to prepare, of course.
“In preseason, normally you’ve got six or seven weeks, at least. Now, it’s a lot shorter, so we need to change a lot of things and do a lot of things … so hopefully when we do start playing games, we come out on top.”