From the moment Head Coach Alan Koch saw FC Cincinnati was destined for Major League Soccer, Nick Hagglund was instantly identified as a player who could join the club.
He did Wednesday.
Hagglund joined from Toronto FC via a trade, meaning the center back can provide proven quality for FCC’s backline in its inaugural MLS season. In five seasons in Toronto, he made 88 regular-season appearances. He’s still only 26.
But perhaps the greatest significance for Hagglund joining FC Cincinnati is simpler than stats suggest:
He’s coming home.
Hagglund is the club’s first Cincinnati-native on its MLS roster.
Soon, the club will regularly sign Academy products, but he’s the first in the top tier. To Koch, Hagglund is an inspiration for players who could one day join their hometown club.
“I’ve said it all along, there are amazing young players in the city,” Koch said. “Obviously, the city didn’t have an MLS team before and players had to go play in different places. It’s cool and it’s an amazing opportunity for the young kids now.
“We saw what the USL team did the last three years and that was a place I’m sure a lot of players have aspired to play at, but now they have a club in Major League Soccer that they can aspire to come play for.”
Hagglund is the third Cincinnati-native to play for FC Cincinnati. The first was Austin Berry, who was the team’s first captain during the inaugural 2016 season and again in 2017. Berry is now the team’s Strength & Conditioning Coach. He went to Summit Country Day.
Matt Bahner, who played for FCC in 2017 and 2018, was the second player. He went to Lakota West — where Hagglund also went.
“It’s cool and it’s obviously a great opportunity for him,” Berry said of Hagglund. “He’s a good kid. He came up in the same club programs as I did. I’ve gotten to know him over the years and played against him a couple times. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him, but I’m sure he’s excited and his whole family is excited.”
Through the club’s first three seasons, a Cincinnati-native was always rostered. That will continue into MLS, too. And assuming Hagglund spends multiple seasons with FCC, there’s a chance he’ll become the first in a pipeline of homegrown players suiting up for their local MLS club.
“I think it’s amazing to have a guy from Cincinnati who’s gone and had success in this league,” Koch said. “To bring him home is something that we should all take pride in. He gets an amazing opportunity in that he’s gone and had success in the league.
But to come home and do it for your home city in MLS, I think it’s a pretty neat story for him and for our club, too.”