Maikel van der Werff leaned back in his chair and looked out at the field below. Sitting in the players’ suite at Nippert Stadium, van der Werff was an hour away from watching his new teammates host D.C. United on Thursday night at Nippert Stadium.
The center back was FC Cincinnati’s first summer signing and joined the team on July 2, but hadn’t yet been able to play as his transfer paperwork was finalized – which it was on Friday afternoon – and he's worked to regain into game fitness, which is still ongoing.
Thus, that’s why he was watching the game from the suites and not on the sideline. It was one of his last moments of calmness until he’s immersed into something entirely different from what he’s used to.
“You don’t know what to expect because it’s like the other side of the world,” van der Werff said.
Now here, his eventual league debut will be the first time the 30-year-old has played for a club outside of his native country, the Netherlands.
After an impressive 11-year career there, he opted for a “new adventure” to play in the U.S.
“I always said I want to leave Holland and I want to play in MLS or the UK because I think those competitions fit me,” van der Werff said. “I thought this is a nice opportunity for me.”
Van der Werff is a 6-foot-1 center back who offers the ability to build from the back in possession, while also bully opposing forwards. The latter is his self-titled “number one task.”
He brings leadership, too.
Arriving from Vitesse in the Dutch Eredivisie, he was the club’s captain and made 70 appearances for the side between 2015-19.
“Last season I was the captain at Vitesse, so maybe that says something about how I am during the game on the pitch,” the Dutchman said.
In 2017, he helped Vitesse hoist the KNVB Cup for the first time in the club’s 125-year history. (The KNVB Cup is the American equivalent of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.)
Although van der Werff is only just arriving, he was a player FC Cincinnati have kept an interest in. When he visited three weeks ago, Technical Director Luke Sassano told him that FCC initially wanted to sign him in January.
Now that he’s here in July, General Manager Gerard Nijkamp made his first Cincinnati signing since joining in late May.
Interestingly enough, Nijkamp made van der Werff his first signing at PEC Zwolle in January 2013.
“That’s funny, I didn’t know,” the defender said of the coincidence. “I played two years there when Gerard bought me. I had a great time. I played well and I moved to Vitesse. That was a big step for me in Holland. After that, this is football. You say ‘goodbye’ and move.”
Of course, his new move means another hello.