down the hatch

Down The Hatch: Oct. 4

With the regular season ending Sunday, the biggest questions are all about what comes next, and what went wrong in the past.

Keeping that in mind, I asked fans on Twitter to submit questions for a mailbag. See if your answer is below, and feel free to submit a question at any time.

Questions can be submitted below, on Twitter by tweeting to @charliehatch_ or by emailing Charlie at hatch@fccincinnati.com.

 

1. The team doesn’t have to submit its protected list to the league until mid-November. However, before that the team will – and by most accounts – has made its 2020 roster decisions already. So thinking about who we should protect is a bit of a moot point until we know who the club plans to bring back.

That said, I have my personal opinions on what I would like to see: Fatai Alashe, Frankie Amaya, Leo Bertone, Allan Cruz, Mathieu Deplagne, Greg Garza, Joseph-Claude Gyau, Kekuta Manneh, Spencer Richey, Victor Ulloa, Maikel van der Werff and Kendall Waston.

I believe this is a great base to continue to build on in 2020.

2. A target striker is nice, but I think FCC fans would prefer a forward who’s active and constantly making runs (Sean Okoli, Danni König) rather than someone who needs service to create anything. There’s nothing wrong with a target man, I just don’t think that’s the preference through club history, and certainly doesn’t appear to be now based on how the club is looking to play in the future.

3. I think it could be either Logan Gdula and/or Hassan Ndam. I think both have raw talent that has room to develop under solid direction.

 

Looking to Europe first won’t necessarily solve problems. If FCC could sign a good – proven – domestic forward, I’d do that. International spots are crucial, but they’re even more valuable when you scour the domestic market first, ensure there’s no one better in MLS and then look abroad.

 

I would if I had any say. International or not, someone who can score will help a team that’s scored 31 goals in 33 matches this season. And if anyone needs proof of an international talent available at the college level, defender Julian Gressel was in the SuperDraft a few years back before Atlanta United FC drafted him. I’d say that worked out. (Gressel just won the MLS Goal of the Week award.)

 

See, I disagree with this premise. If you look at FCC’s roster, there’s definitely talent there. There are key pieces missing to pull everything together.

I honestly believe our 2020 starting goalkeeper is already on the roster, that at least three – if not all four – of our backline members are already here. And then you have some serious talent in the midfield already.

What this team needs is a player(s) who can consistently score. We’ve seen an uptick in chances and consistent offensive pressure the last few games. From my vantage point, it’s just the final pass, the final touch, the final shot that has been missing. Once that comes, I think a lot of the current pieces will continue to fit in nicely in 2020.

 

I haven’t checked recently, but we did ask him and he said the sale was to be closer to the city. His wife is taking classes at Xavier, and he wanted to be closer to Evanston. The decision to put a home on sale wasn’t to leave the city.

 

I’ll approach this from two angles…

Player perspective: You were brought to a new expansion team that had precious little time to build. You signed onto the project knowing expansion teams don’t always have perfect starts. But then you had to handle three head coaching changes within 25 games (for context, Sporting Kansas City have had three coaches since 2006), and in some cases were probably told your playing style doesn’t fit the team’s future. Of course, that would lead to frustration.

Team perspective: The team is building a project for the future, and these players wanted to be a part of it. A team built not to concede goals allowed more than any club in MLS history. Naturally, that was going to lead to change. And if you’re going to change, take a short-term hiccup over a long-term rebuilding effort.

Following last Sunday’s game against Orlando, both Jeff Berding and Carl H. Lindner III acknowledged as much to the team following the game and were effusive in praise and appreciation for the team’s efforts and professionalism this season, especially as everyone signed onto an unknown project.

 

Arjen Robben is retired, so I don’t see that changing. That said, there’s always a potential. (But is that the best use of xAM?) Cincinnati was linked to Wesley Sneijder earlier this season, but Sneijder has since retired, as well.

 

More time and more growth. In the past week, the FCC Academy hosted the Chicago Fire Academy teams and Andrew Gutman turned 23. Why do those facts matter and why are they even in the same sentence? Well, Gutman was once a Chicago youth player.

When I went Cincinnati’s match at FC Dallas in August, I met with their academy director and we chatted for an hour about their academy, its beginning and its present and future. They send players to international tournaments while they’re still in elementary school. They have thousands of players in their system, learning the FCD way. FCC is a long way from that. At this point, the academy will keep building – which is the plan under Larry Sunderland.

With more players in FCC’s system, learning the FCC way, there are more opportunities for FC Cincinnati to sign their very-first Homegrown player from our city.

 

Again, this is one question I disagree with the premise.

I’ll start with this: since Ron Jans was hired, he’s here to win. He’s judged on results, just as Alan Koch was.

As for Yoann Damet in the interim, he had a very, very different task. He was asked to cultivate positive, team-based culture that didn’t exist at the start of the season, while also taking a team built to defend and get them to play a more fluid, passing style. You saw how that worked instantly against Montreal in his first game, and the foundation of it continues through to this day. That’s not to say the team didn’t play to win. They did – but there were growing pains in that three-month span that led to results that weighed on everyone.

I think there was always going to be a transition between the roster Koch helped create and the one Jans wants to coach next season. The problem is the 2019 roster plans aren’t the same as the ones now in place for 2020 and 2021, and that’s where the adjustment period is.

 

Players’ contract situations (which I don’t know) always play a part in this, but so do their experience, salary figure and locker room presence. Expansion teams have different criteria that they judge available players by, so with two teams coming in this year, I’d want to protect players who I believe are not only valuable to us – but potentially also valuable to other teams in that we could lose with no tangible return. There are also league rules that dictate how many international players team have to protect.

So, with those qualifications in place, personally, my list is: Fatai Alashe, Frankie Amaya, Leo Bertone, Allan Cruz, Mathieu Deplagne, Greg Garza, Joseph-Claude Gyau, Kekuta Manneh, Spencer Richey, Victor Ulloa, Maikel van der Werff and Kendall Waston.

Here’s why:

  • Alashe, Amaya, Bertone and Ulloa are all good midfielders and I believe they would be useful in 2020. Plus, they all also have value to other teams – both domestically and internationally. Losing them for free – to me – would hurt.
  • I agree with Gerard Nijkamp and Ron Jans who have cited that Cruz and Amaya are players this team should build around.
  • Gyau and Manneh on the wings would be devasting speed and excitement against any team in MLS. I also think they’re intelligent on the ball and create for others.
  • Deplagne and Garza are both so solid and you can’t overvalue a good domestic goalkeeper in Spencer Richey. He’s has experience and a demeanor that an expansion team would value (like we did).
  • I also think the two starting center backs shouldn’t be split without FCC getting some solid cash back in return.

As for free agents, I can’t and won’t speculate here. There are too many moving parts and roster mechanisms in play that players who may appear to be on their way out of contract may very well never end up that way. We’ll have to wait and see who is actually available once we hit the Re-Entry Draft.

 

I would think it will be somewhere between 30% and 50%.

 

Again, what the team plans to do and what they will do – I’m not in the loop on those things. Personally, I think the team needs to spend more – but spend wisely – to be more competitive in 2020. Gerard Nijkamp has a brand new head of soccer data and analytics and the entire technical staff was huddled up the last few weeks in preparations for extensive offseason scouting travel that has already started.

But it’s also worth noting that the club spent a lot on a handful of key players already. Kendall Waston, Greg Garza and Nick Hagglund were three of the most-expensive MLS-to-MLS deals in league history.

So that said, whether off-season spending is on a select few potential impact players to close gaps in the roster, or is more spread out to raise the profile of the entire roster? We’ll just have to wait and see what Nijkamp and Co. have planned.

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