Position Breakdown: Defenders

With the inaugural season in MLS complete, FC Cincinnati can turn their attention toward 2020. Keeping that mentality, here’s a glance at which players will return next season, based on their 2019 respective campaigns:

To read about the goalkeepers, click here.

Mathieu Deplagne

MLS appearances: 33

MLS starts: 33

Minutes played this season: 2,878

The French fullback was FC Cincinnati’s most dependable player, and at times, their most important. After playing his entire career in France previously, he moved to Cincinnati as a right back or right center back in a back three. But come kickoff in the season opener against Seattle Sounders FC, Deplagne was on the left – a spot he rarely played before.

And yet, Deplagne was admirable and dependable. In fact, until getting substituted against Minnesota United FC on June 29, he played every minute previously – including during the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

When the season finally ended, Deplagne played all but one league match and 703 minutes more than the next closest player. (Thirteen FCC players played less than 703 minutes all season.)

Now through his first season in MLS, expect to only see progress for Deplagne, who was adjusting to a new league, language and through different coaches and tactics. Come 2020, he’ll be an integral part of the team – and hopefully will have more time to rest.

Greg Garza

MLS appearances: 13

MLS starts: 11

Minutes played this season: 908

While his playing time was limited because of injuries, Garza is one of FCC’s most gifted players and a critical piece of this club’s future. Need context? When he played in four of Cincinnati’s last five games, three were clean sheets. In his first five games this season, the results were two wins, two draws and a loss.

The problem? Those nine games were 69% of his appearances this season.

As FCC move forward, the left back will hope to do the same with full health. Arriving late to preseason training because of U.S. Men’s National Team camp, Garza did not feature in a preseason match and was forced to miss the MLS opener with a groin injury. A month later, he suffered a calf injury, followed by another one in May that kept him sidelined until Aug. 31. (He’s been healthy since.)

When healthy, he’s one of FCC’s best players. The goal is just making sure he’s on the field. If so, there’s a lot to be excited about.

Andrew Gutman

MLS appearances: 8

MLS starts: 5

Minutes played this season: 482

After joining on loan from Celtic FC, Gutman provided an immediate impact at left back while Garza was injured. But not only that – Gutman held his own. In his first MLS start, the first #HellisReal Derby, he was one of the best players on the field.

At 23, he’s still young and provided a similar style to Garza which helps make left back the team’s strongest position.

Gutman had a strange 2019 that saw him play with Celtic, with Charlotte Independence and with FCC. That doesn’t include a brief time when he looked set for Nashville SC. When he kicks off in 2020, he’ll have familiarity and stability, and those are the perfect ingredients to watch the young fullback flourish.

Nick Hagglund

MLS appearances: 22

MLS starts: 20

Minutes played this season: 1,802

The first Cincinnati native on FC Cincinnati’s MLS roster had a roller coaster season as an FCC center back.

Originally a starter under former coach Alan Koch, he was replaced by Justin Hoyte in the starting XI when Yoann Damet became the interim coach. And then when Ron Jans became the coach in August, Hagglund saw his minutes increase, and in turn, produced some of his best performances of the season. By the season finale at D.C. United, he was wearing the captain’s armband.

Looking beyond this season, keeping consistency with one coach will help Hagglund, who showed signs of stoutness when given his opportunity.

Alvas Powell

MLS appearances: 13

MLS starts: 10

Minutes played this season: 968

After beginning the year as the Orange and Blue’s first-choice right back, his time got reduced when Deplagne started playing on his natural right side. Powell’s last start was July 21, while his last time in the matchday squad was Aug. 3.

Absent from the 18 the last two months of the season, Powell’s 2019 ended worse than it started. That doesn’t change his talent and potential, however. The right back has continuously been the starter for the Jamaica National Team, and looks to do so in both the present and future.

Maikel van der Werff

MLS appearances: 11

MLS starts: 11

Minutes played this season: 990

Barring an early setback – his paperwork needing to finalize – van der Werff only missed one match since he arrived in July as a free agent after playing in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Within his first start, he showed the characteristics of the playing traits FCC want in their defenders moving forward: an intelligent passer who’s comfortable on the ball and can help keep opponent’s quiet.

The Dutch defender is an integral part of the club’s plans and offers reliability, which is essential considering Cincinnati just set the record for most goals conceded in a season.

Kendall Waston

MLS appearances: 25

MLS starts: 24

Minutes played this season: 2,175

Waston had a respectable season and was a leader this team needed, especially following lopsided score lines and during losing streaks. Throughout that, he was respectful and optimistic.

FCC supporters should be optimistic about his return, too.

When Waston was at his best, he completely shut down opposing strikers and helped grind out results. He even showed his scoring ability with the first MLS goal in Nippert Stadium minutes into the home opener.

But if there’s one thing that needs noticeable improvement, it’s Waston needing to spend more time on the field. Granted, he was always going to miss time for international duty when Costa Rica played in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, but the center back missed three games with suspensions and missed another with an injury.

With no Gold Cup in 2020, expect to see more of Waston in the starting XI.