Allan Cruz’s contract extension is one of the best moves FC Cincinnati could make this offseason.
While he was already guaranteed for 2020, his multi-year extension means the club’s 2019 MVP and leading scorer is the cornerstone of present and future roster building.
Last season – his first playing outside of Costa Rica – Cruz flourished and finished with seven goals and an assist in 22 appearances. The club’s most consistent player, he offered the perfect balance of creative attacking play and stout defending.
While he started the season as a winger, he slotted into his natural center midfield role following the Concacaf Gold Cup and became the metronome the team worked around. Having that quality back ensures similar production in 2020, as well as a fan favorite who’s essentially a guaranteed starter come 2021 when West End Stadium opens.
But this matters beyond contract years and salary data. Cruz’s extension means he’s no longer a Young Designated Player and will now be designated as a TAM player. He’s earning a higher salary now. For him, that’s good.
But for FC Cincinnati, securing Cruz shows there’s a clear vision of how the Orange and Blue want to play, and the player profile fans can expect moving forward.
In 2019, the midfield was saturated with different players who suited different styles. Not including Cruz, FCC had nine other central midfielders entering preseason. To get him on the field, Cruz played out wide. Once he played centrally, though, fans saw his dynamic ability to thwart opponents while offering something different in the final third.
His production should grow in 2020.
Cruz is no longer trying to acclimate to a new country, a new language and a new league. He won’t be playing different positions, either.
GM Gerard Nijkamp said that Cruz and Frankie Amaya are pieces the club plans to build around for 2020 and 2021. Considering they’re two of the most skilled players, FCC’s starting midfield next year will include league veterans, not an 18-year-old rookie and someone who’d only played in Central America. Plus, the team’s possession-based approach suits those players’ styles perfectly.
As Cincinnati moves into the heart of the offseason, fans can expect more players either bought or sold. After all, club president Jeff Berding told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the club is targeting five impact signings. Cruz isn’t one of them, but if any are as good as the Costa Rican was in 2019, the Orange and Blue will be in contention for a playoff spot in 2020 and even more so in 2021.
Of course, all of this comes with a catch.
Nijkamp hasn’t made it a secret that FC Cincinnati plan to be a selling club in a selling league, a fact the league has also underscored for itself. To this point, we haven’t seen the team sell anyone, but that will change soon.
If Cruz is ever part of future business, the deal will certainly generate a profit for Nijkamp and his technical staff to reinvest in the squad. (This is a business, after all.)
Until then, FCC just re-signed their best player whose production should increase from his first year in MLS that included an extended stint with Costa Rica at the Gold Cup and a pair of injuries. That should excite fans. And it should excite them knowing Cruz is here for the long term.
FC Cincinnati have been a club that have looked to the future quite a bit in its brief history. Will the team move from the USL to MLS? Which players will make the jump from the USL to MLS? Who will be with the team from Nippert Stadium to West End Stadium?
Well, we know Cruz will be there and we’ve seen a big glimpse into his talent. Now, we can see just how good he can be when he plays consistently in his natural position and alongside teammates with similar characteristics.
FC Cincinnati may have just signed a 2020 MLS All-Star without a lengthy scouting process or transfer fee. That’s good business, and the jumpstart to next season that this team needs.