Seconds away from leaving FC Cincinnati’s temporary training facility for the last time, Nick Hagglund smiled at the thought of a family vacation and moving on from 2019.
That’d be understandable for any player, but perhaps more so for Hagglund. The team’s first Cincinnati native on the MLS roster, all season he prided himself on his Queen City roots. He even dubbed himself “Skyline Boy.”
But what no center back wants to pride themselves on is being part of a group that surrendered a league-record goals allowed (75), or part of a group that played for three head coaches in the 34-game season.
Yet, that’s from where Hagglund and FC Cincinnati are moving on.
And as the defender literally walked away from his first season with the club, he did so knowing things will only improve moving forward.
In fact, they already have.
The Orange and Blue went unbeaten in five of their last six matches, which included three clean sheets. Before those three, FCC hadn’t posted a clean sheet since March.
These are the small signs of improvement that the players are taking with them into the offseason.
“Obviously, it was a tough year in terms of goals against, but I think we are mostly looking at the last five to six (games) that we’re going to use next season,” Hagglund said. “The last five games are what we’re going to use to measure ourselves and put the rest behind us.”
Before moving forward, though, it’s worth revisiting some of the memorable moments for “Skyline Boy” in his first season back home.
After joining Cincinnati from Toronto FC in mid-January, 2019 saw Hagglund record his most appearances (22), starts (20) and minutes played (1,802) since his rookie season back in 2014.
He initially began the year as a starter alongside captain Kendall Waston before his role fluctuated when Yoann Damet became interim coach in May and Maikel van der Werff signed in July.
But Hagglund finished the season with some of his most influential performances and he looked increasingly comfortable on the ball while playing coach Ron Jans’ system.
By the season finale against D.C. United on Oct. 6, Hagglund wore the captain armband and was critical to nine-man Cincinnati keeping D.C. scoreless – eliminating United from hosting a home playoff game.
“To be honest, as a Cincinnati native, I was extremely proud to wear the armband every time I stepped onto the field, playing in front of my family and friends, but also leading the team,” the defender said. “It’s really special for me, so I really appreciate the captain’s armband. I want to lead this team to success.”
If the last month of the season proved anything, it’s that the Orange and Blue are heading in the right direction.