down the hatch

Down the Hatch: Jan. 12

Hello and welcome to my first mailbag of 2020! It’s a busy one.

This edition received the most questions yet, which shows genuine excitement for FC Cincinnati’s 2020 season. Plus, the club has been really, really busy.

FCC signed Yuya Kubo as the team’s second Designated Player on Thursday afternoon. Rey Ortiz was drafted No. 29 in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft a few hours later.

With transfer business ongoing and preseason approaching, you asked plenty of questions. I try answering them here.

Before we begin, a reminder you can submit questions here or tweet at me. Thank you again!

Brad: Will Kubo be played as more of a 9 or a Right Winger?

GM Gerard Nijkamp said Kubo can play anywhere across the front four positions: forward, shadow striker, right winger and left winger. But with Brandon Vazquez recently joining as a forward, expect Kubo to play on the wings or as a center-attacking midfielder. That said, there’s a possibility that Kubo’s role isn’t finalized when the regular season starts. That just means FCC are trying different options.

@Wchughes95: Stylistically, how does Kubo fit into Ron Jans’ system?

Kubo is comfortable with the ball and dribbling at defenders. It can’t be overstated how important it is for every player to be comfortable in possession. At FC Cincinnati, that’s a belief that starts with the first team and runs through the FCC Academy.

But in addition, the Japanese winger has good movement in the box, has scoring capabilities and can create for teammates.

Basically, expect a player who can produce an individual goal or pull defenders out of position to create space for teammates. In 2019, sometimes we saw the wingers flip sides. If that tactic returns in 2020, Kubo can do that well. He can also defend in a high press if that’s the route FCC utilize.

@orotos57: Please tell me how to get to the stadium from Japan. Go Yuya

Welcome! Fly into Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and catch a ride northbound on Interstate 75. Then, cross the Ohio River and take Exit 3 (Hopple Street). Turn right off the exit ramp on Martin Luther King Drive for four minutes until you take a right on Woodside Dr. and use the Woodside Parking Garage. From there, it’s a quick walk to Nippert Stadium.

Santi: Are you going to sign more players for this season?

The club hasn’t commented yet, but expect more moves to happen before the season. That includes both incoming and outgoing moves. 

Ryan: What are the realistic odds of another DP being added this window? Preferably a #10?

I know the technical staff is trying to do so. Maybe it doesn’t happen during this window, but at some point in 2020. Again, it would depend on players leaving. I personally think a No. 10 is an area where Cincinnati can potentially strengthen its roster.

Adam: What would you say are the remaining “missing pieces” for us to be competitive this year?

Building off my response above, I think the club needs a center attacking midfielder and maybe another winger. In addition, another forward. FCC have a few, including Fanendo Adi, but both the player and club have expressed interest in his departure. 

If that’s the best for both parties, maybe that creates a pathway for another player to arrive – or another forward to play a more prominent role.

Jeff: With all the signings, it appears they are addressing needs back to front. What are your expectations for this year?

I think FC Cincinnati make the playoffs. But I also think that happens if the club can add at least one more attacking player.

FCC have a strong roster and players that fit the possession-based style Ron Jans wants to implement. With a good backline, a creative midfield and attacking players who can capitalize on chances, the Orange and Blue are a club that can potentially make a lot of noise. 

Drew: Was trading the #3 pick a sign that you didn’t see building a team through the draft as feasible?

That seems to be the general consensus around MLS. Other than the top prospects and a few gems, it’s hard to project how many impact players a club can get through the SuperDraft.

As for that particular trade, FCC gained $150,000 GAM and traded it instantly to Nashville SC for Vazquez.

Maybe the club could’ve drafted a good forward out of college, but that’s a risk. Instead, FCC went with a 21-year-old forward who already has three years of professional experience. You can’t find that experience, league knowledge or preparedness in the draft. 

Finally, a lot of fans asked about Emmanuel Ledesma – especially after Jimmy McLaughlin said he’s on trial to earn a 2020 roster spot.

Since the end of 2019, the club hasn’t publicly commented on its future relationship with Manu – or Jimmy for that matter – but I believe it will soon.