BRADENTON, Fla. – Whether it was fate or just ironic timing, there couldn’t have been a more fitting time for Jimmy McLaughlin to step into the team’s hotel lobby on Monday morning.
Just as he walked in – ahead of his first official practice back on FC Cincinnati’s roster – the FCC original walked past four other teammates from the 2016 inaugural roster: Antoine Hoppenot, Pat McMahon, Luke Spencer and Corben Bone.
All four were leaving the hotel with Louisville City FC to return home, including Bone – FCC’s all-time appearance leader (111).
If there was ever a “torch-passing moment,” this was it.
Because as of last Friday, when McLaughlin signed a contract to rejoin the Orange and Blue, he’s the last player from the club’s inaugural roster still with the team. And with 104 competitive appearances, there’s a chance that McLaughlin passes Bone as the club’s leader in appearances at some point in 2020.
“I’m so honored and happy to be back officially with the group,” McLaughlin said Monday night after practice. “There’s a lot more work for me to do and for the team to do, so it was a great first day.”
After last Wednesday’s 1-0 win over El Paso Locomotive FC in Tucson, Arizona, head coach Ron Jans pulled McLaughlin aside to tell him the news before Jans told the whole team at a team dinner.
A special moment that I will always remember. Honored and grateful to have another opportunity to play for @fccincinnati and this amazing city! It has been a long journey back and I’m ready to give everything I have to help this team succeed pic.twitter.com/jAttQ3v9KQ— Jimmy McLaughlin (@J_McLaughlinIII) February 7, 2020
“(Jans and GM Gerard Nijkamp) have been amazing to me and by giving me this opportunity and believing in me. I just want to do everything I can to pay my belief back to them and help this team win,” the winger said.
The last time McLaughlin played for the team was in October 2018, when he was essentially a super sub brought on late in matches to make an impact during the final USL season. Now, he’s competing for minutes against the best winger depth in FCC’s history.
Yuya Kubo is one of the club’s two Designated Players and has national team experience with Japan. Joseph-Claude Gyau and Adrien Regattin have international caps with the USMNT and Morocco, respectively. And then there’s Kekuta Manneh, who finished third on the team in 2019 with four goals and Rey Ortiz, FCC’s second round SuperDraft pick, who’s also vying for a roster spot.
“I’m going to treat every day with the exact same mentality that I’m fighting for my job and I’m fighting to prove myself,” McLaughlin said. “It was successful for me initially and I’m hoping if I continue playing the same way with the same mentality, I’ll be successful again.”
His next chance to prove himself is Wednesday night, when the Orange and Blue play the Philadelphia Union. The Union gave McLaughlin his first pro contract and MLS debut in 2012. He made three league appearances for the club between then and 2015, before joining FC Cincinnati on Dec. 7, 2015.
Now, he’s eight competitive appearances away from being Cincinnati’s all-time leader in appearances. Based off the scene in the hotel lobby Monday morning, the torch has officially been passed.