BRADENTON, Fla. – Four days ago, Siem de Jong was in the Ajax matchday squad when the Dutch league leaders beat RKC Waalwijk, 3-0. De Jong was playing for a team well on its way to winning its second-straight Eredivisie and Dutch Cup title, in addition to competing to win Europa League.
Now, he’s a Cincinnatian, awaiting his first practice with the Orange and Blue after having signed with the club that bottomed the 2019 MLS standings.
Simply put, FC Cincinnati signing de Jong – a 31-year-old attacking midfielder – could be a coup for the club looking to retool it’s team, identity and playing style. And as for the Dutchman, he left one of the world’s most storied clubs to join one still writing its story.
“When FC Cincinnati came and presented their plan of how the club is growing and how they want to try and really build the team here, I thought that was a really good experience and something that feels good,” de Jong said in an exclusive interview. “Hopefully I can help the club here and the players here as much as possible.”
The midfielder, who’s also played in the English Premier League, Australian A-League and for the Dutch National Team, said it’s unique for him to leave Ajax midway through their 2019-20 season, but explained why this was the best time to cross the Atlantic.
Photo from AFC Ajax, @AFCAjax (Twitter)
“Of course, it was a bit of a strange situation because it was halfway in the season in Holland and we were, are, top of the league there, but my contract would finish at the end of the season,” he said. “So, then I would miss half of the season here or have to come halfway during the season to America or wait another half year.
“So, for me, I was already looking if it was possible this winter to come to America because I know that the league starts here the first of March. It’s always better to be there at the beginning of the season, so for me, eventually when the opportunity came, I always said I wanted the opportunity to come play in the MLS.”
In addition to the timing of his arrival, FCC’s commitment to playing the “Dutch Way” of total football was another attraction to joining the second-year MLS side.
“The system they want to play is quite similar to the Dutch system, and yeah, Ajax is probably one of the team’s that perfected it,” de Jong said. “Over the years I played there, I’ve learned a lot about this similar philosophy and trying to build up from the back in the Dutch style of play.
“That was one of the reasons why FC Cincinnati was a good fit for me,” he added. “Hopefully I can help with the experience I’ve had over the years playing this style of football.”
After his introduction on Thursday, De Jong was scheduled to fly back to Amsterdam later in the afternoon and await approval of his U.S. Visa application.
The team is currently practicing at the IMG Academy in Florida and returns home Friday night. Earlier that day, it’ll play Icelandic outfit KR Reykjavík in a final preseason friendly.
Once he receives his Visa and joins the group, de Jong said he’s excited for what comes next for his first season playing in the U.S.
“For me, it’ll be an exciting time and hopefully I can show the people here what I can do and also what I can do with helping the team and the club in building towards a successful season and seasons to come,” he said.