BRADENTON, Fla. – Since GM Gerard Nijkamp was appointed last May, he’s said he wants FC Cincinnati to play the “Dutch Way” of total football, when passing and movement are fluid, possession builds from the back and players can shine both individually and collectively.
In truth, the Dutch Way is basically what Ajax created in the early 1970s and has replicated since. Other teams – and virtually any club that wants exciting, attractive play – have been influenced by the Amsterdammers, and FCC are just another disciple.
And that’s what makes Siem de Jong’s arrival from AFC Ajax noteworthy.
The 31-year old just left one of the world’s most storied clubs to join one just starting to write its story. It’s a compelling project for any player who signs, but even more so for a creative maestro who wants to point a stamp on the club’s identity and playing philosophy.
By signing de Jong, Jurgen Löcadia, Yuya Kubo, Adrien Regattin and others this offseason, Nijkamp and his technical staff hope they’ve addressed the club’s scoring woes head-on in the short-term, while adding players who will help the club’s playing identity blossom for long-term future.
This time last season, FCC were a club, but one without a clear playing philosophy. They have that now. But more importantly, can that philosophy help the team earn results?
Why this move makes sense for de Jong
Ajax are known for the beautiful play, but also their investment in developing young players. Of course, de Jong was one of them earlier in his career. But as other players aged 22 and younger have the priority for the Dutch league leaders, de Jong’s minutes were reliable but unsteady.
Now, he joins Cincinnati as an assumed starter and someone who can play the No. 10 role this club has never had in MLS.
In his introductory press conference, the Dutchman said he wants to link play between the midfield and forwards. He can serve as the spearhead of FCC’s midfield and the anchor of their frontline.
How this impacts FCC
If this move proves anything, it shows how much better FC Cincinnati are on paper – and how it’s easier for Nijkamp to persuade quality players to join the club.
Assuming visa paperwork is finalized, expect Kubo, Locadia and either Adrien Regattin or Joseph-Claude Gyau to start across the club’s front three early this season. (Gyau will miss the season opener at New York Red Bulls with a suspension from his red card in the 2019 finale.)
In the midfield, de Jong can play as the attacking mid and highest point in the position group. Alongside him could be Allan Cruz and/or Frankie Amaya, while Haris Medunjanin sits at the base of the midfield. Medunjanin had 10 assists in this role as a deep-lying playmaker for the Philadelphia Union last season.
On the field, de Jong offers improvement. Off of it, this signing is just another example of a well-respected player wanting to join FCC and their “project” of going from the U.S. third division in 2016 to MLS and the West End Stadium in 2021.
But it’s also another reminder. This time last season, Cincinnati had good players but lacked a playing style and identity. De Jong’s arrival further illustrates that FCC are a club that wants to play “total football.” The good news is they just signed the No. 10 from the club that invented it.