De Jong: ‘I’m finally here’

Siem de Jong said it felt “a little bit weird” watching FC Cincinnati’s first two matches this season.

For starters, he was on the team, but on the other side of the planet in Amsterdam. It didn’t help that the Atlanta game kicked off at 2 a.m. in the Netherlands.

“I was already part of the team, but I couldn’t be here,” de Jong said of the situation. “I haven’t met anyone yet on the team. So for me, I didn’t really know the guys. I just knew a few players. But I was watching, of course, and seeing how everything’s evolving.”

De Jong signed with FC Cincinnati on Feb. 20, but his visa paperwork wasn’t finalized until this week. On Monday, he flew to the U.S., and on Tuesday, he finally met his teammates and trained ahead of Saturday’s home opener at Nippert Stadium.

“Hopefully I can fit in quite fast and then help the team as much as I can,” de Jong said.

The Dutchman arrives at an interesting time.

Less than a month ago, the attacking midfielder was in AFC Ajax’s matchday squad against RKC Waalwijk on Feb. 16. After the 3-0 win, he told his teammates that we was leaving to join Cincinnati. His move was announced days later.

But with visa paperwork incomplete, de Jong stayed in Amsterdam and trained with Jong Ajax (Young Ajax), his former club’s side in the second division.

“I had to stay fit, of course,” de Jong said. “Luckily, I could train with my old club for the most part, so that was alright. But it was a bit weird because basically I already said, ‘Goodbye,’ but I was still there for two weeks … I’m happy now that it’s finally done and I’m finally here to start the real thing.”

FC Cincinnati are happy, too.

One of the bigger signings this past offseason, de Jong joins the Orange and Blue as a former Netherlands National Team player who’s played in the biggest club competitions in the world.

In leaving Ajax, he left the Dutch league leaders to join an FCC side reshaping their identity and playing philosophy. His arrival will surely help.

“We are all very happy and excited to have him here with us,” interim head coach Yoann Damet said. “He’s also very excited to be part of the team and be involved with the team as soon as possible.”

Damet said the midfielder is in contention to make his debut Saturday night against D.C. United at Nippert Stadium.

“He’s been in season (form), so it’s not like he needs to work on his fitness,” Damet said of de Jong. “He’s available, and that’s another player that we have at this position this weekend.”