Jaap Stam (yes, the real one) joined local and international reporters Friday morning for a virtual introductory press conference with FC Cincinnati’s new head coach.
Stam and FCC general manager Gerard Nijkamp might be in the Netherlands, but the press conference was an opportunity for the new coach to share what he will bring to the Queen City once he arrives in the U.S.
The press conference was an hour and flipped between Dutch and English, but these were some of the biggest takeaways:
“It’s a fantastic club”
The Orange and Blue will be the first team Stam coaches outside of Europe, and one he said he’s excited to join and create a legacy with.
“We had a lot of talks in the past and we spoke about everything within Cincinnati, about what the club has done in the past and where they come from and where they want to go eventually,” he said. “As a head coach, if you’re looking for a job, can you get the opportunity to work in something that is worthwhile?
“You’re always looking for a project that can develop, where you can grow yourself even more and help the club to a certain standard and become a very big piece in a big league. I think FC Cincinnati is that club.”
For FC Cincinnati, Stam is the club’s fourth head coach in five seasons and further illustrates the team’s desire to create an attractive, aggressive playing style on the pitch – Total Football. This is a continuation from the groundwork the club established roughly a year ago when Nijkamp became the franchises’s general manager.
From the club’s perspective, this will bring change, but aligns with the team vision.
As for Stam’s vantage point, he’s joining a club that’s two games into its second season in the first division, is opening a soccer cathedral in West End Stadium next Spring and has the opportunity to truly create a legacy.
Honestly, that kind of opportunity doesn’t come around often.
Whenever Manchester United sign a defender, can they be as dominant as Stam was? Can the next Reading coach push the club toward promotion into the English Premier League like Stam did?
They’re rhetorical questions but prove a point: someone is always replacing someone else. By joining FC Cincinnati now, Stam sets himself up to be someone others will ultimately follow – assuming the club can achieve the playing style and success it craves.
Nijkamp on narrowing the coaching search down from 100 to 1
When Yoann Damet became FCC’s interim coach 10 days before the 2020 MLS regular season kicked off, Nijkamp started his search for a new head coach.
He said it’d be a thorough, exhaustive search. What followed was more than 100 applications for the job from across the planet over a four-month timeframe.
From there, the club narrowed the candidates down to 10, and then to three.
Nijkamp said one candidate visited Cincinnati and the Mercy Health Training Center, while two other interviews were conducted in Europe. With borders closed, Stam was scheduled to visit the Queen City but hasn’t yet.
But in the end, Nijkamp hired a coach he worked with in earlier in 2019, when he was the PEC Zwolle technical director and Stam was hired to keep the club safe from relegation out of the Dutch Eredivisie.
Though they’ve worked together, the duo aren’t reunited as friends, Nijkamp assured the media. Stam went as far as to joke, “We’re not friends.”
“There are 17 million people living in the Netherlands, and every time we talk about a Dutch candidate, then the media is talking about, ‘It’s a friend of Gerard’s,’” Nijkamp said. “Yes, I like Jaap and how he is as a professional in his job and what he will bring for our club.
“I was working very pleasant with him in PEC Zwolle when he kept our club at that time in the Eredivisie. It was really a great job what he did with (new FCC assistant coach Said Bakkati). But the most important thing is about quality.”
Nijkamp said he knew Stam’s coaching quality from their previous stint together, but the hiring was ultimately up to FCC seeing that quality, too. What followed were multiple interviews with the ownership group and current club employees to ensure Stam was the right candidate.
“I presented him not to convince me that he was the right fit, but especially to convince the other people in our club,” the GM said. “He did. Otherwise, we’re are not on this call today.”
Jeff Berding on FCC embracing the “Dutch Way” of playing and innovation
The Stam appointment further reiterates two characteristics of the club’s present and future:
- There’s clearly a vision for how the club wants to develop and progress.
- That vision is heavily influenced but not tied to Dutch themes.
Stam playing for the Dutch national team. Photo: @Euro2020, Twitter.
“We’ve said from the beginning that we wanted to develop an identity and a style of play that is consistent in our club,” said Berding, the club’s president. “Each coach will have his own interpretations of the tactics and the GM with the roster, but at the end of the day, we want to have a coach who is consistent within approach, who can build ambitiously around how we want our club identity to be.
“We’re an American club, but we certainly have a Dutch identity in some respects with Gerard, and now Jaap, but we also have influences from other countries … that’s the beauty of our sport and the global reach of soccer.”
Berding said the club has a dozen countries represented on the roster and technical staff. While the GM and head coach are Dutch, there’s a blending of outside ideas – and MLS experience – concocted together to create the 2020 version of FC Cincinnati.
“In this case, there’s no question the Dutch have a history of very attractive football, of being very innovative and successful, and enormously successful with youth development,” he added. “I’d like to think that some of that will be a hallmark here of FC Cincinnati over time. Ultimately, we’re trying to build a successful club.”