This hasn’t exactly been the start of the “American Dream” that Tom Pettersson envisioned when he signed with FC Cincinnati in January.
After a proven career in his native Sweden, Pettersson left Östersunds FK to join the Orange and Blue ahead of the 2020 season.
The first issue came quickly. The center back’s groin felt tight in one of the first training sessions in Tucson, Arizona, forcing him to miss the majority of preseason.
Once the season started and Pettersson felt closer to 100%, then came the league-wide suspension two days before the home opener.
Now, the Swede and his teammates are down in Orlando awaiting their MLS is Back Tournament opener next Saturday against Columbus Crew SC.
This will be the third attempt at a first MLS start for Pettersson.
“It’s a special situation for all of us,” the center back said. “I haven’t played a game since the beginning of November, and I can’t wait to get back and compete with my teammates. That’s what I love most in the game, competing with my teammates. I haven’t been able to do that yet.”
When Pettersson signed with Cincinnati, general manager Gerard Nijkamp praised the center back for his ability to fit perfectly into the club’s playing style. The defender can win tackles, aerial duels and comfortably build out of back in possession.
That’ll be critical if FCC want to execute the tactics new head coach Jaap Stam wants to implement.
“He demands a lot from us, and I think it’s exactly what we need right now if you see the results that we have in the past,” Pettersson said.
The defender also said it’s been nice working with Stam on defensive duties and his role within the team. Not only is the Swede learning from the new head coach, but someone who was a world-class defender during his playing career.
“With his experience and everything he accomplished as a player, of course he can teach us so much,” Pettersson said of Stam. “He’s already started with small details with us defenders and what we should think about. He’s good at that, seeing the same details that can make a big difference.
“I guess that’s something he learned from his playing career as well. He was at the top, so if he can’t teach you, then who can?”