The last time Jaap Stam stood on the touchline, he was coaching in the biggest derby in the Netherlands. On Saturday, his FC Cincinnati debut will be in one of MLS’ best young rivalries.
Saturday night’s #HellisReal Derby will be Stam’s first game leading the Orange and Blue since he was appointed head coach in May.
“For me, to coach a game is very important now,” FCC’s head coach said. “I think we need it as well because the players and the whole team and everybody around the team, we’ve been working very hard to get to this point so we can prove ourselves, so we can show ourselves as well.”
Stam and assistant coach Said Bakkati have led practices for less than a month since they arrived in Cincinnati on June 16. They were initially appointed May 21, but travel restrictions prevented the Dutchmen from joining their new club.
While the matchup with Columbus Crew SC in the MLS is Back Tournament is a baptism of fire, Stam said he knows how important the rivalry is for FCC supporters.
“Everybody knows it within the team as well,” Stam said. “The rivalry is there. It always is. When you have two teams in a state or a city, then there’s an enormous rivalry because everybody wants to show himself and wants to show to their fans that they’re the better team. That’s how it goes in soccer and I think that’s normal.
“If you can play with the crowd, that gives it something extra, of course. That bring another dimension to the game. Unfortunately, we can’t do that … Everybody’s looking forward to this particular game. I think there’s a lot at stake. I think the players want to prove themselves and they want to show themselves as well.”
Saturday marks the third time a Cincinnati coach will face Columbus as his first MLS opponent. Alan Koch beat the Crew, 1-0, in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, while Ron Jans drew, 2-2, at MAPFRE Stadium last August.