As the Jaap Stam era gets underway in FC Cincinnati, his new players have yet to meet him in person.
It made for a bit off an odd introduction, as Staam got acquainted with the players over a Zoom conference call on Tuesday from the Netherlands, where he's currently unable to leave due to border closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking with reporters after the club's voluntary individual workouts on Wednesday, Cincinnati center back Kendall Waston said he's looking forward to whenever Stam is cleared to head to the city and get to work under a coach that he watched growing up, when Stam was one of the most distinguished defenders of his era.
Stam, who was officially announced as the club's new coach last week, will be tasked with shoring up what was the league's leakiest defense in its 2019 expansion season -- something he certainly seems qualified to do given the pedigree he showed in his playing career that saw him suit up for powerhouses like Manchester United, PSV Eindhoven, Ajax and AC Milan.
"Well, a little bit strange," Waston said of the initial introduction. "Yesterday we were introduced to him and we have now the new trend of Zoom video calls so we had a chat with all the team. It was a little bit weird, obviously it's the first time this type of thing has happened. Now, we just welcome him. We as players are just waiting to have the head coach and assistant back to Cincinnati."
"He's going to bring obviously a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience because he played in top teams," he added. "I remember when I was small and I used to watch AC Milan and obviously he was there, so he's gonna bring all of that experience that he had in his career."
Cincinnati's other first-choice center back, Nick Hagglund, also spoke on Stam's impending arrival on Wednesday, saying that having the club's head coaching situation resolved has been an exciting development in terms of being able to move on to the next task of establishing their identity under him.
"It's nice having a new coach," Hagglund said. "This is an opportunity. This quarantine's been a bit crazy and not really knowing what's going on, but to come out on the opposite side of this with a direction, with an idea, an identity for this club, I think is awesome so I think everyone is really excited for him to get here.
"He's not here yet, so we're waiting for that, we're excited for when he gets here and hopefully we hit the ground running."
For now, the players participating in the voluntary individual workouts are doing what they can to get their fitness back up to speed in their sessions under Yoann Damet, who had been serving as the club's interim coach and is set to remain on Stam's staff.
"I think guys have definitely ramped it up, we're definitely more fit than we were a couple weeks ago," Hagglund said. "Things are getting progressively harder, we're incorporating the ball a little more, sessions are getting a little bit longer, a little bit more reps, so the fitness base is the most important thing right now and hopefully we can get back to the ball soon.