For FC Cincinnati, hard work of roster building began before the new crest

CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati’s visual transition into Major League Soccer began Monday with the unveiling of its new crest, but the technical staff has been preparing full-throttle for the expansion club’s rise since the end of its final USL season.

Cincinnati joins MLS next season as the 24th team, and coach Alan Koch, technical director Luke Sassano and a staff of scouts have been scouring the globe for players to help build their roster.

Just a few days after the team’s USL Eastern Conference semifinal loss, Koch packed his bags and left for Europe. He heads to another continent this week and probably another one the following week, he said.

“It's business time now in terms of getting ready for MLS,” Koch said. “We've done a lot of work since the USL season finished. I've already been on one trip. I'm going on another trip this week. We're going to do everything we can to put the best possible team in place already for next year, the first year in MLS.”

Koch said his first trip was “very productive” but he has nothing to announce just yet. The first focus is on sorting out which of the players from the 2018 team will be joining FCC at the top division. 

Four additions are reportedly are already on board, but the club doesn't expect to announce any signings for another week or two. The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter reported last week that midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin and USL Defender of the Year Forrest Lasso would be staying with the team, and according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, midfielder Corben Bone will join them. ESPN.com soccer correspondent Jeff Carlisle reported last month that midfielder Emmanuel Ledesma, who previously played for Middlesbrough from 2012 to 2015, would be signing an MLS contract with FCC.

Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe are already on MLS contracts for 2019. Adding to those decisions, FCC will participate in the Expansion Draft Dec. 11, the Waiver Draft Dec. 12 (with the last pick), the Re-Entry draft Dec. 14 (with the last pick) and the MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 11. 

“We’re working on a few things with our players and some new ones too, but we want to get the returning situation resolved first out of respect and loyalty to our players that have been with us," Koch said. "But we also want our fans to know exactly which guys who are their fan favorites are sticking around."

Aside from the roster-building, the next big date for the club is Dec. 18, when Cincinnati will break ground on its new stadium in the West End. The 26,500-seat facility is expected to open in 2021, and owner Carl Lindner III said a groundbreaking before the end of the year keeps the club “well on track.” 

In the meantime, the team will continue playing at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium with some minor improvements, such as turf replacement, to begin after the college football season.

“MLS has been so great to work with,” Lindner said. “There were just a few things they wanted us to do, and we're just so happy to be in, we're willing to do whatever we needed.”